Sophisticated gear searches suspect's home The technology fueling ire of bomber now tracks him

April 09, 1996|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

LINCOLN, Mont. -- The cabin where Theodore J. Kaczynski lived on and off for 25 years was so primitive it did not even have an outhouse. His aging, red, one-speed bicycle with the raised handlebars was just about the highest technology item on the premises.

Or so it was until federal investigators arrived last Wednesday to search his dark, tiny cabin with some of the most sophisticated technology ever developed to detect and defuse bombs.

Looking for evidence that Mr. Kaczynski was the anti-technology Unabomber, the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms brought in such devices as a remote-controlled robot and portable X-ray equipment to help search for bombs and booby traps.

And they came armed with new scientific techniques specifically designed during the Unabomber investigation to detect, analyze and defuse bombs made in the unique handcrafted style of the elusive serial bomber.

"Technology was developed just for this case because of the way he made his bombs," said one federal source who declined to be more specific.

With the FBI's detailed preparation, new detection methods and painstaking search, agents were able to discover and preserve what may be one of the most crucial pieces of evidence in the case: a completed bomb that was apparently ready for mailing.

Given that the hunt for the Unabomber is one of the FBI's highest priorities, former Bureau officials said the agency would be certain to use every technique at its command to carry out the search.

"They would invest their best technology to protect their agents and at the same time use a complex of technologies to find everything in the cabin," said Al Bayse, former chief scientist for the FBI. "They'll have the best bomb experts in the world out there."

In his 35,000-word manifesto published last year, the Unabomber declared, "The technophiles are taking all of us on an utterly reckless ride into the unknown."

But for now, the technology the Unabomber railed against is providing the best chance in 18 years of catching him.

When suspicious material was located in Mr. Kaczynski's cabin last Friday, for example, the FBI used a remote-controlled robot to enter the structure and retrieve it. Agents feared it could have been set to go off if it was picked up.

"If it's a powerful device, the robot doesn't have a chance," said retired ATF director Steve Higgins. "But better it [than a human]."

Retrieved items were taken outside and X-rayed on a portable machine much like those used at airports.

Pub Date: 4/09/96

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