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Recounting the Anthrax Attacks: Terror, the Amerithrax Task Force, and the Evolution of Forensics in the FBI
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This is an eye opening account of all that goes into an investigation like this, one that is a threat to all of us. As ordinary citizens we never hear about the hard work that is done to protect us from things like the anthrax threat. Scott Decker did an excellent job both with the investigation and writing about it. -- Marilyn Meredith, author, The Deputy Tempe Crabtree and Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery series; serves on the board of Public Safety Writers Association
Decker provides a deep and detailed account of how the FBI and other federal agencies used the new field of microbial forensics as well as DNA analysis and other cutting-edge techniques to conduct one of the largest terrorism investigations in the nation's history. His inside knowledge offers something for sleuths and scientists alike. -- Ed Palattella, editor, Erie Times-News; author, A History of Heists: Bank Robbery in America and Pizza Bomber: The Untold Story of America’s Most Shocking Bank Robbery
Scott Decker gives an unprecedented look inside one of the most important — but least understood — FBI investigations of the modern era. Every page is a real-life 'CSI' episode, a hands-on lesson of what it's like to be inside a cutting-edge, high-profile investigation and the remarkable science the FBI deployed to solve this case. -- Garrett M. Graff, author, Raven Rock and The Threat Matrix: Inside Robert Mueller's FBI
With a keen eye for detail, PhD scientist and former FBI agent, Scott Decker, takes the reader deep inside the government’s investigation of the 2001 anthrax letter attacks. -- David Willman, author, The Mirage Man: Bruce Ivins, the Anthrax Attacks and America's Rush to War
A remarkable scientific whodunnit that peels back some of the biggest mysteries surrounding the case known as Amerithrax. From his own experiences as a lead investigator, Scott Decker paints an intimate and chilling portrait of the hunt for the elusive killer behind history’s worst bioterrorist attack. -- Joby Warrick, author, Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS; winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction
The book is fascinating and absolutely authentic — a behind-the-scenes account, never before told in such detail, of the FBI’s forensic detective work into the chilling anthrax bioterror attacks after 9/11. Decker, who ran the “dark biology” part of the FBI’s investigation, recounts how agents and scientists used cutting-edge tools of biology to narrow down the search for the perpetrator and finally focus in on one suspect. I don’t think the world realizes just what the FBI accomplished or how they did it, or the pitfalls and difficulties of the investigation, but Decker tells us the story from the inside. -- Richard Preston, author of The Hot Zone and The Demon in the Freezer
About the Author
- Item Weight : 1.24 pounds
- Hardcover : 300 pages
- ISBN-13 : 978-1538101490
- ISBN-10 : 1538101491
- Dimensions : 6.38 x 1.06 x 9.25 inches
- Publisher : Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (March 19, 2018)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,751,134 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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As the 20th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, this vivid and fascinating story of biological science and cutting edge criminal investigation belongs on every crime writer or reader's shelf.
Special Agent Decker’s time and experience in the field conducting criminal investigations were essential in the enormous investigative task required by the anthrax attacks. Dr. Decker, a former researcher and infectious disease diagnostic developer, was uniquely positioned to play a role in the development and application of molecular biology and genomic technology as a forensic tool.
What struck me, as I read this factual and detailed account of events, was the absolute enormity and scale of the investigation. Multiple local, state, congressional, postal and federal crime agencies were brought to task. Numerous federal agencies (CDC, NCID, DHSS, Secret Service) contributed resources and expertise. State Public Health Labs, research laboratories across the nation (academic, industrial, and contract) performed microbiological and/or molecular tests on thousands of human and crime scene samples. First tier hospitals in several states were tasked with treating infected individuals, monitoring and sampling possibly contamiated individuals. Buildings in four states (NY, Washington DC, FL, and NJ) as well as mail distribution centers in Brentwood and Trenton, NJ were known contaminated investigational sites. Facilities (buildings and biological equiptment) had to be designed and constructed to house, contain, and test (230 fifty-five gallon drums of) mail collected from the attack sites, 625 public mail boxes that served the postal distribution centers where the letters were processed, receipent local post offices and mail rooms. Biological samples had to be collected, information recorded, coded, tested, results decoded and the results/data analyzed. In parallel with the effort to specifically identify and locate the source of the anthrax strain, countless man-hours tracking traditional clues (envelopes, ink, handwriting, trailing dogs, security cameras, phone, travel and financial records of suspects) were employed.
The scope of the investigational organization and duration was unprecedented. The author methodically explains the complexity of the task at hand. As the attacks continued and spread, Decker outlines the expansion of the investigational team, the organization of functional teams, specific team objectives, the key personnel in the investigation and the channels of communication. Scott further explains the basics and emergence of genomic forensic technology. Decker describes how, over the duration of the investigation, advances in molecular biology techniques (e.g., Polymerase Chain Reaction - PCR, DNA sequencing and synthesis technology and others) sped up the data generation, sensitivity (DNA amplification) and accuracy. Data from genomic technology provided the hard, admissable evidence that led the FBI to the guilty party.
As a career scientist and non-fiction reader, I most enjoy those authors who not only have the capacity to inform and educate, but who are also able to entertain. Scott Decker’s documentation of the anthrax attacks and subsequent investigation accomplished all three requirements.