William Vollmann: FBI Thought I Was Unabomber, Cult Writer Says

Cult writer William Vollmann went public Thursday with his FBI file, which he obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request. He published much of his story in the September 2013 Harper’s magazine under the title, “Life as a Terrorist: Uncovering my FBI File.”

The 54-year-old writer also spoke to National Public Radio (NPR) about some of the shocking findings in his FBI file.

William Vollmann is admittedly a colorful character who has traveled the world to create complex nonfiction and nonfiction works. In 1982, he traveled with the mujahideen in Afghanistan during the Soviet war era. After that he traveled to other war-torn places, including Cambodia, Somalia, and Iraq.

One of his books is a 3,300 page, seven-volume tome on violence. So the award-winning writer is no lightweight. But, you know, he’s an artist.

In fact, The Washington Post described Vollmann as a man who “makes hand-made art books.”

But William Vollmann found out the FBI had a very different description. Under the FOIA request, he was able to get 294 pages of his 785-page file.

What he discovered was disturbing.

The FBI suspected that Vollmann might be the Unabomber. What gave them that idea? Apparently, somebody who didn’t like him pointed a finger at him.

And then the FBI found evidence like this to back up the theory: “Unabomber, not unlike Vollmann, has pride of authorship and insists his book be published without editing.”

Uh oh.

Ted Kaczynski, the real Unabomber, was arrested in April 1996 and is now serving a life sentence. But Vollmann’s ordeal was not over.

He has been detained and interrogated by the FBI at a border crossing as recently as 2005, which prompted him to sue for the release of his FBI file in the first place.

The FBI just couldn’t let it go. Even after it was clear they’d caught the real Unabomber, they suspected Vollmann of other crimes.

He told NPR, “[A]fter they caught the Unabomber, then I found out that I became an anthrax suspect…in part…because I was a former Unabomber suspect.”

William Vollmann’s FBI saga certainly raises questions about whether or not federal investigators can ever admit they have the wrong guy.

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