The FBI is investigating a case with echoes of the Unabomber, who sent bombs through the mail for more than 15 years. Two package bombs have been sent to financial services companies in the Midwest in recent weeks. The bombs weren't wired to explode. But investigators worry the next one may be.
Someone calling himself "the Bishop" has been mailing threatening letters to financial services companies; they upped the ante in recent weeks by mailing two pipe bombs, one to an investment firm in Kansas City, and the other to a firm in Chicago.
The letters include demands that Wanda Shipp, a postal inspector based in Chicago, says are very specific.
"The letters that were sent with the bombs were designed to threaten, and to also scare, frighten and to demand that a particular stock price increase to a certain dollar amount," Shipp says. Asked what the amount was, she answered, "Six dollars and 66 cents, I believe."
Shipp says investigators found both packages had been mailed on Jan. 26 from a post office in the Chicago suburb of Rolling Meadows — and that both had a bogus Chicago-area return address.
Although the letters with the pipe bombs were not signed, Shipp says they matched the other recent threatening letters.
Postal inspectors and the FBI have put investment firms across the country on alert. They're also offering a $100,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest.
Fred Burton is a former federal counter-terrorism agent who now works with the Texas-based firm Stratfor, which advises corporate and government clients about security threats.
He says that in the earlier letters, "the bishop" says he's been watching the companies. He also refers to the Washington, D.C., sniper case, mentions possible kidnapping of children — and quotes John Milton's Paradise Lost.
"And in looking at these letters, as I have assessed, you can see a clear digression in his thought patterns," Burton says. "There's several run-on sentences, it appears that 'the bishop' is very agitated."
The investigation, which also includes the ATF and SEC, is utilizing high-tech forensic labs in Washington to identify where the components used to make the bombs came from.
But Burton points out that despite sophisticated forensic technology, it still took 18 years to catch the Unabomber — and that only happened because Ted Kaczynski's brother recognized his published writings and turned him in to the FBI.