© 2021 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
News Partners

Former FBI Profiler Discusses How Agency Works To Track Down Bombers


Next let's get a glimpse of what might be going on right now inside the FBI as agents there piece together clues to try to figure out who might have sent these pipe bombs. Mary Ellen O'Toole worked as an FBI profiler for many years. She helped track down the Unabomber, among others. She now directs the forensic science program at George Mason University, and she joins me now. Hi there.


KELLY: So of the clues that have been made public so far - say you're back, you're working with your team at the FBI. What would you be focused on? What are the most promising clues?

O'TOOLE: The two areas that I would be focused on are the bomber's behavior and the forensic analysis. So when I say behavior, I mean I would be looking at who the victims were, how the package was put together, how it was addressed, the use of six American flags stamps, the excessive taping of, you know, of each one of the packages. I would also be looking at - pulling back and looking at a wider picture of this behavior. This offender didn't just wake up yesterday and decide that he was going to do this.

KELLY: How do you know?

O'TOOLE: People that are being targeted because of their religion, for example, or because of their politics, when they're being targeted in a way, in a manner like this, that type of animosity, that type of anger directed at those people, that started at some point in the past. So agents will be going back and looking at social media. They'll be looking at people that have posted about how they feel about these particular victims, which also may give them clues as to the person's identity.

KELLY: And in terms of the checklist that an FBI agent would be going through at this point, you mentioned things like searching for social media profiles. What else specifically would you be working on?

O'TOOLE: Right now we would be working very closely with the forensic experts at the FBI lab. We would be learning as much as they know about how these devices were put together, looking at what forensic conclusions can be made. Was there DNA trace evidence or fingerprints? There's a lot of potential here in these 10 devices, in these 10 envelopes. There's a lot of potential for the retrieval of pretty significant forensic evidence.

KELLY: Is there anything that suggests to you, again, from the clues that have been made publicly available, that this person is done, or anything that suggests to you that there may be a lot more packages out there?

O'TOOLE: One area of his behavior that I find very concerning that suggests to me he may not be finished - as a person evolves in a series of crimes so does their motivation. This individual may be really becoming very motivated and excited about all of the attention that he's being given and the fact that you turn on any network and all you're seeing is his handiwork, what he's doing.

So in order to perpetuate those feelings of power and omnipotence - and many serial offenders will tell you, I felt so powerful when the news was all about me - they decide midway through their series that that's what's causing them to continue. And that could be something that we're looking at down the road here. And if that's the case, he's not done.

KELLY: You raise an important point for those of us in the media covering this investigation, which is that the public attention and media scrutiny can play a role in how the investigation unfolds.

O'TOOLE: You absolutely can. And if he does continue at this pace, he will continue to make mistakes. They will be big mistakes, which will assure his being apprehended.

KELLY: Mary Ellen O'Toole, thank you.

O'TOOLE: You're very welcome.

KELLY: She's a former FBI agent, and she now directs the forensic science program at George Mason University. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.