Précis — August 22, 2013, 8:00 am

Willam T. Vollmann Was Suspected of Being the Unabomber

The author obtains his FBI file and discovers a case largely based on literary criticism

September 2013“UNABOMBER, not unlike VOLLMANN, has pride of authorship and insists his book be published without editing.”

This line is one of the “literary straws” the FBI grasps at in William T. Vollmann’s FBI file, in which the National Book Award–winning author learns that he was suspect S-2047 in the Unabomber investigation of the 1990s.

In the September issue of Harper’s Magazine, the writer shares what he read in his file, which he describes as “two higgledy-piggledy batches of papers, out of order, padded with duplicates, some of which they had forgotten to redact.” Vollmann was given 294 of the file’s 785 pages following a Freedom of Information Act request, an appeal, and a lawsuit. (A request for his NSA file is still pending.)

Some excerpts from the file:

S-2047 William T. Vollman. Predicated on a referral from a citizen Investigation has determined that Vollman, a professional author, is widely travelled, however, existing travel records for him do not eliminate him as a viable suspect.

• UNABOMBER’s moniker FC may correlate with title of VOLLMANN’s largest work, novel Fathers and Crows. That novel reportedly best exemplifies VOLLMANN’s anti-progress, anti-industrialist theme/beliefs/value systems and VOLLMANN, himself, has described it as his most difficult work.

• He revels in immersing himself in the seamy underside of life. He reportedly has used drugs (crack cocaine) extensively. He reportedly owns many guns and a flame-thrower.

• VOLLMANN’s meticulous nature, as described above, is consistent with manufacture of and presentation on UNABOM devices. Several witnesses have commented that UNABOM packages appeared “seamless” and “too pretty to open.”

• By all accounts VOLLMANN is exceedingly intelligent and possessed with an enormous ego.

Vollmann learns that seven suspects, including himself, were listed as “AUTHOR/WRITER.” 

Share
Single Page

More from Harper’s Magazine:

Official Business January 8, 2015, 3:57 pm

The Art of Outrage

We defend Charlie Hebdo’s right to publish its cartoons—and our right to critique them.

Memento Mori September 2, 2014, 5:33 pm

Charles Bowden (1945–2014)

Mentions July 16, 2014, 7:00 pm

“The End of Retirement” on MSNBC

Watch Jessica Bruder on MSNBC’s The Cycle

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada

  • Leonard

    I must admit to experiencing a range of reactions in reading the the entirety of William Vollmann’s piece on the contents of his redacted FBI file. First was humour, mostly at the ridiculously bureaucratic language employed by the FBI investigators. Then, it was admiration for the investigative rigour by with the FBI went about it’s business, sifting and sorting through clues and characteristics to find the Unabomber, only to reveal that the actual Unabomber wasn’t even on their radar. And finally, it was horror I felt (or at least, its cousin, revulsion) when I realized that what I was reading was eerily similar to East German Stasi surveillance records I saw at a museum in Berlin last year.

    What’s worrisome, of course, is that the general population don’t seem to care or even know what’s going on, or worse, accept this all as the new way of life in post 9/11 America. If that’s really the case, then the Unamerican ‘State within a State’ has emerged victorious, without being approved, publicly debated, or voted upon. That’s the real tragedy here.

    • Noam

      America’s paranoia is now turned upon itself ; unfortunately, it is still turned upon others, as the great essay on sanctions shows.

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

February 2015

The War of the World

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Sharp Edge of Life

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Great Republican Land Heist

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Captive Market

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Day of the Sea

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
The Great Republican Land Heist·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The wholesale transfer of public lands to state control may never be achieved. But the goal might be more subtle: to attack the value of public lands.”
Photograph by Chad Ress
Article
The Sharp Edge of Life·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The struggle of the novelist has been to establish a measure, a view of human nature, and usually, though not always, as large a view as belief and imagination can wring from observable facts.”
Photo by Eddie Adams/Associated Press
Article
Captive Market·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Fear of random violence lives on, but the reality is that violent-crime rates have dropped to levels not seen since the early Seventies."
Photograph by Richard Ross
Article
The Day of the Sea·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Fifteen judges will then sit together in a wood-paneled room, in a city thousands of miles from the Andes, and decide whether the ocean Bolivia claims as its right will at last be returned to it.”
Photo by Fabio Cuttica/Contrasto/Redux
Post
Introducing the February Issue·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Ruin of the West
Christopher Ketcham investigates Cliven Bundy’s years-long battle with the BLM, Annie Murphy reflects on Bolivia’s lost coast, and more
Painting by Richard Prince, whose work was on view in October at Gagosian Gallery in New York City © The artist. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

Percentage increase in the annual number of polio cases in Pakistan since 2005:

857

A bowl of 4,000-year-old noodles was found in northwestern China; and a spokesman for the Chinese Academy of Sciences said that “this is the earliest empirical evidence of noodles ever found.”

A federal judge sentenced the journalist Barrett Brown to 63 months in prison for sharing a link to information stolen from the private-intelligence firm Stratfor by a hacker in 2011. “Good news!” Brown said in a statement. “They’re now going to send me to investigate the prison-industrial complex.”

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

In Praise of Idleness

By

I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

Subscribe Today