by Jessie Roberts
Vollmann’s heavily redacted FBI file, which he obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, reveals that he became “Unabomber Suspect Number S-2047” based on a tip from an anonymous citizen, whom Vollmann dubs “Ratfink.” “UNABOMBER, not unlike VOLLMANN has pride of authorship and insists his book be published without editing,” part of the file states. Other sections link his appearance to composite sketches of the bomber and suggest that “anti-growth and anti-progress themes persist throughout each VOLLMANN work.” A source told the FBI that Vollmann “reportedly owns many guns and a flame-thrower.” (“I would love to own a flamethrower,” he notes cheerfully.) After the real Unabomber was caught, Vollmann was listed among the suspects in the 2001 anthrax attacks.
Though Vollmann writes that he was initially flattered to be labeled “ARMED AND DANGEROUS,” he became alarmed over the privacy violations the file suggests. He writes: “I was accused, secretly. I was spied on … I have no redress. To be sure, I am not a victim; my worries are not for me, but for the American Way of Life.” Vollmann spoke to Morning Edition’s David Greene in an interview Thursday morning and said he minded the FBI’s secrecy almost as much as the invasion of his privacy: “If we’re not allowed to know what they’re doing with this information, I can’t help but think that we are headed for really serious trouble.”