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What made Ted tick? 

click to enlarge At left is the artists rendering of the man the federal government was seeking as the Unabomber. At right is the mug shot of Ted Kaczynski.
  • At left is the artists rendering of the man the federal government was seeking as the Unabomber. At right is the mug shot of Ted Kaczynski.

Ted Kaczynski has been locked up in Colorado's Supermax prison since 1998, but the battle over what will become of his writings -- which might provide further public insight into what made the convicted Unabomber tick -- continues.

Kaczynski wants to donate his journals and other personal effects to the University of Michigan, which houses an extensive library of material generated by notable social change agents and anarchists in America.

The seized material is described in court documents as 61 pages long and includes journals, photographs, contraband and personal effects like a pair of gloves and a brown wooden handle pocketknife. Kaczynski's attorney, John Balazs, says his client's effects include thousands of pages of written documents.

"The library is particularly well-suited to store Mr. Kaczynski's materials because it contains one of the largest and most important collections of materials about radical, social and political movements," Balazs wrote in his request before the court.

The University of Michigan's library currently houses more than 40,000 books, 800 periodicals, 20,000 pamphlets and many collections of manuscripts, photographs, posters and other memorabilia demonstrating the ideas of radical movements from the far left and the far right, according to court documents.

However, the United States government has balked at turning over the material that was seized from Kaczynski's remote Montana cabin when he was arrested in 1996. Kaczynski, now 61, pleaded guilty to killing three people and wounding 23 as a result of bombs that he sent to university and airline personnel, which prompted the FBI's code name for their suspect, the Unabomber. David Kaczynski alerted authorities after his brother's anti-technology manifesto was published by the New York Times and the Washington Post.

Two weeks ago, U.S. Magistrate Gregory Hollows ruled that the United States government should either sell Kaczynski's personal effects to help pay off $15 million in court-ordered restitution to the families of his victims or allow him to donate them to the University of Michigan.

The government argued that Kaczynski's writings should not be donated to the university library because instead they could be sold to help pay off his restitution. However, U.S. attorneys also asserted they do not want to sell the convicted Unabomber's writings, "because criminals cannot benefit from their crimes."

Magistrate Hollows found the government's argument "contradictory," and called it "circular and confusing."

"If the government were really concerned about restitution, one would think that it would desire to maximize any recovery from the sale of Kaczynski's property," Hollows wrote. "Does the United States seek to sell the property, or does it seek to destroy the property after paying into a restitution fund its idea of the non-celebrity value? Or does it simply desire to keep it? These ideas are never made clear.

"Finally, lurking in the background is the United States' seeming implicit desire to remove Kaczynski's ideas from the public view."

Hollows' recommendations have been forwarded to U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr., who will make the final ruling over whether the Unabomber's writings will become public. Last week, Kaczynski's attorney, Balazs, reasserted his belief that "the law is strongly on our side."

As for his client, Balazs declined to comment on any personal communications, and said he has not talked with Kaczynski about his relationship with his brother David.

"It's attorney-client privileged stuff," Balazs said of his conversations with his client, "and Ted is a very private person."

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Many of Kaczynski's post-arrest correspondences, including letters from high-profile journalists seeking interview exclusives with the reclusive Unabomber, are already housed at the University of Michigan. To read snippets of these correspondences, go online to this story at www.csindy.com.

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