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‘Amerithrax’ FBI Special Agent in Charge Scott Decker reveals little-recognized hero of anthrax attacks

‘Amerithrax’ FBI Special Agent in Charge Scott Decker reveals little-recognized hero of anthrax attacks
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‘Amerithrax’ FBI Special Agent in Charge Scott Decker reveals little-recognized hero of anthrax attacks

‘Amerithrax’ FBI Special Agent in Charge Scott Decker reveals little-recognized hero of anthrax attacks

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Scott Decker, the former FBI special agent responsible for the 2001 anthrax attack, named a lesser-known hero who “risked his medical profession” to save “hundreds, perhaps a thousand lives” during the attack.

The “Amethrax” attack, as it is sometimes known, killed five Americans and injured 17 in the weeks following September 11, 2001. American microbiologist Bruce Ivins sent anthrax-related letters to dozens of U.S. citizens, including members of Congress, and a news reporter in Florida before he finally took his own life.

Colleagues recall Bruce Ivins, pictured in this 2004 file photo, playing keyboards at church and at this office party, but the Justice Department says Army microbiologist mailed anthrax-filled letters that killed five people in 2001.

Colleagues recall Bruce Ivins, pictured in this 2004 file photo, playing keyboards at church and at this office party, but the Justice Department says Army microbiologist mailed anthrax-filled letters that killed five people in 2001.
(US Army Medical Institute of Infectious Diseases, Fit. Detrick, Maryland / via Tribune News Service Getty)

“Thirty of our agents worked on the same case. Like Shorener. It was tough,” Decker told Gadget Clock Digital at the recent Crime-Convention in Crimecon 2022 in Las Vegas. “First of all, the real challenge was to communicate with each other. In my book, I try to show how many projects were going on one day in what we call investigative initiatives. We had a lot going on.

Decker, author of the book “Recounting the Anthrax Attacks,” responded to Ground Zero with the FBI’s Hazardous Substances Response Unit before leading the FBI’s Amerithrax Task Force. Decker received his doctorate in human genetics from the University of Michigan before completing his postdoctoral fellowship in biochemistry at Harvard Medical School.

Once the task force identified a strain of anthrax that killed five Americans and injured 17, Decker was assigned to collect samples of each version of the Ames strain that he could find “at home and around the world.” Anthrax is a bacterial disease that can be fatal from exposure to the bacterium Bacillus anthracis, and the Ames strain was named after the city of Iowa where it was first isolated.

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The former agent had to conduct “DNA fingerprinting of the anthrax in the envelope”.

A mailbox is covered in plastic wrap when a U.S. flag flew in honor of half the staff at Washington Post Office who died in anthrax on October 24, 2001, in Hamilton, NJ.

A mailbox is covered in plastic wrap when a U.S. flag flew in honor of half the staff at Washington Post Office who died in anthrax on October 24, 2001, in Hamilton, NJ.
(William Thomas Kane)

“And then we’ll take a fingerprint from Ames in the envelope – hopefully, it’ll be unique – and compare it to all the samples we’ve collected. Get those girls [belongs to the] Samples, “Decker explained.

In 2009, Decker’s team received the FBI Director’s Award for Outstanding Scientific Progress.

From left, forensic examiner Jason Bannon, Supervisory Special Agent Scott Decker, and Supervisory Special Agent Matthew Feinberg posing for a portrait at a lab in Quantico, Va., On October 16, 2008.  Three anthraxes helped solve the investigation

From left, forensic examiner Jason Bannon, Supervisory Special Agent Scott Decker, and Supervisory Special Agent Matthew Feinberg posing for a portrait at a lab in Quantico, Va., On October 16, 2008. Three anthraxes helped solve the investigation
(Dominic Braco II / The Washington Post)

Decker’s book not only identifies Ivin’s role in the attack, but also all the other moving parts that made it possible for the FBI and the judiciary to complete their investigation in 2010.

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The aim of his book, Decker says, is to give some recognition to little-known individuals who have played a major role in unraveling mysteries and saving lives along the way, including Navy Admiralty. John Isold, a physician present in the United States. Capital between 1994 and 2009.

On November 18, 2001, at the Darksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., a dangerous material worker sprays his colleagues after an anthrax search.

On November 18, 2001, at the Darksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., a dangerous material worker sprays his colleagues after an anthrax search.
(Alex Wong)

Tom Dassley, the US Senate Majority Leader, was one of the victims who received a letter containing anthrax in 2001. An intern in his office opened the letter in Dashley’s office, causing the powder to drip from the envelope into a nearby room, Decker said.

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Capitol police called Isold to the scene, and Isold sent a doctor, his commander, and a team of pharmacy technicians to the corrupt office.

“From there, they tested everyone in that building for anthrax. And they brought in about 100 people who had thousands of infectious doses in their noses. And they got that answer in a day, I think. And then they found all the contamination.” Hill and various buildings, so Admiral Isold said, ‘This is really a problem,’ “Decker recalls.

Members of a Biohazard team wait to enter the Heart Senate office building on November 7, 2001 in Capitol Hill, Washington.

Members of a Biohazard team wait to enter the Heart Senate office building on November 7, 2001 in Capitol Hill, Washington.
(Alex Wong)

Isold contacted the White House and asked then-President George W. Bush for “a load” of antibiotics, protective gear and other equipment to prevent any serious adverse effects of the deadly powder.

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Doctors then opened a clinic on Capitol Hill shortly after the attack, and around 8 a.m., “a few thousand people came and examined,” Decker said.

Another anthrax discovery in the mountains, this time in the Ford building.  The attending physician of the US Capital.  John Isold, left, and Capitol Police Lieutenant Dan Nichols speak to reporters about the situation.

Another anthrax discovery in the mountains, this time in the Ford building. The attending physician of the US Capital. John Isold, left, and Capitol Police Lieutenant Dan Nichols speak to reporters about the situation.
(Bill O’Leary / The Washington Post)

“There was a line outside the door waiting for the test, and before the test results came out he gave everyone antibiotics, which was against the CDC’s recommendation. The CDC would not treat with antibiotics until they knew you had the disease, but was isolated. He said, “No, you take it for 30 days,” said the former FBI agent.

Decker added that Isold “risked his medical profession, but … that’s fine.”

Amerithrax investigators interviewed more than 10,000 witnesses on six different continents, executed 80 search warrants, and recovered more than 6,000 items of possible evidence during their investigation. The case involves 5,750 grand jury subpoenas and 5,730 environmental samples from 60 site locations.

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