Can criminal behavior of “Serial Bombers” be predicted?
Could the writings of Ted Kaczynski’s “manifesto” given any indication that he would become a serial bomber? Were there “predictors” present in his writings. Could Kaczynski’s behavior be a result of Juvenile delinquency as a youth? Were his actions a result of a Compulsive Disorder? Could these or other theories predict who would become a Serial Killer or a Serial Bomber. Could the picture that these theories paint provide a basis or capability to “profile” the serial killers of the future.
Serial Murder Incidents in which an individual (or individuals) kill a number of individuals (usually a minimum of three) over time.
A reclusive eccentric named Theodore Kaczynsky was arrested in Montana. He is charged only with possession of ‘an unauthorized weapon’, a collection of junk alleged to be the makings of a bomb. His arrest, however, was reported throughout the international news media, because he is suspected of being the ‘Unabomber’, the terrorist who mailed and planted sixteen bombs in seventeen years, killing three and injuring more than twenty persons in the United States.
It took the longest, most complex and costly (6 million and climbing) manhunt in the nations history more than 17 years to conclude. He had many nicknames such as the junkyard bomber, University bomber, the New York Times bomber, and finally the Unabomber.
The Unabomber spread fear from coast to coast, striking at airlines, universities (not the mighty Webster’s University!), computer stores, geneticist, Nobel recipients, great scholars and psychologists, computer geniuses, and people that either crossed his path or crossed him. In 1995 the Unabomber declared he would cease to commit acts of terrorism if the New York Times and the Washington Post agreed to publish a long statement of his anarchistic principals. The Post printed the Unabomber’s manifesto in September 1995, leading to a critical breakthrough in the case: in April 1996 federal agents arrested Ted Kaczynski, a 53 year old Harvard University graduate and former mathematics professor at the University of California at Berkeley. Kaczynski’s brother had turned federal authorities after noticing similarities between the Unabomber’s manifesto and letters his brother had written over several decades. Kaczynski pled guilty in 1998 to committing the bombings. The guilty plea allowed him to avoid the death penalty.
Behavioral and social scientists for the most part believe that behavior traits result from an interaction of heredity and environmental factors. Both are involved in a complex way. But no criminal behavior is as complex as that of the serial murderers.(Bartol, 1999) The dream of every law enforcement officer is to one day be able to predict who will be a criminal. Then we may be able to predict what the next step in the serial murderers plot would be. Each type of serial murderer that chooses a particular method to commit criminal homicide has its distinct signature. Serial bombers are no different. Criminal homicide investigators examine in depth the different features of an offender’s behavior. They examine; (1)modus operandi ; (2) the personation or signature; and (3) staging. But these criminal investigation tools alone will not assist in predicting behavior. These indicators in the past, although contributed pieces to the puzzle in solving serial murders, it is behavior that will solve the puzzle of prediction in serial crimes.
The case of Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber enters the realm of the serial killers labeled as the “mission oriented” type.
Can you predict a serial bomber by examining his childhood?
Ted Kaczynski had his own views of adolescence as seen in this quote from his Unabomber Manifesto:
The system HAS TO force people to behave in ways that are increasingly remote from the natural pattern of human behavior. It isn’t natural for an adolescent human being to spend the bulk of his time sitting at a desk absorbed in study. A normal adolescent wants to spend his time in active contact with the real world.
Did Ted Kaczynski’s problems begin as a result of his childhood? There are many theories as to where a person begins to go bad. Are there links to Ted’s past? It’s quite evident that Ted displayed antisocial behavior. Ted Kaczynski’s poor social skills as a youth, particularly in regard to women, have been described as early signs of the antisocial behavior that would lead to his 18 years of bomb attacks, which included three murders. Ted did not commit many “status offenses” such as running away, violating curfew, or truancy. He was not a “habitual misbehaver”, that is usually outlined in delinquents with “conduct disorders.) Ted was not raised with any of the social risk factors. Often the effects of poverty have been a central focus in research studies on crime and delinquency. (Freedom Press, 1999) Ted was brought up in a middle class environment. He was not an “only child” and got along with his brother, who would ultimately turn him in, till they became older and both began living in shacks in a reclusive life style in the mountains. It is unclear if peer association had any effect on Ted’s childhood because not much has been written on his personal life. It’s too bad because peer association and its value as a predictor of delinquency would be very beneficial in trying to figure out Ted. When focusing on the serial bomber aspect in relation to delinquent behavior I can’t help but reference the recent events of Columbine High School in Colorado. Here is a classic example of delinquent behavior that could evolve into a serial bomber profile. They used explosives to execute their destruction, but it was more a violent act that had many victims producing mass casualties. Serial bombers use only bombs to attack their intended victim or send their message. Their crimes usually committed over a period of time. The bombings and shootings in Colorado were a singular act of random violence against certain “types” of targets very similar to the acts of the Unanbomber.
Understanding the Behavior of Ted Kaczynski
Was Ted Kaczynski a mad man or in this case a “Mad Bomber?” To explain Ted’s actions his mental state must be challenged against the different criminological theories. While there is no single bomber type personality, Macdonald contends that there are personality patterns drawn to bombing that demonstrates most of the characteristics of the “compulsive firesetter”: he calls it the “compulsive bomber.” Compulsive implies that the individual is drawn to the activity again and again, the behavior seemingly out of the individuals control.(MacDonald, 1977) I believe Ted Kaczynski could have quit whenever he wanted. That it wasn’t the bombings that were the draw to the use of explosives, but rather the acts revenge or the vehicle to send his message was the real motivation behind the use of bombs. He was well educated and understood the shock effect that bombs have as well as the potential to produce the effects of a weapon of mass destruction. The mass casualties that these bombs produced were not always the bombs intent. Mass casualties sometimes just happen. It’s the nature of the beast when using explosives. Ted also enjoyed the animinity that a bomb has. Its not easily traced, not too technical, and the materials are readily available.
MacDonald also contends that the compulsive bombers he has known exhibit a fascination with bombs from childhood. In addition he found them keenly interested in discussing explosive devices and various techniques of detonation. (MacDonald, 1977) Ted Kaczynski did not display any of these symptoms of a compulsive bomber in his youth as far as I know. Furthermore, large segments of a compulsive bomber’s life seems to be devoted to the study, development, and experience of bombs. (MacDonald, 1977) Again not the case with Kaczynski. Important also is the fact that compulsive bombers derive excitement from there actions and are aroused by only one aspect of the explosion: the power, the fire, or the noise.(Macdonald, 1977) Kaczynski could have been aroused by the power and control he could have for the first time in his life over his tormentors. I don’t believe that the fire and noise would arouse him though. Just the opposite effect I would imagine since Ted was a recluse and intellect. These are normally things that would bother someone with those attributes.
Was his fascination to bombing sexual in nature then? I think not, although again a link to his failed relationships with women could be noted here, but the feeling I think that Ted had was one of extracting revenge for being rejected from his first girlfriend and other women in his life. MacDonald states in his book that sexual deviation is prominent in many bombers.(MacDonald, 1977) I think in Kaczynskis case his bombings had no connection to sex for him, although he is writing a book now and it will be interesting to see how he explains his actions.
Did Ted Kaczynski’s writings provide a predictor to his actions as a serial bomber? Here’s what James Wilson has to say about it; Madman doesn’t write like this ‘There is nothing in the manifesto that looks at all the like the work of a madman. The language is clear, precise and calm. The argument is subtle and carefully enveloped, lacking anything even faintly resembling the wild claims or irrational speculation that a lunatic might produce. ‘The reference to me is neither openly hostile nor wildly inaccurate:
“Eminent social scientists (e.g. James Q Wilson) has [sic] stressed the importance of ‘socializing’ people more effectively.” ‘The Unabomber does not like socialization, technology, leftist political causes or conservative attitudes. Apart from his call for an (unspecified) revolution, his paper resembles something a very good graduate student might have written based on his own reading rather than the course assignments. If it is the work of a madman, the writings of many political philosophers–Jean Jacques Rosseau, Tom Paine, Karl Marx–are scarcely more sane.’ (Wilson, 1996)
Kaczynski’s writings did provide a predictor for the potential of violence, but does not provide a predictor as being either a serial murderer or a serial bomber. His writings did show evidence of possibly having deep-rooted childhood problems once again. But these problems were not reduced to delinquent behavior, rather they point to a problem of social learning as an infant. Here I site an example where during his trial a question of his mental health arose.
“Kaczynski was a man with a “mental defect,” not responsible for his actions, or prove that he’s a rational, cold-blooded killer.” (Knight, 1998) Kaczynski’s own letters and journals provide the raw material for both sides. One item, a letter in which Kaczynski wrote, “I can’t wait until you die so I can spit on your corpse,” suggests that the veneer of a socially concerned vigilante could well have masked childhood hatreds looking for an outlet.(Associated Press, 1996)
Dr. Eugene Schoenfeld, a psychiatrist and forensic consultant summed it up like this: “There’s a lot rage building up in this guy,” he said. “And people will rationalize anger and violence through a cause – a greater good that justifies destruction and murder.” (Associated Press, 1996)
Kaczynski lacked the love and nurturing that usually would have been provided by his mother. This lack of love could have catapulted Ted to some sort of psychosis as a youth. “That courtroom image is more in keeping with the bright young boy whose mother read him Scientific American on their porch in Evergreen Park, Ill. But his mother, Wanda, has said she believes her son’s problems began shortly after his birth. At 9 months, Kaczynski was hospitalized with a drug reaction. He was forcibly pinned to a bed for a week, and lay virtually untouched by human
hands. His mother says Ted came home listless, and believes her son was never the same.” (Bartol, 1999). But otherwise, Kaczynski the child showed few signs of developing into an
angry loner. Here Ted’s definite lack of social interaction, whether it was by his mother, by sibling, any peer, or in this case, hospital employee could explain a Social-Psychological condition as explained in Hirschi’s, Social control theory.
One of the ways that understanding the criminal mind and how it works will assist law enforcement personnel with future investigations is in the area of “Criminal Profiling.” Profiling has been dramatized in movies such as “Silence of the Lambs” and on TV with the series “The Profiler”.
Criminal Investigative Analysis (Profiling) is an attempt to derive a hypothesis about an offender based on the analysis of a crime scene, victim information, and current knowledge of the offender’s previous research. (Knight, Warren, Reboussin, and Soley, 1998) It is a form of retroclassification or classification that works backwards. (Douglas, Burgess, Burgess, and Ressler, 1992) Investigate profiling is best viewed as a strategy used by law enforcement to narrow the field of options and generate educated guesses about the perpetrator. (Bartols,1999) The FBI profiled Ted Kaczynski. (Appendices # 2)
Ideally a profiler tries to identify “what,” “why”, and “who.” However Anthony Pinizzotto and Norman Finkel (1990) concluded from their research that criminal profiling is much more complex than this, involving a multi-level series of attributions, corrolations, and predictions” Much of the information that was profiled in the Kaczynski case took years to gather and develop. Most of the time this information was inaccurate and often mis-interpreted.
Criminal profiling often suggests the kind of person that might have committed the crime under investigation, but exact identity is extremely remote. In Kaczynski’s case the profile seemed uncannily accurate. They were accurate about Ted being a recluse, white man in his 30-40’s. They knew he was educated, but miscalculated the degree of education greatly. They were correct in the fact that Ted was familiar with University life. They were wrong to a point that he was a matriculate dresser.. at least for the latter stages of his life. He did live a “organized” life style. He did make lists and would be an Ideal neighbor if you like the “quite types.” He has low self-esteem and did have a problem dealing with relationships with women.
Experienced profilers assert that profiling of serial offenders is most successful when the offender demonstrated some form of psychopathology at the crime scene, such as sadistic torture, evisceration, post mortem slashing and cuttings, and other mutations. (Pinizzotto, 1984)
Persons with mental disorders show greater consistencies in behavior from situation to situation. Whether Ted Kaczynski’ should be considered a mentally disordered person is still in question. As we know from his trial, he was very ademate that he was not mentally disturbed and refused any defense from his lawyers on that subject. He felt very strongly in his own sanity.
To date we have not perfected the available sciences to be able to predict criminal behavior. We have gotten better at identifying serial killers as the weave their pattern and leave their telltale signatures. Profiling has gotten more detailed but is still a relatively ineffective tool till its techniques become more foolproof and lend a greater confidence as to the accuracy of their information. If a profile is inaccurate, it could cause more harm in delays and by setting law enforcement personnel into the wrong direction when looking for a suspect. Ted Kaczynski has had elements of mental disease. I don’t care what the experts say, if you examine his actions closely you could tie together a good case. Although in relation to the “rule of the law” For him to be judged insane and unable to stand trial falls under a different set of perameters. But I think if you were to be looking for some sort of rehabilitation for a serial bomber like Ted Kaczynski you would have to stick to the criminal theories to be able to stay the course in modern treatment techniques. To attempt to come to some sort of conclusion as to which mental disorders ultimately afflicted Ted Kaczynski, it would be my opinion that he would more than likely suffer from a combination of compulsive disorders tied with various psychosis. I think the events of Ted’s youth did not affect him as much as the experts think. I don’t believe that Ted’s problems were hereditary or biological. I believed some of his social problems were learned behavior and were enhanced over time due to his reclusive, eccentric lifestyle.
I do not believe that bombers can be predicted. It is not abnormal in my mind for children to be curious about explosives. Although I think it abnormal for an adult to be obsessed with explosives. As a Special Forces Engineer I have worked with quite a bit of explosives and have built many a bomb, but most in my profession maintain a healthy respect for explosives and their inherent dangers. Serial bombers would be extremely difficult to identify without outright evidence.
Bartol, C.R., (1999). Criminal Behavior, A Psychosocial Approach, Prentice Hall, 5th Ed.
Douglas, J.E. Burgess, A.G., Burgess, A.W., Ressler, R.K., (1992) Crime Classification Manual, New York; Lexington Books.
Eden-Webster University Library database at http://library.websteruniv.edu
Kirkpatrick Sale, (1995) Rebels Against the Future: The Luddites and Their War on
the Industrial Revolution The Nation Co., L.P.
Knight, R.A., Warren, J.I., Reboussin, R., Soley, B.J., (1998) Predicting Rapist type from crime scene variables. Criminal Justice and Behavior.
MacDonald, J.M. (1977), Bombers and Firesetters. Springfield, IL: CC Thomas.
Miethe, T.D., McCorkle, R., (1998) Crime Profiles: The Anatomy of Dangerous Persons, Places, and Situations. Roxbury Publishing: Los Angeles.
Pinnizotto, A. J., Finkel, N>J>, (1990). Criminal personality Profiling; An outcome and process study. Law and Human Behavior.
Pinnizotto, A. J., (9184). Forensic psychology; Criminal personality profiling. Journal of Police Science and administration.
Wilson, James, Q, and Herrnstien,R.J. (1985), Crime and human nature. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Juvenile Bombers: The Tragic Facts, FREEDOM PRESS
http://www.sjmercury.com/nation/unabomber/trialdocs/006061.htm, IS THE UNABOMBER AN ANARCHIST?
APPENDICES # 1
Juvenile Bombers: The Tragic Facts
The science behind bomb making is as hot as science gets — and as dangerous. We wish
we could say that bombs and young people have nothing in common. Unfortunately, for
some kids in America, the temptation to experiment with explosives is just too irresistible.
It may not surprise you to learn that a number of children below the age of 19 know how
to make bombs. We live in a world where information is very easy to come by, especially
over the Internet. The problem is, not all information is complete, and what you don’t
know can hurt, or even kill, you.