Unabomber Complains About Newseum Exhibit

Convicted Unabomber Ted Kaczynski has complained to a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals about the use of his cabin in a Newseum exhibit. It is part of an exhibit called "G-Men and Journalists: Top News Stories of the FBI's First Century."

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Convicted Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, has made the news again. The mathematician turned serial bomber is complaining about the use of his cabin in an exhibit at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. The Newseum is dedicated to the history and meaning of journalism. And the cabin is part of the show, "G-Men and Journalists: Top News Stories of the FBI's First Century."

NPR's Elizabeth Blair reports.

ELIZABETH BLAIR: The Unabomber confounded the FBI for 17 years. It wasn't until the Washington Post published his rambling manifesto in 1995 that he was discovered and captured. Susan Bennett is deputy director of the Newseum.

Ms. SUSAN BENNETT (Deputy Director, Newseum): It's an incredible news story because he was caught, basically, with the cooperation of the news media.

BLAIR: The cabin is at the Newseum on loan from the FBI. In this tiny space in the wilds of Montana, Ted Kaczynski built bombs that killed three people and injured 23 others.

Ms. BENNETT: He was very careful and making sure that the bombs that he built in his cabin were untraceable. He filed off serial numbers off of batteries. But when the FBI came in here to raid the cabin, they found already assembled pipe bomb under his bed.

BLAIR: What got the FBI to the cabin was an unusual level of involvement from the news media.

Mr. LEONARD DOWNIE JR. (Executive Editor, Washington Post): It was obviously a very somber time for us because the Unabomber had demonstrated that he would, indeed, kill people.

BLAIR: Leonard Downie is executive editor of the Washington Post. He says the Post and the New York Times both received the Unabomber's 35,000-word manifesto and a demand that it be published. Downie and publisher Don Graham and their counterparts at the New York Times met with the heads of the FBI and the Justice Department. Ultimately, the newspapers decided the Unabomber's manifesto would run as its own separate insert in the Washington Post only.

Mr. DOWNIE: It was a controversial decision because some people thought that newspapers shouldn't cooperate in any fashion with the - either the Unabomber's demands or the request of law enforcement. But I felt comfortable, as an editor, that we had not done anything untoward with our news columns in this situation.

BLAIR: And the results were astonishing. The Unabomber's brother read the newspaper, recognized his brother's style, and contacted the authorities. Kaczysnki is now serving a life sentence in federal prison. When he saw an ad for the Newseum earlier this summer that featured his cabin, he wrote a letter to a federal appeals court objecting.

He implies that the display is a violation of his victims' privacy. The letter was first published by smokinggun.com. Nick Suino was one of Kaczynski's victims when he was a research assistant at the University of Michigan. He says he has no problem with the cabin being displayed at the Newseum, though he believes some Unabomber victims who were injured more severely might disagree. As for Kaczynski's letter?

Mr. NICK SUINO (Unabomber Victim): He's just being Ted Kaczynski, you know? I think he's just doing something to, you know, keep himself busy. He'll object to what the government does and keep his hand in it. Honestly, I don't think he cares about the victims' privacy rights.

BLAIR: In fact, Kaczynski's letter has probably drawn more attention to them, himself and the Newseum, which has no intention of removing the cabin from the exhibition which runs until June of next year.

Elizabeth Blair, NPR News, Washington.

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