Anthrax, Scott Decker, FBI discussed on HISTORY This Week

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Dot com today. Scott Decker is a former FBI agent who worked on the anthrax investigation got a PhD in human genetics before he came to the bureau and he's been I seven years there on the Boston bank robbery task force. He said it was kind of like what you see on. TV. All the detectives are sitting around sharing ideas and the old days we sat in the bullpen. We had our desks split up against each other. We share telephones it was noisy. It was hard to write and concentrate in the late nineties. He joined the bureau's Hazardous Materials Response Unit. And around the same time, the public becomes newly aware of very hazardous material potential biological weapon anthrax. The Secretary of defense goes on ABC's this week in one, thousand, nine, hundred seven to talk about threats the nation faces. And at one point. She held up a five pound bag of sugar and said, this amount of dry anthrax were would kill half of Washington. DC. That was a wow moment. And what is anthrax? Anthrax is a disease. It's similar to today what's going on the diseases called covert It's caused by corona virus. So, with anthrax disease is called anthrax, it's caused by a bacteria. Not a virus bacillus anthracis. This bacteria occurs naturally. It grows in the soil in dry arid places. The most common victims of anthrax are actually livestock like cows in the American southwest. The deadliest form of anthrax is inhalation. You inhale the spores and the bacteria starts growing in your lungs creating poison byproducts that can kill you. To weaponize anthrax, you create a deadly powder from the bacteria's sports. It's a solid to takes on a form of guest scientifically. The way I think about it. If you've ever eaten instant oatmeal in those packages and you dump to package in the bowl. Most of it goes in the bowl, but there's a small amount of powder the drifts off the air of the kitchen. That's the deadly part of anthrax. Individual spores make up the powder. It justice. So light it up into the air. And people breathe it in. It's difficult to find the words to describe the feeling in New York, city today and then in. September. Two thousand one. Of Very different attack on the World Trade Center in New York. One of its most famous landmarks destroyed. Thousands. Dead. America is under siege. Decker. Goes up to. Ground. Zero. On. September twelfth. He's supervising a Hazmat team but he says he quickly realizes in the wake of this unprecedented attack that he'd rather be on the ground investigating. I WANNA put terrorists jail so I demoted myself. Wasn't a field office which was largely vacant it had been evacuated, but the computer still worked. So I typed out memo I said, I'm demoting myself back to St agent sex headquarters. Not long after decker demotes himself, the FBI starts to hear about something that happened in Florida. A man named Robert Stevens shows up at a hospital feverish and short of breath and within hours he dies. His spinal fluid test positive for anthrax. which is a huge surprise. There had been a case in national anthrax in the country since nineteen, seventy six and usually airs from textiles workers working with Russia. But Robert Stevens was a photo editor at a company called American, media. At a top aid called the son. He worked in an air conditioned office building. He lives in a hot and human tourist resort area and there no reason for him to come in contact with anthrax oscilloscopes traces no reason at all. Still at first people think it could be an accident, an isolated incident maybe he got it on a hike. And told us in fact, anthrax was so unlikely that some at the FBI thought the CDC might have just gotten the test. Wrong. We all thought that the CDC Blewett they didn't make a correct diagnosis, but then we had a second victim. Adecco. Realize the CDC did have it right and we had a problem on our hands. Very quickly at the FBI. These are planned attacks. A second and a third employee at American Media Test Positive for anthrax. Then, a letter addressed to anchor Tom Brokaw shows up at NBC News Leaking White. Powder. One of Dekker's colleagues at the CDC helped get that powder tested at a lab and the public health lab called him and told him we have zillions of sports. They used the word civilians and they also said when we tested it by DNA, it is bacillus sensory. That.

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