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Experts: Bomber "high' on publicity

Is the Unabomber finally cracking up?

For 17 years he has been shrewd, meticulous and methodical, striking months and sometimes even years apart, leaving few tracks for law enforcement to follow.

But in the months since the Oklahoma City bombing, the mysterious serial bomber has sent a flurry of letters, packages and his 35,000-word personal political manifesto out into the world.

"Look what one little note to the San Francisco Chronicle did for him," said Michael Rustigan, a criminologist at San Francisco State University who is studying the bomber.

In that, the bomber threatened to blow up an airliner by July 4th.

"His note generated tons of publicity," Rustigan said. "He's on a high from that. He was in the minor leagues then, now he's a national guy."

On Friday a psychology professor at the University of California, Berkeley, received a package from the Unabomber that contained documents similar to the ones received by the New York Times and the Washington Post last week, FBI spokesman George Grotz said Sunday.

And despite a second note to the Times calling the airliner threat a prank, security remained tight Sunday at Los Angeles International, where 130,000 passengers were expected to travel through the holiday.

"So far it's fairly slow," said Lt. Howard Whitehead of the airport police. "We are still deploying the extra people for it because of the situation."

The Unabomber, so code-named by the FBI because many of his early victims are connected to universities and airlines, has killed three people and wounded 23 since 1978 in 16 package bombings.

For now, sending words seems to be satisfying him.

"What's encouraging is that he has decided to communicate via the written word as opposed to planning any more bombs," Grotz said. "We find that a very encouraging and positive step."

Grotz wouldn't identify the professor or say more about the package, which was turned over to the FBI. Last week, the Times and Post received offers from the Unabomber to stop the killings if they published his manifesto.

On Saturday the San Francisco Examiner reported that the Unabomber claimed in a letter to Penthouse magazine that the initials "FC" in each of his communications stands for "Freedom Club."

"This is the first time he has identified or anyone has identified what they stand for," Jim Freeman, special agent in charge of the FBI's San Francisco office, said Saturday.

The current issue of Newsweek reported that the Unabomber sent a letter to Scientific American last week in which he rails against the arrogance of modern science.

Scientific American didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. However, an excerpt from the letter, published by Newsweek, suggests he may be reacting to the Oklahoma City bombing.

"We strongly deplore the kind of indiscriminate slaughter that occurred in the Oklahoma City event," Newsweek quotes the letter as saying.

Criminologist Rustigan said the Unabomber is showing his arrogance now that attention is being drawn to Oklahoma suspect Timothy McVeigh.

The mail bomber is thinking that "he must draw attention to himself," Rustigan said. "His campaign is much more worthy than this rank amateur, Timothy McVeigh.

"Although he denies the Oklahoma City bombing had any effect on him, the timing is too perfect. There must have been some feeling of jealousy and of being upstaged."

Last week in Northern California, FBI investigators questioned owners and managers of scrap metal yards as they sought to find the bomber through the materials he used in his attacks.

A San Leandro scrap metal dealer told the Los Angeles Times that FBI agents also showed him a second picture _ a grainy black-and-white photo _ of a somewhat heavier man than the one in the composite sketch.

Meanwhile, each letter, each contact, gives law enforcement one more point to triangulate from, Rustigan said _ one more chance at catching America's most notorious serial bomber.

"He was so methodical and careful for 17 years, giving us very little, taking his time, being patient," Rustigan said. Now, "the man is gushing."

_ Information from Knight-Ridder Newspapers was used in this report.