- Hardcover: 352 pages
- Publisher: Hachette Books (February 28, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1401301525
- ISBN-13: 978-1401301521
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 13 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,729,053 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Bomb Squad: A Year Inside the Nation's Most Exclusive Police Unit
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From Publishers Weekly
Esposito and Gerstein, two ABC News journalists, spent 12 months on the job with members of the New York City Bomb Squad, beginning in Times Square on New Year's Eve 2003. They observed training, preparation and even live projects, albeit from a distance. What they produce is an intimate portrait of the 33 male technicians who have chosen this dangerous profession. These men are heroes, to be sure, but they are uninterested in seeing themselves that way. They are reticent, austere men, who approach the job of disarming bombs with a surgeon's focus. When asked how they chose this particular employment, they commonly answer, "Somebody has to do it." Esposito and Gerstein do not pass judgement on the force's efficacy or tackle the greater issue of terrorism. Rather they provide voice to these men and the lessons they can impart. In a particularly disquieting section, the authors detail the squad's role on 9/11, when squad member Claude Richards lost his life. The result of this exhaustive research is a dramatic, articulate examination of this important organization. In spite of the harrowing realities of post-9/11 America, the reader is left encouraged and inspired by the stories of these men, who consistently risk their lives to defend the country from further tragedy. (Mar).
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"A revealing and compelling book. Forget '24,' this is the real thing." -- Ted Koppel
"For the men and women throughout the world who "render safe" infernal machines, Bomb Squad, is a truly accurate and realistic book." -- Det. First Grade Kevin Barry, NYPD Bomb Squad [Retired]
"Rich Esposito brings you inside the nerves-of-steel world of the NYPD's Bomb Squad. His book is dynamite." -- Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly
RICHARD ESPOSITO has the hard edge of a street-smart detective, but all he's armed with is a reporter's notebook. The longtime TV and tabloid cop-shop groupie never fires blanks. In "Bomb Squad: A Year Inside the Nation's Most Exclusive Police Unit," ABC News reporters Esposito and Ted Gerstein go undercover with New York City's death-defusers for a year and hit one bull's-eye after another. They narrate a street saga so visual it could become the pilot for the next "24"-style TV show.
"Bomb Squad" is a tense tour of a century of potentially explosive events that draws us close enough to see skillful fingers probing one "suspicious package" after another, yet far enough away to feel protected.
The timing for this unique look inside the world of the bomb-busters could not be better. The former head of the CIA's now disbanded Osama bin Laden unit, Michael Scheuer, said last month in an interview on MSNBC that a "regrouped" Al Qaeda and Taliban "are going to detonate a nuclear device inside the United States." The authors introduce us to robots, containment vessels, 90-pound suits of armor, ergonomic helmets, the Army's 300-acre Hazardous Devices School, handheld X-ray devices and "backscatter vans" whose X-ray fields can penetrate thick walls in search of weapon dumps.
The nuclear threat that Scheuer warns of was already a familiar fact to the 33-member elite New York Police Department unit that welcomed Esposito and Gerstein for 365 days in 2004. "Bomb Squad" reveals that a month after the Sept. 11 attacks, the CIA was warning that Al Qaeda had "procured or made a nuclear weapon or weapons" that were "being smuggled or already in place" in Washington, New York City or both. During the weeks of the alert, bomb squad commander Jerry "Pappy" Sheehan walked around with a briefcase cuffed to his wrist.
The NYPD was told that the feds had only one team and one "cutter" trained to defuse any bomb, so the squad would have to handle one discovered in New York. Four of the squad's senior officers volunteered "to disarm a device knowing full well they would almost certainly die, even if they succeeded in saving the city of New York."
In retelling the 9/11 and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing stories, the book almost incidentally, without fanfare, indicts former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, whose presidential campaign is making the threat of terrorism a central theme.
Although Giuliani is barely mentioned, the "failure to act on what was learned after the blast" in 1993, when he was elected mayor, was an "inexcusable" error in "critical management and response to potential mass casualty" incidents," Esposito and Gerstein conclude.
"It was as if no one had read" the damning fire department reports after the first bombing, they lament, adding that all the same deadly problems came back to haunt the 9/11 first responders. Like the "few scattered flakes of snow" that fell that day, "the event's significance quickly melted away."
Similarly, the authors avoid any conclusions about the endless false alarms that emanate from the Bush administration's intelligence apparatus, although the current squad commander, Lt. Mark Torre, declares that "virtually every dollar spent on Homeland Security has been a dollar wasted."
If the bomb-busters look more often like ghost-busters, chasing chimerical threats, Esposito and Gerstein are too apolitical to let the squad say why. Their only explicit foray into presidential politics is the extraordinary tale of the FALN, the Puerto Rican nationalists whose bombs maimed two squad members, blinded another cop, killed four diners at Fraunces Tavern, and left a trail of unparalleled American carnage in the 1970s and 1980s. They angrily denounce President Clinton's 1999 decision to pardon 16 FALN terrorists but fail to explain that his wife was courting New York Latinos in her 2000 U.S. Senate race.
The FALN attacks are just part of the fascinating chronology of bomb squad battles, starting with its founding in 1903, when it was called the "Italian Squad," set up to stop the extortion bombings of the "Black Hand," a secret society of Italian thugs. When its first commander, Giuseppe Petrosino, was killed in Sicily, more than 200,000 people went to his funeral in New York.
The tales stretch through the killing of two squad detectives by the Irish Republican Army, infiltrating a German plot to bomb ships in New York Harbor, the key role two squad members played in tracking the first World Trade Center bombers and the 2,500 bomb runs the squad makes a year.
Predictably, the embedded authors traded accolades for access, the only door-opener into a paramilitary universe. So everyone in "Bomb Squad" is a hero all the time, even though Esposito and Gerstein's year on the job consisted of tame stuff and they don't report seeing any significant bomb threats. "Why do bomb technicians" as the authors say squad members prefer to be called "stand over these devices so willingly? Thirty-three times that question was asked of the NYPD Bomb Squad members and thirty-three times the member's answer was the same: 'Somebody has to do it.' "
In fact, contrary to this mantra, half the squad quit shortly after 9/11, it's quietly noted elsewhere in the text, because overtime pay had so fattened their pensions that they were able to collect their maximum payout for life. "Security and family came first" is how Esposito and Gerstein explain it. These mass retirements meant that a mostly rookie bomb squad guarded the city when New Yorkers were seeing Al Qaeda lurking in every shadow.
But no one can deny that most of what the squad does is circumspect heroism sublimating danger, celebrating will. "[A] pocketknife and a prayer" is another mantra of the trade, when all the high-tech flash is reduced to a duel with a wire. "Since 9/11," FBI Supervisory Agent Dave Jernigan tells the authors, "everybody wants a bomb squad. I think there is some kind of security blanket feeling that they've got somebody who they can call to take care of things right away."
Esposito and Gerstein, by bringing us inside the bomb squad members' daily lives, show them to be an indispensable and, until now, invisible layer of protection, people who still need every new resource but are committed to bravely serve. -- Wayne Barrett, Los Angeles Times
Top customer reviews
This book describes a few different people on the NYPD bomb squad, gives a small description of their lives before joining, and what made them want to be on the bomb squad.That's mostly it, other than a few conversations they had while hanging out at the station.
Understandably their tactics are not mentioned in the book, mainly an overview of the bomb squad "back in the day", and the modern day use of dogs/robots. Most of the present day calls mentioned in the book were false alarms or precautionary checks. Not really interesting, even if it is the bulk of what a typical bomb squad has to deal with. The writer does this while mentioning how important a modern day bomb squad technician is in today's world, even though he will then go on to mention the hundreds of terrorist related bombings that occurred decades ago in NYC, and how dangerous it was back then, and then fast forward to 2003 where they work double shifts for New Years Eve and encounter hardly any problems.
On the negative side, the author told a blatant lie in the introduction. He says that the book is not about terrorism or politics, but simply about bomb squad technicians. This is so far from the truth. Throughout the book he strays from his narrative and goes on 2-3 page rants about 9/11, poor government planning, and various political issues. If you want a book that is purely about police work, this isn't it.