It has been 20 years since the Unabomber’s terrifying saga came to an end with the arrest of Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski. Kaczynski is now serving 8 consecutive life terms for sending bombs through the mail. Although the public was fascinated and repulsed by the mathematician turned anti-technology zealot, Kaczynski has never even granted an interview, nor has he written a book. However, for the first time, his collected writings, which date from both before and after his conviction, are now being shared with the public.
The Labadie Collection at the University of Michigan Library in Ann Arbor is dedicated to collecting materials from social movements. When they invited Kaczynski to submit his writings, they expected him to submit his original manifesto. They were shocked when he sent them hundreds of letters beginning five days after his arrest. Kaczynski’s archives include letters written to friends, “fans,” and people who sympathize with his cause.
Because Kaczynski is vehemently opposed to technology, he never owned a TV. He has maintained his stance even in prison, missing out on events like the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Kaczynski said the attacks caught him by surprise, but he refused the lure of TV, instead getting information from magazines, newspapers and pen pals. Kaczynski realized people portrayed Bin Laden as an enemy of modernity, but observing “If he were simply that, I might be inclined to support him, but my guess is that his motive is less an opposition to modernity than a desire to create an Islamic ‘great power’ that would be able to compete on equal terms with other great powers of the world.”
Kaczynski had many people contact him in support of his viewpoint. One woman fell in love with Kaczynski and the two talked about getting married. However, she died in 2006, leaving Kaczynski bereft.
For several Kaczynski exchanged letters with his former lawyer, Judy Clarke, with whom he had a falling out when he discovered she intended to argue he was insane to keep him from the death penalty. Kaczynski preferred to be executed and long denied he was the Unabomber for several years into his prison term. Kaczynski was totally taken with Clarke’s intellect, but his feelings vacillated between love and hatred for years. “In spite of all this, I find her personality so attractive that I think I enjoy talking with her more than any other person I have ever known, and I have a strong sense of rapport with her,” he wrote in 1998. Although she kept up their correspondence, Kaczynski became bitter when she got busy with cases and stopped contact in 2002.
Kaczynski is housed in Florence, Colorado prison known as the “Alcatraz of the Rockies.” He became friends with Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and Word Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef, who planted a bomb that killed six people in 1993. The three men were locked down for 23 hours a day. During their 30 minutes of rec time, which they spent outside in adjacent cages, the three shared a rapport. He judged them as nicer than people he knew on the outside, commenting they both were “very intelligent … friendly and considerate of others.” Kaczynski noted however that his commentary was not to be construed as support for their actions.
Kaczynski is more suited to the difficulty of long-term solitary confinement than others, since he spent years living alone as a hermit in a cabin in Montana. He spends most of his time reading and writing.