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Professor responds to Unabomber: "I think violent actions are wrong'

A University of California-Berkeley psychology professor who received a treatise on the shortcomings of modern society from the Unabomber has responded via an open letter.

Tom Tyler wrote that he agreed with some of the elusive bomber's views but condemned his violent methods and challenged him to come up with a peaceful way to bring about change.

"I'm very pleased the Unabomber appears interested in providing education about his beliefs," Tyler said Monday. "I think discussion about these issues is a far more positive and ultimately much more effective way to bring about change than violence."

As Tyler made public his response to the Unabomber, state and federal officials continued their security crackdown in the wake of the terrorist's threat to bomb an airliner out of Los Angeles International Airport by the Fourth of July.

Though the Unabomber later retracted the threat as a prank, the Federal Aviation Administration ordered careful screening of people, bags and packages.

The FBI has set up a task force in San Francisco from which to direct more than 100 agents, including those in other agencies, to search for the bomber.

Tyler, who specializes in legal psychology, attracted the Unabomber's attention by commenting on social malaise in a local newspaper interview. On Monday he confirmed that he was the professor who had opened a non-explosive package Friday containing a copy of the Unabomber's 67-page manifesto, the first one that the bomber is known to have sent to an individual rather than an institution.

The letter from the bomber, titled "Industrial Society and its Future," is "in response to comments I made about social malaise that appeared in May in the San Francisco Chronicle," Tyler said Monday.

On Tuesday, the Chronicle published Tyler's reply.

"The central point of your manuscript is that the economic and technical changes in our society have had a negative effect on people's lives," Tyler wrote, adding, "I agree with you that technology is resulting in many social problems."

But Tyler takes exception to the Unabomber's contention that modern society cannot be reformed.

"There have been increasing signs that people are making choices that create individual freedom and local autonomy for themselves," Tyler wrote. "People are finding ways to change their lives in positive way. . . . People are developing the type of anti-technology ideology that you advocate in your manuscript."

Tyler ended his reply by asking the Unabomber to put forward new _ and peaceful _ ways to bring about change. "Many members of our society would welcome new ideas about how to deal with the problems created by technology. That group could change society. . . . Do you have any thoughts about how such a group could be formed?"

Tyler, 45, is highly respected in the field of psychology and law. He was interviewed by the Chronicle for a front-page story that appeared May 1 regarding a link between recent terrorist bombings and a general feeling of social malaise.

A former student of Tyler's, Richard Leo, a professor of sociology and law at the University of Colorado at Boulder, called him "probably the foremost scholar in the country in the field of psychology and law. He's a very prolific scholar. He's brilliant."

Tyler said bombers _ the Unabomber as well as those responsible for the blast at the Oklahoma City federal building _ shared a fear felt by many in larger society that a new world order was robbing individuals of control.

"Whether it's the technological elite or the government, it's the same basic idea," Tyler said. "It's an exaggerated idea of a kind of secret, all-powerful group that's controlling people's lives."

In recent weeks, the Unabomber, who is believed to be operating out of the Bay Area or Sacramento region, has been striving to get out an anti-industrial message to justify the 16 bombings since 1978 that have killed three people and injured 22.

Apparently, he found Tyler an open-minded scholar.

By seeking out the professor, said UC spokeswoman Marie Felde, the author appeared to saying, " "Let me tell you what I think.' I don't think it's an attempt to bring him (Tyler) into the fold."

The bomber sent the same manifesto to the New York Times and Washington Post, offering to end his attacks if one of the newspapers agreed to print his tome. He gave the papers three months to decide.

FBI spokesman George Grotz called the Unabomber's letter to Tyler "another example of him communicating via the written word, which we view as a very positive sign." Tyler, in his response to the Unabomber's essay, echoed Grotz's sentiment: "I think violent actions are wrong, and I am pleased that you have decided to communicate your ideas by sending me (and others) your manuscript."