The Atlantic

What Makes a Serial Bomber Tick?

A former FBI profiler looks at what we can and can’t know about the motives of the man behind the Austin bombings.
Source: Scott Olson / Getty

Austin, Texas, recently experienced 19 days of terror at the hands of an unknown figure, as hundreds of law-enforcement officers crisscrossed the Texas capital in a race to track down a shadow. We now know the “who”: The bombings are suspected to have been perpetrated by a 23-year-old, homegrown, unemployed named Mark Anthony Conditt. Investigators probably know the makeup of the mechanical switches he used to detonate his seven explosive devices, ones filled with smokeless powder along with nails to enhance their shrapnel effect. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) and the FBI likely rebuilt each device to study it. What we don’t know is the composition of the switch in the bomber’s head that, once flipped, allowed him to move forward with his assault on the sense of

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