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FBI’s most expensive investigations: Unabomber case tops list with $50M

The infamous domestic terrorist has died in prison and was the subject of the FBI’s most expensive manhunt in history.

La Oficina Federal de Investigaciones de Estados Unidos (FBI) recomienda usar bloqueadores de anuncios. Te explicamos la razón.

The Unabomber, also known as Ted Kaczynski, has died. He gained notoriety for a series of mail bombings that he carried out between 1978 and 1995, targeting individuals involved in technology and modern industrial society. Kaczynski’s bombings killed three people and injured 23 others.

After an impressive academic career, he developed a deep-seated hatred for modern technology and industrialisation, believing that they were detrimental to human freedom and the natural world.

Starting in 1978, Kaczynski began sending homemade bombs through the mail to various targets, carefully selected to symbolise what he perceived as the dangers of technological advancement.

In 1995, Kaczynski’s activities gained significant media attention when he published his anti-technology manifesto, titled “Industrial Society and Its Future,” also known as the “Unabomber Manifesto.” The moniker “unabomber” stuck, itself an acronym of University and Airline Bomber.

The original FBI reward poster hunting the "UNABOMBER".
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The original FBI reward poster hunting the "UNABOMBER".Federal Bureau of Investigation

The FBI, hoping to capture Kaczynski, published the manifesto in major newspapers. It was Kaczynski’s own brother, David, who recognised the similarities between the manifesto and his brother’s writings and ultimately turned him in to the authorities.

In 1998, Kaczynski pleaded guilty to multiple charges and received six life sentences.

He died in his prison cell in FMC Butner, Durham County, North Carolina at the age of 81. The cause of death has not been published.

The FBI’s most expensive investigations

At the time of his arrest, the hunt for Kaczynski was the most expensive hunt in FBI history with a report published by the United States Commission on the Advancement of Federal Law Enforcement in 2000 stating that over $50 nillion had been spent.

Other expensive investigations include the 9/11 attacks, of which the report was published in 2004. This was Congress-led but included FBI assets and the organisation was heavily criticised in failing to prevent the attacks. Another huge terrorist case was the Boston marathon bombing in 2013.

The investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election was another complex and lengthy inquiry. While the investigation was not exclusively conducted by the FBI, it required substantial FBI resources and cost millions of dollars to determine that found insufficient evidence of a criminal conspiracy.

Due to the classified nature of these investigations the costs have never been revealed. Even the $50 million for the Kaczynski case is a drop in the water of the FBI’s huge budget, which is more than $10 billion for 2023.