Entire Unabomber manifesto published by New York Times, Washington Post p.10

By: Debra Gersh Hernandez AFTER CAREFUL DELIBERATION and consultation with Justice Department officials, the publishers of the New York Times and the Washington Post agreed that in the interest of public safety, they would publish the entire manifesto of the terrorist known as the Unabomber.
The Times and the Post received copies of the 35,000-word treatise, "Industrial Society and Its Future," in late June. The Unabomber gave the papers three months to publish his entire manuscript or he said he would strike again.
But even if they did publish, the Unabomber said only that he would try to not kill again ? he made no promise not to bomb property or cause other destruction ? and he asked for publication of three annual follow-up messages.
Unabomber is the FBI's code name for a deadly terrorist, believed to be a white male in his 40s, who has conducted a 17-year bombing campaign through the mail. Three people have been killed and 23 injured by 16 mail bombs believed to have been sent by the Unabomber since 1978.
Both newspapers published excerpts of about 3,000 words from the Unabomber's document in August.
At that time, Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione bought a full-page ad in
the New York Times offering to publish the full text without censorship and to give the Unabomber a monthly column ? on the condition that he discontinue the bombings.
The Unabomber gave first publication rights to the newspapers, but if they did not print it, he reportedly would agree to publication in Penthouse only after setting off another bomb with the intent to kill (E&P, Aug. 12, P. 14).
As September drew to a close, the deadline for publication in the newspapers loomed.
Post publisher Donald E. Graham and Times publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr. have been in close consultation "on the issue of whether to publish under the threat of violence," according to a joint statement that ran in both papers.
A week before the document was printed, Sulzberger and Graham met with Attorney General Janet Reno and FBI Director Louis Freeh, who asked them to publish the document "for public safety reasons."
Graham said that he and Sulzberger met with Reno and Freeh because they "wanted the recommendation of federal law enforcement officials.
"There were public safety questions raised by whether or not we published," he said. "We got their recommendation, but the decision [to publish] was made by us."
In addition, Graham was quoted in the Post as saying, "Neither paper would have printed this document for journalistic reasons . . . . We are printing it for public safety reasons, not journalistic reasons."
The brief, joint statement from Graham and Sulzberger explaining their decision accompanied news reports in each paper ? both of which played it on page one, upper left, with jumps
"Both the Attorney General and the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation have now recommended that we print this document for public safety reasons, and we have agreed to do so," the statement read, in part.
The 8-page supplement was published only in the Post because it has "the mechanical ability to distribute a separate section in all copies of its daily papers," the publishers explained.
"We wanted to publish it in a separate section because it is not part of the news report of the Washington Post," Graham told E&P. The manuscript appeared as the Unabomber submitted it, with his subheads and paragraph breaks.
With the words "A supplement to the Washington Post" in reverse type in a black strip at the top of each page, the text ran five columns per page with a black border around the edges.
There were 232 numbered paragraphs, some of them several inches long, and nearly a full page of "notes." The only graphic was a Unabomber diagram at the end of the text showing "symptoms resulting from disruption of the power process."
Although the cost of publication was "the last thing we thought of," Graham said reports of a $30,000 to $40,000 expense, which was shared by the two newspapers, was "in the ballpark."
Further, there were no additional copies printed of the insert itself or of the day's newspaper.
"This document requires that it be published in the Washington Post or the New York Times. We published it for that reason," Graham said. "Only the normal number of copies of the newspaper were printed. We did not print one extra paper. That's all we intend to publish."
"The decision whether or not to publish the Unabomber's document has been a difficult one, with powerful arguments on both sides," Times publisher Sulzberger wrote in a memo to the staff.
Citing an overwhelming number of calls, including some from overseas, Times spokeswoman Nancy Nielsen said all individual interview requests were being turned down for the moment in an attempt to keep a level playing field. A copy of Sulzberger's memo to the staff was made available to E&P.
The Times publisher noted that both he and Graham agreed "in this singular case, the potential of saving lives should be the paramount consideration."
"Nevertheless," he continued, "our decision to publish raises some legitimate concerns."
"It will be argued that we're giving in to the demands of a terrorist and that the only certain result will be similar demands from others threatening violence," Sulzberger wrote, adding that the paper will continue its current policy regarding such demands, which is to "notify law enforcement officials, when appropriate, and print nothing."
The Times publisher pointed out, however, that this case is different "in the most obvious way."
"Here we are dealing with an individual with a 17-year record of violent actions. Hard experience proves that his threat to send another bomb to an unspecified destination must be taken absolutely seriously."
Further, Sulzberger wrote, the demands from the Unabomber "pose no First Amendment issue."
"For us, the issue really centers on our newspaper's role as part of a community, with concerns about the safety of that community and its members," the memo explained.
"It's difficult to put complete faith in the words of someone with the record of violence that the Unabomber has. But the best advice available from the FBI and others, is that the Unabomber may well not bomb again if his material is published.
Sulzberger noted that he remained "deeply troubled" by the Unabomber's "threat of continued non-lethal bombing and by his demand for further publication of his ideas."
"We do not draw the same distinction, as does the Unabomber, between bombs meant to kill people and those, which by their placement, merely threaten to kill people.
"Whether or not we print further communications from the Unabomber will be guided, in part, by the Unabomber's continued abstention from all bombings ? not just those targeting people," Sulzberger stated.
During a press conference in California, FBI officials said they hoped publication would open new avenues for leads from the public, but they added that publication did not necessarily mean the Unabomber would stop.
Jim Freeman, head of the FBI's Unabomber task force, reportedly said he did not believe this case set a precedent.
"This is a unique case," Freeman was quoted as saying. "It is unparalleled in my experience in law enforcement.
"There have been many instances of law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, allowing demands to be met in a hostage case," he added, according to reports. "This is not so different than an individual who has hostages."
The decision to publish was criticized by Society of Professional Journalists president Reginald Stuart, Knight-Ridder assistant news editor in Washington.
Noting that he has "a lot of respect" for Sulzberger and Graham ? and for their decision, which he conceded "was based on more information than observers like myself have been privy to" ? Stuart said he did not think the manuscript should have been published "under the circumstances that it was."
"I have always said this is a damned-if-you-do, damned-if- you-don't situation," he said in a released statement.
"Given the fact that we are dealing with a terrorist, whose motives beyond murder and intimidation are not clear, we should have erred on the damned-if-you-don't side of judgment and relied on our law enforcement authorities to do their job," Stuart commented.
"As much as the Unabomber may have wanted this publicity and the government felt providing it would help bring this nightmare to an end, I feel we have only fed the ego of an irrational person who has no respect for human life," he stated.
"I hope I am wrong on that point," Stuart added. "On the larger point of publishing the manifestos by terrorists, I hope we never do this again, the welfare of the public requiring it."
New York University Media professor Edwin Diamond, however, believes that "civilians" are not really interested in the story.
"The story's already forgotten," said Diamond, a former journalist and author of Behind the Times: An Inside Look at the New New York Times.
"It's complete narcissism," he said of media interest in the story, granting an exception for trade journals such as E&P. "I can't believe the public is interested in this. It's complete navel gazing.
"I think the Unabomber, when he's captured, [it'll be because] he's probably the only person in America reading this. They'll nab him reading this."
While his colleagues think publication was "outrageous, I don't think civilians care," he added.
"Every day the press rents out space. It's called advertising. Every day we cover news conferences. Some of them may be bad people," he pointed out. "Mobil Oil rented out the cranium of the New York Times for years" with its ads on the Op-Ed page.
Diamond also disagreed with concerns about the press working in tandem with the government, pointing out that not only is that nothing new, but also that "every time some bozo in the Congress calls a news conference, we cover it."
Diamond gave Graham and Sulzberger credit for running the manuscript, calling them "the new generation of leadership."
"This guy gets captured, and Graham and Sulzberger are heroes," he said. "I think they were good citizens and not bad publishers. Is this a slippery slope? I don't think so. I give them a tip of the hat."
?(The manuscript appeared as the Unabomber submitted it, with his subheads and paragraph breaks. The text ran five columns per page with a black border around the edges. There were 232 numbered paragraphs, some of them several inches long, and nearly a full page of "notes." The only graphic was a Unabomber diagram at the end of the text showing "symptoms resulting from disruption of the power process." The cost of publication was between $30,000 to $40,000, which was shared by the two newspapers.) [Caption]


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here