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Hunting The Unabomber

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Hunting the Unabomber
My Partner from the SEAL Teams to the Bin Laden Raid
By Lis Wiehl

Thomas Nelson; Illustrated Edition
April 28th, 2020
Biography / Terrorism

Review & Interview by Elise Cooper

Hunting the Unabomber by Lis Wiehl with Lisa Pulitzer is the second in a series of books. The author goes on the “hunt” to find killers whose cases had social significance. Although the book covers the facts, timelines and people involved, it also adds a new perspective on how the FBI organized their efforts to track him down.

The book shows how Ted Kaczynski, better known as the Unabomber, masterminded a campaign of terror, maiming, and killings of innocent people through bombs sent in untraceable packages. After a “manifesto,” was published in 1995 written by the Unabomber, the case was finally solved.

Written as a thriller this book is well researched, interesting, and engrossing. Readers will learn more about the Unabomber and how he was hunted.

Elise Cooper: How did your previous job experience influence you?

Lis Wiehl: I was honored to spend five years as a federal prosecutor. I prosecuted murder, rape, assault, human trafficking, and other violent offenses. I loved that the goal of the job was justice for all, pure and simple. As a writer I approached it as I did when a prosecutor. There was sweat and a lot of hard work behind the scenes where I had to marshal the facts and decide what to use. The best trial lawyers are storytellers.


Elise: What did you take away from your research?

Lis: Many things. He had put the country in a state of mass hysteria where people were afraid to open any package they received in the mail. It was the largest hunt the FBI has ever taken with over 150 people involved.


Elise: Who is Patrick Webb?

Lis: He was the FBI agent in charge of the Unabomber task force. He was willing to help me because my dad was an FBI agent and he wanted to set the record straight. The miniseries that was on TV was not accurate, and highlighted a profiler, James R. Fitzgerald who was not involved the way the show made it out to be. Webb said that the miniseries had gotten it wrong, and that the hunt was a team effort. He said that the agent portrayed on the show, while on the team, had never met Kaczynski. Agent Webb said that the miniseries painted a false narrative of how the FBI really handled the case. He worried that if people believed that the TV series was the true story about the Unabomber, they would have been misled.


Elise: How would you describe Ted Kaczynski?

Lis: He had gone to Harvard at the age of sixteen because he was off the grid smart. He always wanted to be the smartest person in the room and needed his ego to be gratified. His parents pushed him, and he became emotionally disturbed. He could not develop relationships, especially with women. Eventually, he isolated himself.


Elise: Just looking at what he wrote do you think he had a point?

Lis: It is very hard to take the violence out of it. With that said there were people who did believe technology was getting out of hand including some FBI agents. Remember in 1996 there was no social media. Tech does allow platforms of the dark web with vile people, and there is Internet bullying. I cannot believe how people used to go to a restaurant before the pandemic and would sit with one another, but all were on their phones. This is crazy and has gotten out of hand. On the other hand, with the pandemic people are able to be kept together.


Elise: Why do you think it took so long to capture him?

Lis: There was a six-year gap, where the violence stopped, and the consideration that the task force was going to be dissembled. Patrick Webb and a few others convinced the powers that be to give them another six months. I think it took so long because Ted Kaczynski perfected bomb making. He used discarded pieces of wood, wire, and metal that he picked up along the edge of the road, in junkyards, dumpsters, and other places near his cabin. He never bought new materials to fashion his bomb components. There was never anything that investigators could trace back to a lumber yard, hardware store, or plumbing supply shop because he never frequented those establishments and never bought any of his bomb-making goods. To further compound problems for investigators, Kaczynski had been careful to remove any serial numbers or other identifying marks from the components he used. Plus, there was nothing about him that suggested he was, or could be, dangerous to others.


Elise: Can you give a shout out about your next book?

Lis: Ah, you know I can’t tell you the target of my next “hunt”! I don’t want to ruin the surprise. But I can tell you it’s a bad guy who is both intrinsically interesting and culturally relevant today. I’m bringing my law enforcement background to the ‘hunt’, aiming to give readers fresh insight, information, and new angles on a subject that may even continue to threaten our national security.

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