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MIT Nobel Laureate Receives Unabomb Threat

By Ifung Lu
Associate News Editor

MIT Nobel laureate Professor Phillip A. Sharp, head of the Department of Biology, is a potential target of the Unabomber, the letter-bomber who has sent 16 mail bombs over the last 17 years.

The Boston Globe reported Tuesday that the Unabomber sent letters to Sharp and Richard J. Roberts of New England Biolabs Inc., who shared the 1993 Nobel Prize in medicine.

The disclosure that the Unabomber sent Sharp a threatening letter has unsettled many researchers affiliated with the Institute. None of the researchers that were contacted would comment on the potential threat that the bomber posed.

MIT spokesman Kenneth A. Campbell also declined comment on the recent events. Sharp was unavailable for comment.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the serial bomber has delivered explosive devices disguised as parcels to targets associated with computer, aircraft, and airline industries and universities. To date, the perpetrator has been responsible for three deaths and 23 injuries.

Lobbyist killed recently

The most recent victim of the Unabomber was Gilbert B. Murray, a timber industry lobbyist, who was killed two weeks ago by a bomb in a package delivered to his Sacramento, Calif. office.

In 1993, a well-known California geneticist and a Yale University computer scientist were severely injured by bombs.

The FBI encourages people to come forward with information about the Unabomber. A $1 million reward is being offered for information resulting in the identification, arrest, and conviction of the person or persons responsible.

Although Campus Police declined to comment about the recent events, they have recommended that the community be cautious when examining incoming mail.

"A bomb can be enclosed in either a parcel or an envelope, and its outward appearance is limited only by the imagination of the sender," according to the bulletin distributed by the Campus Police.

If a mailing appears suspicious, Campus Police recommend isolating the article in an open space and notifying police immediately. Under no circumstances should the article be opened.

Warning signs

The bulletin provides the following letter and parcel bomb recognition guidelines:

Mail bombs may bear restricted endorsements such as "Personal" or "Private." This factor is important when the addressee does not usually receive personal mail at the office.

Addressee's name/title may be inaccurate.

Return address may be fictitious.

Mail bombs may reflect distorted handwriting or the name and address may be prepared with homemade labels or cut-and-paste lettering.

Cancellation or postmark may show a different location than the return address.

Mail bombs may feel rigid, or appear uneven or lopsided.

Parcel bombs may be unprofessionally wrapped with several combinations of tape used to secure the package and may be endorsed "Fragile - Handle With Care" or "Rush - Do Not Delay."

Package bombs may have an irregular shape, soft spots, or bulges. There may also be excessive or uneven weight distribution.

Package bombs may make a buzzing or ticking noise or a sloshing sound.

Pressure or resistance may be noted when removing contents from an envelope or parcel.