Under tight security and a pervasive clamp of fear, Los Angeles International Airport continued to handle the early waves of the brisk summer travel season Thursday, even as a series of letters sent by the Unabomber raised a new specter of terrorism if the bomber is unable to gain a mass media forum for his anarchist views.
In separate letters whose contents began to emerge late Thursday, the Unabomber has suggested that he may build "one more bomb" unless either the New York Times or Washington Post agrees to publish a 50-plus page manifesto outlining his anti-technology viewpoints. He said he will only agree to stop the killing if one of the papers publishes the tract within three months and agrees to print annual follow-ups for three years.
The bomber's treatise, "Industrial Society and Its Future," was sent to the Post and the New York Times on Wednesday. In today's editions, the Post said it received copies of letters sent to the Times and to Penthouse magazine, in which the Unabomber claimed to "reserve the right" to make one more attack if only Penthouse published the manifesto. The letter writer said he preferred to be published in one of the "respectable" newspapers.
Earlier this year, Penthouse offered to give a voice to the elusive serial bomber, whose attacks have killed three people and injured 23 others in 16 attacks since 1978.
Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., publisher of the New York Times, said in a statement that the newspaper was considering whether to publish the manuscript. "We will act responsibly and not rashly, knowing that lives could be at stake. It seems we've been given three months to think the issues through. One issue that we find especially troubling is the demand that we not only publish the initial document, but then open our pages for annual follow-ups over the next three years."
Donald E. Graham, publisher of the Post, said his newspaper was "considering how to respond."
In other developments Thursday:
* The U.S. Postal Service instituted new restrictions--the tightest since the Gulf War--to prevent the Unabomber from changing tack and carrying out his threat of violence with another random strike through the mail. In Los Angeles County, mail delays caused Wednesday by the threat were expected to prevent more than 300,000 recipients of federal Supplemental Security Income from receiving their checks on time.
* The wave of fear reached the state Capitol, where a bomb threat Thursday forced an interruption of an afternoon Assembly session. The 20-minute hiatus began when Speaker Doris Allen told lawmakers a caller had told police in San Jose that a bomb would explode in the lower house at 4:40 p.m. After a break, the Assembly resumed work without incident.
* And at Los Angeles International Airport, strengthened security details continued to check passenger identifications while handling luggage, despite the Unabomber's claim that his threat to blow up a Los Angeles airliner was only a prank intended to draw attention to himself. Officials on Thursday confiscated three briefcases left unattended in different terminals, but did not disclose their contents or whether they were returned to travelers.
The Unabomber's threat to attack an airliner out of LAX was contained in a letter delivered Tuesday to the San Francisco Chronicle. In that letter, the terrorist indicated that he would make the attack within six days--or, presumably, by the end of the Fourth of July holiday weekend.
A day later, in a packet of letters and documents delivered to the New York Times, the Unabomber announced that the threat was a ruse. In that same packet, the Unabomber vowed to end the killings if the newspaper met his demands, but he made it clear that he still might engage in "sabotage" of property to help advance his viewpoints, the New York Times reported.
Authorities were continuing to take extraordinary safety precautions Thursday at LAX and elsewhere.
A number of security measures put in place Wednesday were maintained and even reinforced Thursday. Those precautions included a substantial deployment of federal agents, Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies and Los Angeles police officers stationed within the airport.
"The FBI reiterates that based on the Unabomber's prior history of violence, and specifically violent acts directed against airline passengers, the FBI is continuing to take the threat as stated in the letter to the San Francisco Chronicle very seriously," the FBI said in a statement. Spokesman George Grotz added: "We can't afford not to take this seriously."
The Airport Scene
Travelers, who filled the busy terminal Thursday as vacationing families and out-of-school children got an early start on the holiday weekend, were being warned against possible flight delays and being asked to show photo identification when they checked their luggage.