I had the good fortune to get my hands on Hunting The American Terrorist by authors Terrie Turchie and Kathleen Puckett PhD for a review. This is a fabulous look ‘under the skirts’ of two of the most famous home grown lone wolf terrorists, Ted Kaczynski who is better known as the Unabomber, and Eric Rudolf whose resume includes the bombing of the Atlanta Olympic Games.

One aspect that I always take into consideration when reading a factual book is the authors credentials. In this case those credentials are top-notch. Terry led the hunt for Kaczynski for the final two years for the FBI, he also spent over a year spearheading the Rudolph hunt, and much of the groundwork he laid paid off several years later. Kathleen is no slouch either, she was the lead profiler. Profiling may sound like Voodoo, the developing of a picture of someone, their lifestyle, their history, maybe even some physical attributes, based solely on the events and evidence. Voodoo indeed in my simple mind, but it is a science that has helped solve many crimes.

It is not often that I get the opportunity to chat with someone who has such a unique story as Terry Turchie, and I was delighted when he agreed to do an interview.

You certainly had an interesting career with the FBI, what was your motivation in joining the organization?

I realized during the later years of high school that I enjoyed the Law, History, Social Science and English more than anything else. I wanted to find a career that combined all of these interests, allowed me to help people and my country and at the same time would be fast moving and different. The high school library (DeAnza High School in Richmond, California) had two copies of the old book by Don Whitehead, “The FBI Story.” I read it several times. After the first time I was hooked and decided I wanted to be an FBI agent.

Early on in your involvement with UNABOM you became concerned with the command and control structure and made some huge changes. I imagine that at the time you came under some pressure, yet your ideas were proved to be successful, have many of your ideas now become part of the FBI Modus Operandi?

The major differences characterizing UNABOM were hands on involvement with each dimension of the investigation by the local field office management team; the total integration of around the clock analysis by personnel trained in the discipline; the presence of a permanent behavioral profiler sitting with the task force and integrated into the daily thinking of the case; and continuous reinvestigations of each aspect of the case by a consistent group of investigators and analysts who stayed in place with the task force for an extended period of time. These same principles were applied when I went to North Carolina to assume control of the Eric Robert Rudolph fugitive investigation.

The only idea that has been adopted post 9/11 is the recognition of the importance of analysis to any investigation or initiative. Conversely after 9/11, major terrorist investigations are run from FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C., behavioral profilers work primarily from Quantico and have seldom been assigned to work full time on just one case, local field office management has never been integrated into the role that the management team played in UNABOM, and consistency of personnel is almost unheard of. For example, there have been continuous streams of managers and agents assigned to the anthrax investiagtion since the attacks during the week of 9/18/01. The case is unsolved.

Hindsight is 20/20, we all have it, and we all hate it, is there one thing you would have changed in the UNABOM investigation?

In hindsight, there are several employees I would have transferred off of the Unabom Task Force sooner than I did since they never seemed to find their groove and were unable to carry off their part of the investigation. Personnel matters are always the most delicate to deal with in a way that will solve a problem with one particular personality without making others feel that you’re acting harsh or dismissive. That’s why the go slow approach is usually favored in spite of the obvious downside of moving the case along at the fastest pace possible. At the end of the day, the only way to assemble and build the right team is to move some people on and off until you reach an effective and successful formula of complimentary personalties, skill levels and work ethic.

I received an interesting email from someone that read my review, in part he disagreed with the effectiveness of profiling, and went on to say that the profile of the Unabomber did not fit in key areas. I replied to this gentleman, that I thought he was ‘off base’, knowing if your suspect wears red or yellow socks is not important, but knowing if he wears socks at all might be. How important is profiling in these kind of cases?

Behavioral profiling is important if: a.) the profiler is sitting with the task force in cases like this; b.) the profiler is also acting as an analyst and an investigator and becomes familiar with every detail of the case; c.) participates in the daily management/analytical reviews of progress in the case; and is able to maintain the profile in an updated status based upon every breaking event that occurs during the investigation. The educational background of the profiler is extremely important. We were fortunate to have Kathy P, whose Ph.D in clinical psychology was the perfect compliment to her hands on experience interviewing decades worth of incarcerated espionage subjetcs. No other profiler in the FBI at the time had this level of experience.

As I understand it you have now retired from the FBI? So now you are no longer chasing the ‘Lone Wolf’ what keeps your interest?

I retired from the FBI on May 1, 2001 and a month later started working at the Lawrence Livermore National Weapons Lab as the head of the Counterintelligence/Counterterrorism program there. The lab was managed by the University of California. I retired from the lab two weeks ago and am now in the process of working with Kathy on a second book. Kathy and I are also committed to several additional books over the next few years with History Publishing Company. The topics will deal with terrorism, leadership and risk management. In the spring Kathy and I will begin teaching one night a week at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California. We will design a course on terrorism and leadership. Kathy and I have formed a company called TK Associates. We will concentrate on public speaking, common sense and risk management in the age of terror.

Obviously 9/11 was not a ‘Lone Wolf’ endeavor but there was something that happened a little later that might be, the Anthrax packages. Do you have any thoughts?

Kathy and I immediately felt that the anthrax mailings sounded more like a domestic terrorist and that the timing was more coincidental than anything else. We had seen so many coincidences during Unabom that we were not convinced the mailings were related to international terrorism and certainly not to al-Qaeda. The trouble is that many politicians (and former CIA Director James Woolsey) started telling the public that the anthrax attacks looked like they were connected to Iraq. In hindsight, this seems to be the best proof that there were many in the U.S. government that were itching for the excuse to invade Iraq sooner rather than later. We referred Kathy’s study on the Lone Wolf to our colleagues in the Bureau at the time and the FBI stepped upto the plate and beat back the tide on this issue. Today, it appears that all the evidence supports the notion that the anthrax attacks were domestic in nature.

I talk to a lot of Authors, particularly new ones, I hear this re-occurring theme, writing the damn book is easy, getting it into the stores is a whole different ball game. What has been your experience? Is it as tough as being an FBI Guy?

It’s very difficult for new and unknown writers to break through. Literary agents are reluctant to take risks on “old” stories, publishers want known authors and commercial successes guaranteed before they will take a chance, and book stores see so many books published each year that they can only make a few choices on what to stock and what not to buy. Kathy and I were fortunate that Don Bracken saw this as a current story with important lessons for the time we live in. We have also been gratified that reviewers like yourself have given the book a chance, read it and believe that it has a message worth reading in a story that is not written like an FBI report. (Boring, very boring, grin, grin).

My rumor mill, and it’s very reliable (the internet) tells me that you have another book in the works, can you talk a little about it?

Our next book, Homeland Insecurity, How Washington Politicians Have Made America Less Safe” names 15 politicians from Watergate to 9/11 whose decisions, emotions, and treatment of the FBI make them “profiles in courage” in reverse. Focused on the trends that have been established to fight the terror war, the book contends that America is actually less safe today because many of the decisions and recommendations that have been made to deal with the threat of terror have actually been the result of political expediency rather than solid analysis of the problems we face. The sum total of the move towards regarding terrorism as a problem that mandates secrecy and intelligence rather than solid law enforcement, transparency and adherence to the law of the land is that one approach will undermine our freedom while the other will preserve it for as long as the war against terror is waged.

It would be lunacy to ask if there is a solution to the ‘Lone Wolf’, but there has to be something that can be pursued as a preventative measure. We have High School and college students going on shooting rampages, and I would be naïve not to think that there is not another Ted Kaczynski, Eric Rudolph or Timothy McVeigh out there.

The key is really public awareness at all levels of society and the need to encourage people to report suspicious behavior- of any type. Teaching people to trust their instincts and report things that seem suspicious, out of place or out of character for a particular setting or situation is one thing. Knowing that people can have the confidence and trust in their institutions of government so that they will feel comfortable reporting certain behavior is the other key. One can be taught and enhanced, the other depends upon the longstanding conduct of government officials and whether they have proven that they can be trusted to do the right thing. It is vital in the terror war or with any other potential crimes such as you mention that we encourage people to focus on behavior, not on race or nationalities.

Terry a question for fun. I am sure that you have been interviewed many times, and I am sure that my questions to you are not new. So here is a question for you to try and fix that. What is the one question you wish us darn interviewers would ask?

I’ve really never given this much thought. It may be the hardest question you threw at me. At any rate, I don’t have any suggestions right this minute for you. I will reserve the right to think about it and let you know if I come up with an answer.

Haha, I guess I stumped the master! Terry I really want to thank you for taking time out to talk to Blogger News.

Note: And to all you fans of CSI, this is the book you should be reading, real life is always more interesting than fiction. Hunting The American Terrorist is available from the History Publishing Company.

Simon Barrett


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