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August 17th, 2006, 05:50 PM
Statesman Journal

August 17, 2006

New York City's "Mad Bomber" left dozens of bombs in crowded public places during the 1940s and '50s. He was nabbed in 1957, ending what a police commissioner called "the greatest manhunt in the history of the police department."

It took almost 20 years for federal authorities to catch Theodore Kaczynski, the infamous Unabomber, who mailed pipe bombs and other homemade explosives to his victims from 1978 to 1995.

And Salem police never made an arrest in connection with a spate of tennis-ball bombs that showed up in late 2000 and early 2001.

Now, many people are wondering when -- or whether -- the person or people who planted four pipe bombs on Salem vehicles Aug. 10 will be brought to justice.

Bomb experts said that it's too early to conclude that a task force investigating the case is stymied or to assume that the attempted bomber will elude arrest.

"Remember how long we took to solve the Unabomber?" said Jimmie Oxley, a University of Rhode Island chemistry professor who is recognized as a national expert on pipe bombs.

Kaczynski, 64, is serving a life sentence for his 17-year bombing campaign.

It's that sense of continuing menace that makes investigating a bomber different from tracking a robber or other types of criminals, said Oregon State Police Sgt. Steve Sigurdson, who has spent 18 years on the bomb squad.

"If you have someone out there who could still be building devices, there's an expediency toward finding and arresting that person quickly," Sigurdson said. "That's why this is an extreme public-safety issue; any information people can provide is extremely useful. You may think what you saw was nothing, but it could actually be a key piece of information investigators need."

Four bombs were found Aug. 10, two still wired to the undercarriages of sport utility vehicles and two on the ground that authorities presume fell from vehicles.

Officials said that all four bombs were capable of killing people and were made by the same person or people. Police bomb squads rendered them harmless. In one instance, disabling a bomb produced an explosion that sent a cloud of debris at least 50 feet in the air, witnesses said.

Oxley, who has conducted pipe-bomb research and consulted with the U.S. government on terrorism issues, said Salem's attempted bombings appear to have been an odd blend of malicious intent and danger, along with possible bungling.

"This one sounds deadly. To me, it sounds unusual that there would be four on the same day," she said. "What's odd, though, is the fact that they were unsuccessful, that one out of the four didn't cause death. So either the person is very inept or intended to be unsuccessful. If so, it's hard to believe that they would open themselves up for such a catastrophic criminal charge."

Former FBI agent John Walzer agreed.

"Whoever is doing this, they're on a mission," said Walzer, who now acts as a regional director for Fortress Global Investigations, an international security consulting firm. "Four pipe bombs; they gave a lot of thought to it."

The fact that there were four bombs and four potential victims improves the chances of nabbing the perpetrator, Walzer said.

"If there was just one victim, one bomb, you'd have less to work on," Walzer said.

Investigators can look for common threads between the bombs and the potential victims and trace those commonalities back to the bomber.

Evidence has been turned over to a California laboratory run by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Most bomb cases are evidence-driven, police said. Unlike a robbery, in which little physical evidence is left behind, the act of leaving a bomb provides investigators with a treasure trove of information.

"There's going to be all the parts we have to look at," said Salem police Sgt. Bob Beverly, who has led the city's bomb squad for eight years. "We look at every piece and see how it's put together. It'll give us some kind of clue as to what the bomber was thinking and their level of sophistication."

Whether significant evidence was lost during the bomb-dismantling process is hard to tell, Oxley said.

"It's always counterproductive from an investigative standpoint if they blew them up," she said. "But a lot of times, there are other considerations, like safety. This is always an issue between bomb squads and forensic labs. If you have to blow them up, sometimes it doesn't leave much to analyze. Presumably, they took lots of photos of them so they're looking at their physical characteristics."

The officers in this case have a mixed bag of evidence available to them. The bomb found at the Roth's grocery store on Lancaster Drive NE exploded while state police worked to disarm it, but a bomb found in a parking garage at Salem Hospital was disarmed intact by Salem police, Beverly said.

Both bombs still will yield clues, but the one recovered from the hospital and the two others recovered intact from other locations will be more valuable to the investigation.

"Our crime scene was basically the size of a parking space," Beverly said of the hospital-garage site. "The state police crime scene was three blocks square. All the parts are there; they're just smaller and farther apart."

Additional aspects of the investigation probably include checking with Salem-area stores about recent purchases of materials that might have been used to make pipe bombs and exploring links among the targets, Oxley and other experts said.

So far, the only common thread is that three vehicles came from South Salem, police said. A fourth potential victim remains unknown, and that person might not have known that a bomb fell off his or her vehicle.

In many bomb cases, police also have to contend with copycat criminals. For example, several arrests of copycats were made during Salem's tennis-ball-bomb scare. All of the arrests were of teenage pranksters.

Copycat bombers generally don't hamper the investigation of the original crime aside from slowing down the police officers who then must track down and arrest the copycats, Beverly said.

"Generally speaking, the copycat isn't going to know all the ins and outs," he said. "There are going to be some differences in bomb design we're going to be able to see. They'll be apprehended and prosecuted, but no one will mistake them for the original bomber."

As they enter the second week of the case, Salem police and the ATF are offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and a conviction. Special agent Julianne Marshall said the ATF remains committed to the inquiry.

In 1957, detectives tracked New York's "Mad Bomber," George Metesky, to his home in Waterbury, Conn., where they found bomb parts.

Diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, Metesky spent 17 years in a hospital for the criminally insane. Freed in 1973, he lived quietly until he died in 1994.

In the annals of notorious pipe bombers, Kaczynski, who killed three people and injured 29 with his homemade bombs, stands out from the rest, Oxley said.

"Certainly, the Unabomber is the most well-known guy for doing pipe bombs," she said. "His were unique in that he made everything himself. He made his own screws. He experimented with his chemicals in making them. In the end, he evidently was signing his bombs with some sort of a little signature so that nobody else could claim his bombings."

The "Unabomber" moniker was coined long before Kaczynski, a former math professor, was caught. It was derived from his initial targets: universities and airlines.

This month, an odd postscript was added to the Unabomber saga: a California judge ruled that items seized during a 1996 raid on Kaczynski's Montana cabin will be sold online. Items will include books, clothing and tools. People won't be able to buy about 100 bomb-making items that were confiscated.

The proceeds of the sale will help fund the $15 million compensation package that Kaczynski was ordered to pay his victims.

August 17th, 2006, 05:50 PM
Uh oh, the cops are totally inept at doing their job, so it’s all the wily bombers fault. Lets compare everything to the unibomber. Of course it may have nothing to do with the fact Ted was a highly intelligent and determined individual who didn’t post about his deeds on MySpace.

Ted K’s MySpace blog…
I Roxxorrr da 111! I am L33t, beyaches. I totally have mad bomz skillz. I mailed some bomz made of momz clotspins last night. I rulezzz!

When I envision a tennis ball bomb I am thinking of an explosive packed ball with a small internal detonator. In reality I know what the cops call a bomb is probably a tennis ball soaked in gasoline. It sent debris 50 feet high when accidentally detonated! Yeah, I can do that with a Roman candle, but does that mean it is dangerous? Notice they didn’t say the bomb squaddy got hurt, so I am inclined to think: Roman candle.

Ahh, but of course they save face by saying the bomber bungled the job. Really? How could taping tennis balls to the undercarriages of SUVs possibly go awry? It’s almost as if these deadly devices of mass destruction were in fact some sort of pyrotechnic oddity made by a kewlish amateur, and not the products of a MIT educated domestic terrorist. Say it isn’t so!

The only good part of this story is the up coming sale of Ted Kaczynski’s seized property from his shack. Just what do you get the pyro with everything?

Chris The Great
August 18th, 2006, 01:51 AM
Tennis ball bombs are just a tennis ball filled with match heads. They explode when thrown with great enough force. Of course, they certainly don't explode with a lot of force. K3wlery at it's best (worst?).

September 19th, 2006, 05:17 PM
Notice the transition in this story between a "tennis ball bomb" to a full fledged "pipe bomb." There is a follow up story where the fedgov is whining about their lack of progress. How can they request more financing if they can't even so much as get a lead on the motive?

Police still seek leads after pipe bombings

Local and federal investigators vow to stay on the trail

Statesman Journal

September 17, 2006

It was an extraordinary case that rattled the community: four pipe bombs planted on Salem vehicles, all discovered the same day.

And it was a case that sparked an intensive multi-agency investigation.

But more than a month after the pipe-bomb scare began, it remains a confounding, unsolved crime.

Investigators concede that they have no suspects or solid leads; no help came from a $5,000 reward offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction.

Public tips and phone calls about the case have "kind of petered out," Salem Police Lt. Bill Kohlmeyer said.

Local and federal officials insisted that they aren't discouraged by lack of progress, and they aren't pulling the plug on the investigation, which started Aug. 10.

"I wouldn't say the trail's gone ice-cold," Kohlmeyer said. "These serial-bomber cases can take a long time. The detectives are following some loose leads and hoping for more."

It took federal authorities more than five years to catch serial bomber Eric Rudolph, who was linked to three bombings in Atlanta -- a deadly explosion at the 1996 Olympic Games and a pair of 1997 blasts at a lesbian nightclub and a health clinic that provided abortions. Last year, Rudolph was sentenced to four consecutive life terms plus 120 years in prison.

Salem's serial bomber still is being hunted by a task force jointly led by Salem police and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Special Agent Julianne Marshall, an ATF spokeswoman in Seattle, said the lack of a quick arrest doesn't mean the investigation is doomed.

"It's not abnormal," she said. "Of course, we wish we had someone in jail right now. But all we can do is give it total diligence. We take this very seriously."

At what point does the ATF withdraw from the case?

"We won't," Marshall said. "This is a joint investigation, and we're committed to giving all the resources that are appropriate to try to solve this crime."

No one was injured by the bombs, which all failed to explode. Police bomb squads rendered them harmless. In one instance, disabling a bomb produced an explosion that sent a cloud of debris at least 50 feet in the air.

ATF laboratory analysis of bomb remnants provided useful information about the ingredients, officials said. They declined to divulge the forensic results, citing investigative reasons.

"That's not something we're going to want to release," Kohlmeyer said. "We got the analysis, and we know what products were used in the devices. That's all information that is going to be useful to us."

Pipe bombs typically are constructed with iron or plastic pipe, filled with explosives and capped at both ends. If detonated, experts said, they can explode like a hand grenade, sending metal flying in all directions.

Nationally, pipe-bomb incidents make up about 30 percent of the bombing incidents investigated by the ATF. In 2003, 386 bombing incidents were reported nationwide, resulting in seven deaths, 55 injuries and $5.4 million in property damage, ATF statistics show.

Federal officials said the Salem case was rare in that multiple bombs were found on the same day at different locations in the same community.

Salem-area residents still should be concerned about the possible presence of a car bomber, officials said. But there's not much people can do except alert officials if they spot loose wires or suspicious pipes on their vehicles.

"I would tell people they still need to be cautious," Kohlmeyer said. "Not terrified, but they should still be paying attention."

A hot line established for the case remains active. Fresh tips could give investigators the break they need, Marshall said.

"A lot of times, a person who knows something doesn't realize that it might be important, that it might be that piece of the puzzle that will help us solve it," she said.

In this puzzle, few pieces have been made public:

# Four bombs were found Aug. 10, two still wired to the undercarriages of sport utility vehicles. The other two bombs were found on streets but probably had been attached to vehicles and fell off.

# All four bombs were capable of killing people and were made by the same person or people.

# The only known link among the targeted victims is that three vehicles came from South Salem. A fourth potential victim remains unknown, and that person might not have known that a bomb fell off his or her vehicle.

Unanswered questions abound. Chief among them: Why? Was the motive anger, jealousy, revenge or something else? Why certain vehicles were targeted is another unknown.

"We still don't know why these folks were selected," Kohlmeyer said.

The identities of the three known victims have not been made public. Kohlmeyer said authorities are withholding the names, partly because the investigation continues and partly because the victims don't want to be identified.

The story goes to great lengths to call this a pipe bomb; it even goes so far as to describe exactly what a pipe bomb is, and how it threatens lives and children. How soon we forget this was a tennis ball bomb, not a pipe bomb. Essentially it was a big firecracker! Could it have killed someone? A sharpened stick could kill every living man, woman, and child on the earth. At issue here is whether a tennis ball filled with what can only be a homemade explosive (if it is even an explosive, fedgov will not say) that failed to go off on four separate occasions would harm anyone. My guess is you would get a big scare. It is just as likely, being the driver of a big company SUV, that you would suspect you ran over something and forget about it.

September 19th, 2006, 07:56 PM
They say one of the devices sent debris 50 feet into the air when it was neutralized.

That wouldn't be because of the brick of C-4 they layed down next to the tennis-ball-pipe bomb to render it safe, now would it? :rolleyes:

September 21st, 2006, 08:50 PM
Reading that article, makes me wonder what the media would do if a REAL bomb were to go off somewhere public.

They launch investigations when they find (undetonated) tennis ball bombs like the ones that I played with as a small child. I can't imagine what a field day they would have if someone detonated 10 pounds of C-4 underneath a large above ground gas tank next to a protest or something.

I often wonder how much of a fuss I could make if I really wanted to. Probably wouldn't be hard at all to bring a LOT of government force to a scene quickly.

September 21st, 2006, 10:10 PM
It wouldn't be hard at all, simply wave a pointy stick in an area where children abound (preferably younger children) and scream like you'll kill them, you'll probably get the whole local force, swat, and if you are lucky, a chopper.

If a person wanted to cause fear/fuss, it is easy. My school has been shut down, along with the arrival of all local emergency services due to a kid overhearing another chat about setting off a few firecrackers on the campus. Snitch...

People are scared too easily, and not questioning enough.

September 21st, 2006, 10:36 PM
The Feds are probably worried that the tennis balls will rupture the gas tanks. I think thats the only way anyone would be killed by these things.

September 23rd, 2006, 01:22 PM
There is government attention and then there is government ATTENTION.

In the former situation the investigation of the undetonated tennis balls has been pawned of to some lowly civil servant type with no aspirations for career advancement, probably a rookie to this situation as well. He was chosen simply because he was expendable; he won’t be missed no matter what he does or does not do right or wrong. Is it any wonder then that there are no leads of any kind, no motive divined, no suspects, no cause, no effect, nothing?

In the latter type of ATTENTION where a brick of C4 would be detonated, successfully, killing four important government figures in a simultaneous strike the best and brightest of field agents would be immediately dispatched from anywhere in the country or world post haste. These individuals would be acknowledged experts, highly trained, highly skilled, with considerable experience, and unlimited resources provided with the full faith and credit of the US government.

You must understand that in any organization as large as the government you have a vast swarm of worker drones that are just in it for the job security and benefit package, but occasionally you get a few people who actually know what the hell they are doing. Try as they might with racial quotas, nepotism, and bribery, our culture is still a meritocracy at heart, and the qualified sometimes get advanced through hard work.