SAN FRANCISCO — In its continuing search for the elusive Unabomber, the FBI has compared student rosters of universities from Chicago to Berkeley and come up with the names of a handful of onetime students who fit the pattern of the deadly terrorist's movements, according to an official familiar with the investigation.
Working from the 35,000-word manifesto mailed by the Unabomber to three publications and a psychology professor in June, the FBI also has sought to find the terrorist by tracing books and other reference materials he cited in his writings, the official said.
Investigators, relying on the kind of computer technology that the Unabomber professes to hate, are attempting to identify possible suspects by linking his scholarly writings to universities targeted by the Unabomber since 1978.
"The investigation is exhaustive," the source said. "In some cases, agents have tried to track down every single copy of these books and other materials he references in his manuscript. Then the agents looked to find out which schools used them in their curriculum."
FBI spokesman George Grotz said the FBI has sent copies of the manuscript to professors at various universities in the hope they could help identify the terrorist, whose bombs have killed three and injured 23 over the past 17 years.
"Yes we have sent the manuscript out to a select number of professors," he said.
Grotz would not discuss any other details of the investigation.
According to the source, the FBI has obtained the names of students who were attending the universities near where the Unabomber placed or mailed his bombs. Among them were the rosters of UC Berkeley, Brigham Young University and Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.
When investigators used computers to analyze the names, they found a handful of students who had attended at least two of the universities at the time the Unabomber carried out his attacks. Agents are believed to be tracking the movements of the former students over the last 17 years.
The Unabomber apparently began his career with bombings in the Chicago area in the late 1970s, moving to the Salt Lake City area in the early 1980s and then to the San Francisco Bay Area. The FBI believes the Unabomber now resides in the Bay Area or Sacramento.
Some of the books cited in the Unabomber's manuscript are sociological works and some are relatively obscure. Agents were checking to see which books may have been available in university libraries or were part of the required curriculum for certain classes.
Harold Bauman, a professor of history at University of Utah, Salt Lake City, said that he and others in the history department were contacted a year ago by the FBI. Agents came back to see him three times, to show him the sketch of the Unabomber. They were seeking information about any students who might match the description.
They were also asking for lists of students who were in Bauman's history of science classes in the early 1980s when an explosive device was found on campus.
Bauman said that on one letter that the FBI showed him the Unabomber had typed out Department of History, University of Utah under the date as his return address.
"I've been teaching history of science and history of medicine," Bauman said Tuesday. "Because of his interest in technology and his semi-scientific bent they thought he might have been in one of my classes."
The FBI agents even tested about a dozen, old typewriters to see if the print matched the typing in the letter, he said. "We were not of much help to the FBI," he said.
Nonetheless, Bauman believes that the Unabomber may very well hang around Salt Lake City, saying that not long ago he and and his wife saw someone matching the Unabomber's description, complete with hood and glasses, hanging around a local post office. They called authorities, but no one came.
The possible advances in the case came as the New York Times and Washington Post published excerpts from the terrorist's manifesto in today's editions.
Although the FBI did not ask the papers to publish the excerpts, the source said the simultaneous publication is part of a step-by-step plan to respond to the Unabomber's offer to stop killing people if one of the newspapers publishes the entire document by late September.
The New York Times said in a story accompanying the excerpts that it had decided to publish them because they were newsworthy. The Post, in a separate statement, said it published excerpts so readers could see the same material the FBI wants professors to examine.
Neither newspaper has decided whether to publish the full manuscript, titled "Industrial Society and its Future."
One possibility under consideration by the government is asking the Washington Post to publish the manuscript in book form, said the official familiar with the investigation. That alternative is being weighed by Atty. Gen. Janet Reno and FBI Director Louis Freeh, he said.