the summer of 1995, Linda E. Patrik, associate professor
of philosophy, began to read newspaper reports about the
Unabomber case. She became concerned that the Unabomber's
profile seemed to match her brother-in-law, Ted
Kaczynski, and she encouraged her husband, David
Kaczynski, to consider that his brother might be the
Nearly three years later, after the
conviction of Ted Kaczynski as the Unabomber, Patrik sat
down with Adrian MacLean '98 and Katie Pasco of the
Office of Communications to recount the details of her
discovery and the impact of the conviction of Ted
Kaczynski on her life.
Q: What role did you play in the
Kaczynski family's recognition that Ted Kaczynski had a
Patrik: I have never met Ted Kaczynski,
so I only know him from the stories that my husband and
mother-in-law have told me. Psychiatrists say that in
eighty percent of the cases of schizophrenia, family
members themselves do not recognize the disease and
resist the diagnosis, even if it comes from a
professional psychiatrist. Usually it takes someone from
outside the family to see that there is a problem. They
think that this is the role that I played with Ted
Q: How did you recognize his illness?
Patrik: Since I never met Ted, I came
to know him through his correspondence with the family.
Ted briefly corresponded with his family in 1990 and 1991
but then lapsed into sending extremely negative,
insulting, violent-sounding letters.
In the fall of 1990, after the death of
his father, he resumed correspondence with his mother,
and at first the letters were cordial. They would
address, for example, Buddhism, because Wanda was puzzled
as to why David and I were married in a Tibetan Buddhist
ceremony. They wrote about other matters, such as books
and politics, but sometime in the spring or early summer
of 1991 Ted became furious with his mother again, as he
had many times in the past. He insisted that she not
write to him again, and these letters included fairly
cruel and vicious attacks. He blamed her for his lack of
sociability and for his lack of relationships with women.
He blamed her for pushing him academically; he blamed her
One of the most frightening letters for
me — the one that convinced me that we needed a
psychiatric opinion — was about two women. They were
women that Ted knew from a distance and would have liked
to date. The way that he described them was strange. So I
was worried and wanted a professional opinion.
Q: So you convinced David to take Ted's
letters to a psychiatrist?
Patrik: The letters convinced me that
we needed a psychiatric opinion, so David took them to
Dr. Robert Mitchell in Schenectady. At the two
consultations, Dr. Mitchell told us that he thought Ted
was mentally disturbed. At that point, we discussed
strategies and whether it was possible to have Ted
committed, but Dr. Mitchell explained that it is
extremely difficult to get someone institutionalized if
they have not committed a crime and if no one knows of
them harming themselves or others. At that point, in
1991, we had no evidence whatsoever that Ted had harmed
anyone or had harmed himself, so we didn't think that it
was possible to have him committed.
Dr. Mitchell also reminded us that most
violence occurs within families, and if we confronted Ted
and tried to put him in a mental hospital, he could react
with violence. We decided to contact a heart specialist
whom Ted had been seeing in Montana for a heart problem,
and we begged her to urge Ted to get therapy. But Ted
never came to her office again, so nothing ever came of
Q: When did you first realize that Ted
might be the Unabomber?
Patrik: In the summer of 1995, I was
vacationing in Paris and I began to look over the reports
about the Unabomber that were printed in the Herald
Tribune. That summer, after the Unabomber threatened to
blow up a plane flying out of Los Angeles, the FBI
changed its policies and began to seek help from the
public by releasing a lot more information.
I read this information every day in
the Paris Herald Tribune and began to worry that Ted
could be the Unabomber. When David joined me in Paris, I
urged him to consider that his brother might be the
Q: What indications did you have that
Ted might be the Unabomber?
Patrik: It was a lot of things — Ted's
woodworking capability, the cities he had lived in, the
fact that at this point the FBI believed the Unabomber to
be a loner, and they believed him to be highly committed
to an anti-technology cause.
Q: When did you first read the
Patrik: My colleague, Professor Felmon
Davis, downloaded the manifesto from the Internet for me
in mid-October. I had lied and told him I was going to
teach a course on environmental ethics.
I knew as soon as I saw it that it was
Ted who had written it. The anti-technology stance in the
manifesto was as extreme as Ted's views and lifestyle.
There were also criticisms of liberals that seemed to be
similar to the attacks he made against his parents. I
called David right away and told him to come to my office
so that he could read it, too. David was deeply disturbed
by the manifesto but he was not sure it was written by
Ted. And if David couldn't be sure, I really couldn't be
sure either, since all I had to go on was the evidence
and feelings that David had.
Q: What did you do next?
Patrik: After David and I both read the
manifesto, David dug up many letters that he had from
Ted, and we spent a month talking about it and comparing
the letters to the manifesto. I also discussed my
concerns with Dr. Robert Mitchell in therapy sessions.
Then we contacted my best childhood friend, Susan
Swanson, who is a private investigator in Chicago. I knew
that we could trust her; I didn't know anyone else who
could help us in a practical way.
Without telling Susan that it had
anything to do with the Unabomber, we asked her how to
get a writing analysis done. As a teacher of writing —
at that time I was grading at least thirty to forty
papers a week — I had an eye for writing style. I
convinced David that we should have a writing analysis
done, but we didn't know how to locate someone who would
preserve our confidentiality, so that's why we turned to
Q: What did you tell her?
Patrik: At that point we just told her
we had two documents that needed to be compared. She
began to search for experts in the field, and she came
back to say that the top expert was Clint Van Zant, a
retired FBI agent. We knew that turning over any document
to him was tantamount to turning it over to the FBI, so
we had to make a decision whether we were willing, even
with the scanty evidence that we had, to essentially turn
this information over to the FBI.
It took us another month to decide.
David was particularly concerned that his brother was so
paranoid that if Ted were innocent, anyone showing up on
his doorstep, especially an FBI agent, would be in
danger. David was worried that his brother might either
shoot himself or shoot the person who showed up — or, if
his brother were innocent, we would be putting him
through great emotional turmoil.
We made our decision by mid-December
and told Susan to go ahead and engage Van Zant to do the
writing analysis. We sent the letters, retyped, to Susan,
who sent them to Van Zant and protected our
Q: What did the analysis indicate?
Patrik: The report came back around New
Year's Eve and said that there was a forty to sixty
percent chance that the manifesto and the letters were
written by the same person. David and I had agreed that
if the report said that there was at least a twenty-five
percent chance, we would go to the FBI.
Q: This was your first contact with the
Patrik: Yes. We had a problem finding a
lawyer to be our mediator with the FBI, but finally Susan
arranged for her old law school friend, Tony Bisceglie,
to be our mediator.
Susan had drawn up a list of nine
conditions that we wanted the FBI to agree to, most of
which involved preventing the FBI from jumping the gun
and targeting Ted as their main suspect. We wanted them
to search out evidence very carefully, because we didn't
know if he was guilty or innocent, but we knew that he
was mentally ill.
The list included conditions for a safe
arrest and for the preservation of our confidentiality.
The FBI was not supposed to reveal that David and I were
the ones who turned in Ted. Susan's list of conditions
was used by Tony Bisceglie as the basis for his letter to
the FBI, which opened our negotiations with the FBI.
Q: When did you learn that the FBI had
breached your confidentiality?
Patrik: David and I were listening to
the CBS News the night of Ted's arrest in April, and Dan
Rather announced that David had turned in his brother.
His exact words were that David “fingered his
brother.” The FBI had had a chance earlier that day
to tell us that they had breached confidentiality, but
they chose not to notify us.
Q: Based on the media craze that
invaded your life at that point, what are your
impressions of the media?
Patrik: David and I have very different
views on this. David feels positively about the media
now, whereas I still have some residual resentment. Since
David launched himself into a two-year battle to save his
brother's life, he had to rely on the media. The
interviews he gave lasted three to four hours, and he
came to find journalists who were thoughtful people, good
writers, intellectuals. So he actually made friends with
some of the media people.
This is only my third interview. I
certainly liked the 60 Minutes interview; I found them
intelligent and sensitive; they didn't pressure us. It's
just that first onslaught — the paparazzi — they had no
Q: Why did you and David make the
decision that you did?
Patrik: It's very clear to me that the
decision was for the sake of the victims. The victims had
suffered greatly, and we wanted to make sure that never
happened again. David has met with some of the victims,
but I have never had a chance to talk to them. I would
like to tell them that the decision we made was for their
sake and for the sake of people like them. There is no
easy way to tell them that their horror and their pain
touched us all deeply, and that's why we didn't stop. We
had only the vaguest idea that Ted might be the
Unabomber. Many people would have just put those
suspicions out of their minds, but I think that it was
the pain of the victims that motivated us to continue.
Q: How was your life on campus?
Patrik: Union itself was great. Roger
Hull, Dean Cool, Dean Sorum, all of my colleagues, the
philosophy secretary, the people in the Public Relations
and Safety and Security Offices — they all were great.
First, they stonewalled the media when
the media were out of control and behaving unethically.
The media in this country, in cases like this, have no
respect for privacy and no respect for the feelings of a
family going through trauma. Everybody at the College,
from the top down, did their best to stem the tide of the
media invasion, and I greatly appreciate the protection
they gave me — both the protection that I needed to
continue working and the protection of my privacy.
On a more personal note, the Philosophy
Department secretary, Marianne Snowden, and my colleagues
were very gentle in giving me space — not pestering me
with questions, not wanting to know the latest news.
Also, a number of friends at the College helped David and
me move into a new home. We were reluctant to hire a
moving company because we had confidential papers, and we
didn't want strangers coming into our home. About ten of
our friends, many of them professors, helped us move
during the time that they were still teaching.
My two best friends, Professors Roset
Khosropour and Sigrid Killenter, also provided great
emotional support, even when they didn't know what was
troubling me. Through all of this, I have found that
friendship is more important than everything else.
Q: As a philosopher, what have you
learned from all of this?
Patrik: Based on this whole experience,
I have lost respect for tremendous intellect. I have
discovered that genius needs to be coupled with heart and
loving relationships with people to have a positive
impact on society. I now know that intellectual
brilliance alone has great dangers.
This experience has also made me think
about some things in terms of my research. I don't have
answers, but I do have questions. Before all this, I was
working on a book about the obstacles that block us from
figuring out what is in our own self-interest. I had
focused my thinking on individuals and self-interest, but
I think that what this experience has revealed is not an
answer but an understanding that sometimes ethical
decisions need to be made that have nothing to do with
self-interest or self-benefit. Sometimes, ethical
decisions are simply called for. They come to you by
fortune, I suppose one might say.
On a more personal note, I also see how
the ability David and I had to make our decision arose
out of the good things David and I had in our life. In my
book, I had concluded that what is in our self-interest
is not necessarily something that we have to strive for
or work toward. Instead, much of what is good for us we
already have — the privileges that we enjoy. These
privileges are the talents that we have, the
opportunities that are open to us, the strengths in our
lives, either from our family, our economic situation,
our jobs, or our marriages.
On a personal level, I have realized
that I am quite privileged to have my job at Union and a
loving marriage with David. These are great gifts,
wonderful things. I have realized that when one is
privileged in these ways, one can undertake difficult
Q. You are going on sabbatical next
year. What are your plans?
Patrik: When all this came up, I
essentially dropped my book project; I had neither the
time nor the concentration to work on it. This has
absorbed my husband's life and, as a result, it has also
absorbed my life. So the main project for my sabbatical
is to return to the book, Knowing What is Good For Us. I
will also be editing an anthology on existential
Q: How are you going to move on from
this? What is left to confront?
Patrik: We still have to pay our
attorney's fees. We have to figure out a way to pay him,
which is difficult because we have been reluctant to do a
movie or book deal.
We don't know if the government will
give us the million-dollar reward. We would very much
like the reward money to go to the victims, but if they
tax us and then if they tax the victims when they receive
the money, there's not much money left.
David has been approached about book
and movie deals, but he doesn't feel like he can write a
book. He's still in too much pain from this experience
and in too much pain over his brother. I've urged him to
write a book, partly because he's an excellent writer and
partly just to pay our attorney, but he has always said
no. Maybe he'll change his mind once we go on sabbatical.
Personally, I am eager to return to the
work I had set out for myself and return to the things
that mean a lot to both David and me. One thing that
means a lot is our marriage; we are deeply committed to
it. We would like some private time to go canoeing, go to
the movies, and to have fun — like we used to have
before all this started. We want our lives back.