FBI Investigates Possible Letter Bomber Case 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.
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FBI Investigates Possible Letter Bomber Case

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FBI Investigates Possible Letter Bomber Case

FBI Investigates Possible Letter Bomber Case

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MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

And I'm Robert Siegel. Postal inspectors and the FBI are investigating whether there might be someone mimicking the Unabomber, sending threats and bombs through the mail. Two package bombs have been sent to financial services companies in the Midwest in recent weeks. The bombs were wired not to explode, but investigators worry that the next one could be. So they're putting investment firms across the country on alert, and they're offering a $100,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest.

NPR's David Schaper reports.

DAVID SCHAPER: On January 31, a mail clerk at American Century Investments in Kansas City opened up a white cardboard packages addressed to an officer of the company. Inside was a pipe bomb. It wasn't triggered to explode, but investigators say it was dangerous nonetheless, and they say the package included a menacing note that said: Bang! You're dead.

The next day, a similar package turned up in the mailroom of the Chicago office of the financial services firm Perkins, Wolf, McDonnell and Company. It, too, lacked key components to detonate but also contained a threatening letter, much like those sent years ago by Ted Kaczynski, whose mail bombs killed three and wounded about two dozen between the late 1970s and the mid-'90s.

Wanda Shipp is a postal inspector based in Chicago. She says the demands in these letters are very specific.

WANDA SHIPP: 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.

SCHAPER: Do you know what that dollar amount was?

SHIPP: Six dollars and sixty six cents, I believe.

SCHAPER: Shipp says investigators found both packages had been mailed on January 26 from a post office in the Chicago suburb of Rolling Meadows and that both had a bogus Chicago-area return address. And though the letters with the pipe bombs were not signed, Shipp says they matched other recent threatening letters that had been sent to investment firms around the country.

SHIPP: Our investigation going back 18 months prior to this investigation revealed that similar letters of threatening content was signed.

SCHAPER: By?

SHIPP: By The Bishop.

SCHAPER: That's the name that this person is...?

SHIPP: That's the name that the person used on those previous letters.

SCHAPER: Wanda Shipp says The Bishop sent at least a dozen letters, most postmarked from different locations in the Midwest and most, but not all, to firms in the region. She wouldn't say why the letter-writer appears fixated on financial services firms, nor would she say which stocks he or she wanted manipulated to the price of $6.66. But others familiar with the case say there is a clear progression in the threats.

Fred Burton is a former federal counter-terrorism agent now with the Texas- based firm Stratfor, which advises corporate and government clients about security threats. He says in the earlier letters the person calling himself The Bishop says he's been watching the companies. He refers to the Washington, D.C., sniper case, mentions possible kidnapping of children and quotes John Milton from "Paradise Lost."

FRED BURTON: And in looking at these letters, which I've assessed, and you can see a clear digression in his thought patterns. There's several run-on sentences. It appears that The Bishop is very agitated.

SCHAPER: Burton says in March of last year the bishop wrote that he intends to send package bombs if his demands aren't met. He mentions the phrase tick-tock and then in a letter last summer says time's up.

BURTON: You have an individual here that is clearly ratcheting up his demands, and he is following a Unabomber kind of MO.

SCHAPER: Burton fully expects the threats to escalate, and he worries they may turn deadly.

BURTON: This is my fear: that his next round of mailings will actually be real devices mailed to the financial sector, in all probability in the Midwest, if he keeps the pattern.

SCHAPER: The Postal Inspection Service is working with the FBI, ATF and the SEC in its investigation, and utilizing high-tech forensic labs in Washington to identify where the components used to make the bombs came from. But Fred 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.

David Schaper, NPR News, Chicago.

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