Offender Profiling / Specific-profile Analysis

Lecture given by Dr Bill Tafoya on Offender Profiling at the The Henry Fielding Centre’s (University of Manchester, Manchester England) 1998 NCIS Conference.

It is a pleasure to be here with such a large collection of criminal intelligence analysts. I want to share a couple of thoughts with you about the nature of our job and how what you do now can be of help from a behavioural standpoint. The question is, just how can you contribute to that, given all the complexities of the nature of what this morning’s speakers have talked about, the difficulties of disparate databases of different agencies with different rules and regulations and different requirements for releasing information? So the essence of my view is that, given your capabilities, given your understanding, given your innate qualities there are a number of things that you can do to contribute. First of all, I’m indebted to the NCIS for a lovely evening last night discussing things and formally talking about the context in which the data appears. Looked at in the abstract there are many things that do not appear.

For the conventionally-trained investigator who looks at a crime scene and says, for example, “why is this twig broken? why has the body been positioned in this fashion?” and then go on and say “oh well” and move on, much of the context in which the serial offender commits a crime will be lost, so its critical to look at the context in which the data you look at is collected, and secondly to integrate that information, to integrate the disparate pieces of information which you find. Once you’ve done these two things you are ready to step forward to collect your diploma as a behavioural science analyst. Let me talk a bit about the process in which behavioural scientists do their work, behavioural science-trained investigators do their work at the FBI and in other places, (some of them are here at this meeting. I was delighted to run into some colleagues, people who I’ve worked with over the years, Ron McKay who’s retired from the RCMP, who’s now with a forensic behavioural analysis group). First of all it isn’t an exact science.

My estimation that the nature of what this work has evolved to from the early nineteen-seventies, when the original research was done by colleagues of mine, Bob Russler, Roy Hazelwood, John Douglas, Ken Lanning and some others, that it has moved from being mostly intuitive to being about eighty per cent science and somewhere in the neighbourhood of twenty per cent art, with a smidgen of intuition. There’s still a need to draw on one’s instincts in integrating information and identifying context of information. The proactive nature of the way in which this work can be utilised is evidenced by what happened with the so-called “Mardi Gras” bomber here in the UK, it’s still causing problems, but I’ve noticed from the news accounts from a year ago in which the decision was made not to publicise information about this person’s activities, to today’s situation of letting that information go public to try to draw on knowledge in the community, I think is a very important thing. That is probably the key that resulted in Theodore Kazynski (?), now having just pleaded guilty to the crimes in the Unabomber case. The decision to go public and to appeal to the public’s support led directly to David Kayinski recognising the writings in the manifesto. Well, having said that there’s a lot that can be gained from psychological profiling, it’s important for investigators, it’s important for you as you get involved in the nature of this facet of analysis, to remind people that this isn’t the first tool that should be drawn upon.

Too often administrators want quick answers, quick solutions, and want to use profiling as a means by which to do that. All other traditional investigative techniques ought to be utilised before one goes to the toolbelt to pluck out psychological profiling. The things that are required to do this are within your venue, that is they are the tools which you have available and can make use of but require you to move totally from keyboard to examining things like forensic evidence reports, looking at crime scene photographs. I don’t know how many of you are fans of American movies but there’s a recent American movie in which an analyst was able to accurately predict the movements of a friendly force in enemy territory. Part of the ability to do that is not only to be able to have the analytical skills to understand how to manipulate data in a computer environment but also to be able to integrate information, to be able to look at the context in which that information appears.

So those of you who aren’t familiar with the movie I’m talking about, and want to look at it from an analyst’s perspective, you can check that out at the movie theatres and the video stores, it’s GI Jane. The part of the movie that I thought was very interesting was that traditional administrators looked at the integration she was making of this data and were very chagrined about her using her intellect which turned out to be right, they were about to call her wrong, so of course this is fiction but my contention is we need to draw away from the typical ways in which we analyse information, expand our views of what has been described in many circles as “thinking outside the box”. I think as an analyst you need to think outside the box if you’re going to provide the best source of information and insight for administrators and decision-makers. In terms of doing profiling from the standpoint of criminal investigation, it’s essential that what you deal with is violent crime which has evidence of overkill rage. The process of profiling has been successfully used for a number of years within the intelligence community but the nature of this work has been described as “personality assessment”. It’s been used by all the three-letter agencies in America and by all the agencies in what was referred to during World War Two as the Allied Services. In fact the very first effort to do profiling was to try to predict the behaviour of Adolf Hitler. It’s important to look at the context of the data which you’re looking for, and rather than giving up try to assess what bit of information you have. Something as simple as a report which indicates that a body is positioned in a certain way can be sufficient information to start to identify what’s called the signature of a serial killer. There’s a lot of confusion about something called MO, modus operandi, that which the killer will, the pattern of behaviour that often leads to the identification, but these people, serial killers, know that law enforcement is looking for them and will alter their MO What they do not alter and cannot alter is their signature; it’s that part of the MO which gives them satisfaction, which gives them gratification for committing the crimes the way they do. And it could be anything from clipping a lock of hair to positioning the body to taking a memento, any number of things which are in the framework of MO are things which could be part of signature and the signature is not going to change.

And so it takes a very careful observation to note what things are going on within an MO if you believe that the same criminal’s responsible for a number of crimes – where some things have changed, what has not changed? There is an important characteristic, I’m a button pusher so I don’t know how I did this but I love the effect. One of the first efforts since World War Two to use psychological profiling occurred in New York City. A psychiatrist by the name of Brussell was endeavouring to identify a fellow who later was called the “Mad Bomber” who later was identified as George Mateski (?), who had a particular grudge against power companies in New York City. He committed a number of bombings, and when I was asked about the comparisons between the Mardi Gras bomber and Theodore Kazinski, in fact the papers have said that he may be a copycat, it looks to me like the Mardi Gras bomber has a lot more in common with George Mateski than he does with the Unabomber. First of all Theodore Kazinski knows how to spell. Fascinating what Dr. Rossell was able to do, to include the way he was dressed, the manner and style of his dress, when he was arrested. That results in people looking at the work of behavioural scientists as being some sort of voodoo or magic; it isn’t, it’s very carefully applied science in the context of the integration of information. From the modern history of profiling, then, we move to the FBI Academy Quantico, Virginia, where a man now long retired, Howard Teten, got the idea. He was teaching criminology courses at the FBI Academy, it was his view that somebody ought to go out and do intensive and extensive interviews of serial killers to try to identify patterns of their behaviour. When this was first proposed to the leadership of the FBI they didn’t think it was a good idea so in the context of conducting training exercises that happened to be adjacent to prisons around the country, my colleagues and I interviewed some of these people in prison, after having developed a protocol, that we were able to find consistent patterns of behaviour. The process now has, since the early eighties, has been very highly endorsed by the FBI and has now been utilised in a number of different venues, including here in the UK. Let’s talk about Ted. He was born in a suburb of Chicago, Evergreen, in 1942. His parents were both immigrants who came to the United States with a particular mindset about the role of education and emphasised that with their children, they had a very strong commitment to education. David, seven years younger, is probably Theodore Kazinski’s equal intellectually. One of the things that we often have talked, well I say “we”, what profilers often talk about where there are serial offences is that perhaps the most critical parts of a series of investigations that need to be examined both by investigators and by analysts is the first three or four incidents. You may know that it wasn’t until the fourth bombing by the Unabomber that the authorities recognised that who they had was a single criminal offender. It wasn’t possible to make that determination after the first, second or third but by the fourth they were able to link forensically those four incidents together, and thereafter look for the clues and the physical evidence that remained, that is, the forensic analysis that remained, to link those together to the Unabomber. But as I re-evaluate and examine the nature of what was done in those investigation, my contention still is, and my colleagues at the FBI academy agree, that had the first three or four investigations been reviewed from its context from a behavioural perspective, we might have been able to get much closer to Theodore Kaczynski using the traditional investigative means rather than relying on the brother to come forward.

So, what’s my message to you as analysts? If you’ve got a series of investigations, re-examine them, turn them over upside-down and backwards, look at the evidence which you have in those early cases because those are the places where the criminal will have made his most crucial mistakes, that will over the series of time perhaps be overlooked because we’re so closely looking at the most recent incidents. Look at the first three or four earliest incidents, that’s where the mistakes will have been made. At nine months, Theodore Kaczynski was hospitalised with what was then not well-understood but believed to have been a communicable disease. And so at nine months here’s a child who is torn from everything that he knows and understands. He apparently came out of that experience much differently than he went in. Would that have been used by the prosecution? If they had had the means to do it I have no doubt that they would have said “it’s not his fault, it’s this early experience” along with so many other things, but there’s so much evidence that the Unabomber task force, consisting of the FBI, the Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms and the Post Inspection Service, were able to have such evidence that would have been overwhelming had he gone to trial. And that’s why he pleaded guilty, because he knew that there was no chance that he was going to escape conviction and that there was already a pre-determination made that the death penalty would be sought. Theodore Kaczynski’s IQ is clearly into genius level. Most serial killers and serial rapists have IQs well above average, in the range of about a hundred and twenty. Don’t underestimate the enemy. Don’t underestimate the person that you’re looking for. They’re very clever, they like to taunt, that’s what’s been alleged, at least in the newspapers, about the Mardi Gras bomber.

Theodore Kaczynski did that in a number of different ways before the manifesto was published. Don’t underestimate the person you’re trying to target. In terms of his formal education he was educated at Harvard, a university in Massachusetts, and prepared his dissertation in such a unique area in mathematics that he was assured right out of school one of the most prestigious offers that could have been made to a brand new PhD from the mathematics department at the University of California, Berkeley, where he promptly taught the most esoteric of graduate and undergraduate courses that were available at the time, but became disenchanted because perhaps of what he saw all around him in Massachusetts and then at Berkeley, the anti-war protest and the realisation that the warped nature of the work that he was doing in mathematics contributed to the war effort. Those are questions which the United States Attorney’s office and the FBI expect to get as part of the plea negotiations with Theodore Kaczynski, having him fill in the blanks as to why he did what he did. Perhaps this is the reason why traditional investigative means weren’t able to come up with this man sooner, because investigations tend to be geared towards conducting investigations in urban settings, not in remote rural mountain tops. The investigation itself consisted of four different phases. The first phase was the period of time where the bombings were first identified, through 1993 when he started again after a seven-year hiatus. People asked “why did he stop? if he gets a thrill out of what he’s doing, why did he stop?” It’s because he saw a composite sketch when he was seen at a computer sketch in Sacramento, California, there was a composite drawn, and although it wasn’t really terribly close it was sufficiently close for him to believe that others would recognise him in it, and I think that’s why he went on the hiatus for seven years before he decided he had to come back again, when he bombed in June of 1993.

The third phase that I’m describing is from the point at which the last killing occurred until Theodore Kazinski came forward, and then the period of time, I say to the present because he fully satisfies the interview part of his negotiation for this plea, he’s going to be interviewed a number of times to get verification of the information that he is supplying, that he will supply to the prosecution. The first set of bombings occurred in Chicago, Salt Lake City, Nashville, and then Chicago again. This is where the acronym comes, it’s not really an acronym, “Unabomb” comes from the first four bombings, “university” “airline” “bombing”. It was the fact that there were airlines, airline industry involved, airline executives involved, a flight from Chicago O’Hare airport to Washington DC on which a device was placed, but fortunately it didn’t reach full conflagration. But these are the events that occurred and where they occurred, and he was very clever in being able to identify victims by using them as return address.

In fact the very first bomb went to the person the package was addressed to. It was left literally on the ground in the parking lot of the University of Chicago where I am presently, people have said did I feel an irresistible impulse to go back there, I plead guilty, but the device was found in a parking lot and then hand delivered back to the return addressee, who was at North-Western University in Everson, Illinois, about an hour north of Chicago. This is a fabrication plant of Boeing Aircraft Corporation. One of the amusing parts of the story is that the package sat there for months and months and it was so well prepared that people were trying to figure out what it was. They started beating on it with a hammer, now there’s a clever technique that I urge you not to undertake. The bombings in 1993 which resulted in the task force being re-invigorated occurred to a physician, a geneticist, in a suburb of San Francisco, and then two days later, a world-renowned computer scientist by the name of Didi Gardner (?) at his office in Yale University. That’s what resulted in the task force being re-invigorated, and it was during that time that all the records from all over the United States were brought together in one place and re-evaluated, examined anew.

That was done under the leadership of a fellow by the name of George Clow who’s now retired. But his administration, his determination to bring these records together was very significant, because they had been in different places around the country where the bombings had occurred previously. My role in this investigation was not for purposes of being a profiler, although I’m a trained profiler. I was already in San Francisco when the bombings occurred. I had left the FBI Academy in 1991 and was assigned to San Francisco, and when I was asked to be part of this task force it was to conduct a victimology study. We interviewed, I constructed a protocol of about fifteen hundred questions, sixteen pages in length, that was intended to be automated, and run it against the databases that we had from different systems dating back to the early 1960s. Imagine trying to do that; it was a Herculean task that was able to be performed, but what we wanted to do was bump up this data about the victims, what the victims had in common and find out what that might lead back to the Unabomber. Well, it turned out that the only thing that they all had in common was that they all made use of computers. So that didn’t lead us very far. But what I did, as a result of having never worked on the investigation during the time I was at Quantico, was to collect the information which we needed to do a profile anyway, and I wanted to find out how close my profile, completely independent of the one John Douglas and others had done, what it would look like, and it was considerably different.

But it didn’t come to surface at the time when it was done, which was August 1993, because we had other things that we needed to do, and the administrators at the time, following George Clow’s administration, felt that they had a profile already and didn’t need a new one. Well, the warrants have been served, he’s been arrested, he’s been indicted, he’s now pled guilty and I said we’re in the dot right there, this is post-arrest interviews. The first one was done in 1979, the first bombing occurred in 1978. In 1985 there was another one done in Quantico and then mine done in San Francisco. There was subsequently another one after I retired in 1985, two over, one at Quantico and one in San Francisco. How did mine differ? I said he was ten years older than the earlier profiles. The earlier profile said that he had a college degree, perhaps but probably in the behavioural sciences.

I said, uh huh, this guy’s got a degree, it’s probably a graduate degree, maybe a PhD, in mathematics or electrical engineering. My reason for being so specific was that I had the advantage of the most recent bombings of 1993 that the older ones didn’t have. I had also the advantage of being able to look at the increased sophistication of the devices. The laboratory was able to provide such comprehensive information that enabled me to judge the evolution of these devices which nobody could have picked out of the Anarchist’s Cookbook of some other How To Bomb For Dummies book. These were techniques that required a very sophisticated kind of knowledge, and that’s who it turned out to be. As it relates to a loner, I’m working on a book now about the nature of the investigation and what was done in that investigation, and one of the anecdotes that will be in the book that I’ll share with you now, you might find amusing. During the time of the task force I had a difficult time persuading some of the members of the task force that being a loner didn’t mean that he was an isolationist. I said it was possible for a serial killer, and they often are loners, but loners means that they conduct their business in secret. It’s possible for a serial offender to have a special room that nobody’s allowed to go into. If he’s married, he’s got it padlocked, if he’s living with Mom or sister, he’s got this room, it’s off-limits to everybody else. So in that way what he’s doing is like a loner. But one fellow couldn’t comprehend this so I went a step further, and, given my propensity for alliteration I said “Look, he doesn’t have to be a monk on a mountain-top in Montana”, and I was simply alliterating, and after Theodore Kaczynski was arrested I got several phone calls from some of the people on the task force who said how did I know? and I said I can’t take credit for that.

His motivation I think is interesting, comes from the UK, those of you that probably know about nineteenth century, Ned Ludd and his efforts were not any more successful than Theodore Kaczynski’s were, to stop the drive of technology. He murdered three people, he injured twenty-three others, it could have easily been twenty-three others killed if that device had correctly exploded on that aircraft. The manifesto, the recognition of it, its simultaneous publication in the Washington Post and the New York Times, led to Theodore Kaczynski’s arrest and recognition by his brother. One of the tools that we made use of was the internet and the World Wide Web. The FBI didn’t have at that time the computer equipment available to make use of this, so I drew on some friendships that I had at NASA, they made computers available to use to put up the information that was then available to us, this has subsequently been moved to FBI computers. Let me say in closing that I really do believe that the nature of the work that you do as analysts often goes unappreciated and unrecognised. You’ve got some kudos from the speakers who’ve been here before, I want to add mine to those, to say that the work that you do is very important. Don’t allow yourself to be closeted. Be willing to look at the context of the information that you’re reviewing, because in the abstract it’s of no use. I’ve talked to a number of investigators who have said in frustration at looking at what an analyst does, taking days to provide data, is obvious on its face. I think that most investigators want you to draw on your resources, on your understanding of the context of the information and to render an opinion on what this means, not simply regurgitate what comes out of the computer.

So I think that there is an important role for you as analysts, and being able to make use of behavioural assessment, not simply to be taking data and dumping it from one place to another. And by doing that you can increase the value of the role you play for your agency, as well as helping perhaps to stop further victimisations and other people from being killed. It’s been a pleasure to be here with you, to be a part of this conference, to be a part of this organisation and the University of Manchester’s vision to be the host for this kind of gathering, because I think that the merger between practitioners and scholars is what’s going to lead us to identify a lot more criminals in the near-term future. I thank you very much for your time and attention.

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