Author: FBI Thought I Was the Unabomber

After that, William Vollmann was suspected in anthrax attacks

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 22, 2013 5:47 PM CDT

(Newser) – Acclaimed author William Vollmann has an essay in Harper's that won't exactly inspire confidence in the FBI's sleuthing abilities. Vollmann got a look at his own government file and learned that he was once "Unabomber Suspect Number S-2047," he tells NPR. All because an anonymous tipster thought his books had Unabomber-like themes. The FBI file also states that the “UNABOMBER, not unlike VOLLMANN has pride of authorship and insists his book be published without editing," which apparently cinched his status as a suspect.

So what happened when Ted Kaczynski got arrested as the real Unabomber? Almost unbelievably, the FBI then considered Vollmann an "armed and dangerous" suspect in anthrax attacks because, hey, why not. (Vollmann even dispels the file's assertion that he owns a flame-thrower.) "I was accused, secretly. I was spied on," he writes in the subscription-only essay. "I have no redress. To be sure, I am not a victim; my worries are not for me, but for the American Way of Life." Observes Ron Charles at the Washington Post: "It’s a terrifying essay, only sporadically leavened by gallows humor." (Click for an equally intriguing story about newly revealed CIA files.)

A 2005 file photo of William T. Vollmann.
A 2005 file photo of William T. Vollmann.   (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)
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