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Who is Joe Stack?

Joseph Andrew Stack, the software engineer being linked to Thursday's plane crash in Austin, left behind an anti-IRS, antigovernment Web manifesto.

By Andrew HeiningStaff writer / February 18, 2010

Austin firefighters extinguished a blaze at the home of Joseph Stack Thursday afternoon. According to authorities, the software engineer crashed his plane into a building containing IRS offices shortly after setting his house on fire.

Thao Nguyen/AP

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Since an airplane hit an Austin, Texas, office building Thursday morning, bits of information have begun to emerge about Joseph Andrew Stack, the man believed to have been its pilot.

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What little is known of Mr. Stack, a software engineer in his 50s, comes from a note he published on his software company's website. The site has since been removed at the request of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It lays out a personal history of financial ruin and levels complaints at the US government, its tax system, and healthcare. It ended with language suggesting its author would soon die and was signed "Joe Stack (1956-2010)," followed by Thursday's date.

"If you're reading this," the note begins, "you're no doubt asking yourself, 'Why did this have to happen?' The simple truth is that it is complicated and has been coming for a long time."

Stack attended a Harrisburg, Pa., engineering school in the 1970s and lived on "peanut butter and bread (or Ritz crackers when I could afford to splurge)," the manifesto reads. In school, it says, he developed an appreciation for independence and a distrust of "big business."

Stack's note details his struggle to start his own engineering business and his quest to change portions of the US tax code concerning how engineers are compensated. He describes years of efforts and thousands of dollars spent trying to get government officials to listen to his pleas, without success. Later, he describes a run-in with the Internal Revenue Service amid his struggle to make a living during the dotcom bust.

To survive, I was forced to cannibalize my savings and retirement, the last of which was a small IRA. This came in a year with mammoth expenses and not a single dollar of income. I filed no return that year thinking that because I didn’t have any income there was no need. The sleazy government decided that they disagreed. But they didn’t notify me in time for me to launch a legal objection so when I attempted to get a protest filed with the court I was told I was no longer entitled to due process because the time to file ran out.

At the note's conclusion, Stack says that he ultimately resolved that "violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer."

An electronic bread-crumb trail, pointed out by the Business Insider, reveals that Stack began his manifesto Tuesday night using Microsoft Word and revised it 27 times. It was posted online just a few hours before authorities say he crashed his plane into Austin's Echelon complex.

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