Smartphone and Surveillance Technology Helps Catch Serial Bombers

It took authorities 17 years to find the Unabomber. It took them 19 days to find the Austin bomber. The difference largely boiled down to technology. Smartphones and surveillance cameras played an instrumental role in tracking down Mark Anthony Conditt, who officials said was responsible for the string of attacks this month that terrorized Austin, Texas.

He was seen on video in two FedEx package shops. Authorities identified cellphone data that placed him at the site of the explosions. They tracked his internet searches and receipts. On Wednesday, authorities followed him from his motel, where he ultimately pulled over and blew himself up in his car.

Such technology wasn't around when the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, was sending his bombs through the mail between 1978 and 1995. Ironically -- today at least -- his bombings, which killed three people and injured more than 20, were intended as a protest against technology.

Experts said what hasn't changed since those days is the key vulnerability of most bombers: a huge ego.

They will find a way to be visible, according to Mike Rustigan, a professor emeritus of criminal justice at San Jose State University.

"Given more people with smart phones and given there are surveillance cameras most everywhere, you would think they would have a deterrent effect," Rustigan said. "But the nature of these serial bombers -- like Ted Kaczynski -- is they think they can beat the system. It's their monstrous egos that enable them to feel they're above the law and they're the one who will never be caught."

But days after Timothy McVeigh blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, Kaczynski delivered a bomb near Sacramento in what Rustigan characterized as a display of one-upmanship. Then Kaczynski demanded the New York Times and the Washington Post publish his 35,000-word manifesto -- which they...

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