September 19, 1995
Web posted at: 10:15 p.m. EDT
From Senior Washington Correspondent Charles Bierbauer
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Under strong urging from the Justice Department, the Washington Post and New York Times Tuesday provided a forum for the so-called Unabomber to air his views on the future of industrial society. In exchange, the unknown writer has promised not to target anyone else with his carefully crafted and deadly bombs.
The Washington Post tucked the Unabomber's 35,000-word manifesto deep inside its Tuesday edition behind the "help wanted" section. The manuscript fills eight pages which are, perhaps, as likely to be discarded as trudged through to reach the writer's central thesis -- that "technology has gotten the human race into a fix from which there is not likely to be an easy escape."
It was not an easy escape for the Post and the Times, which agreed to split the estimated $30,000 to $40,000 cost of publishing the document.
"The Attorney General and the director of the FBI have now recommended that we print this document for public safety reasons, and we have agreed to do so," the newspaper publishers said in a joint statement.
The Justice Department is hoping the Unabomber will make good on his promise not to kill anyone else if his manuscript were published in full. They are also hoping it might freshen the trail to his door.
In his 17-year campaign against technology and those who create it, the Unabomber has killed three people.
"All I can tell you is that there has been hopeful improvement in quality of our leads because of the portrait the Unabomber portrayed of himself in the words of his manuscript," said Jim Freeman, FBI special agent in charge.
Officials at the Post and Times suggested that if the Unabomber never strikes again, publishing his manifesto will have been worth it. And if he does strike, all that's lost is the cost of the newsprint. The publishers' decision is not one all journalists would make.
"If the Justice Department is asking the papers to do this for the purpose of saving lives, then it is a fruitless effort because anybody that has the attitude of a terrorist is just going to come back and ask for more demands and at some point the government will not be able to acquiesce," said Victoria Toensing, a former Justice Department official.
"You don't do it," said Columbia School of Journalism Dean Joan Konner. "There's no guarantee that in fact it will accomplish the end which the Justice Department thinks it will. And it's a bad idea to get in bed for any other than national security interest, and I don't see that in this."
Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger conceded the papers have turned over their pages to a murderer. But Sulzberger called it the right choice between bad options.
The newspaper publishers and Justice Department officials argued that meeting the Unabomber's demands should not create a precedent or encourage copycats. The Unabomber, they said, is unique, and should be treated that way.
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