Skip to main content
CNN.com /TRANSCRIPTS

CNN TV
EDITIONS





CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Florida Anthrax Scare

Aired October 10, 2001 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, a fourth night of military strikes against targets in Afghanistan: some of the heaviest action so far. In Washington, President Bush announces a list of 22 most-wanted terrorists, including Osama bin Laden. And in dramatic news from Florida, a third person has tested positive for exposure to anthrax.

Joining us exclusively from West Palm Beach, the chief executive of the tabloid publishing company at the center of the anthrax story. He's David Pecker of American Media Incorporated. Then in Washington, retired Air Force Colonel Randall Larsen, bioterrorism expert and director of the Anser Institute for Homeland Security. And then for his first interview since the September 11th attacks, Air Force Secretary James Roche.

Also in D.C., Senator Richard Shelby, vice chairman of the Select Intelligence Committee, and in New York, retired Admiral William Owens, former vice chairman of the joint chiefs.

They're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Good evening and welcome to another edition of LARRY KING LIVE.

We begin with David Pecker. He joins us from West Palm Beach. He's chief executive of American Media Incorporated, headquarters in the building at the center of the Florida anthrax scare.

Another scare today. Hear this quick announcement before we talk with David from the acting U.S. attorney, made late this afternoon. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HECTOR PESQUERA, FBI: This effort has so far focused on the areas of Robert Stevens, the deceased victim, and Ernesto Blanco, the mail-room employee who was found to have anthrax in his nasal passage.

Tonight, as (UNINTELLIGIBLE) announced, we have an additional employee that has also been found to have anthrax present.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That was FBI Special Agent Hector Pesquera. We welcome David Pecker.

What do you make of this third case, David?

DAVID PECKER, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, AMI: Larry, this is so devastating to me and my company. As a matter of fact, just when I was riding over here to your studio, I got the telephone call in the car and I heard that a 35-year-old woman also is diagnosed with the spore. And what's so aggravating is that I don't know the name. I feel very frustrated, and there's a lot of 35-year-old women in my company who absolutely have no idea and probably will not sleep tonight until they find out who that person is.

KING: David, let's go back. How did you first hear of the first case? How were you informed?

PECKER: Last Thursday, I got a -- we received a telephone call saying that Bob Stevens passed away from anthrax. That was the first call that we received. And we were -- and then the next thing is we were waiting for the -- for the Palm Beach Department of Health to come and give our people some words about it, because nobody really knows or understands what anthrax is.

So I took it upon myself, because we were waiting to hear, and I had a clinical professor came in from California and someone from the Miami -- from the Miami infectious disease professor to come in and talk to our employees. And we understood it was a natural -- a natural -- a natural form of anthrax. And when we were informed of that, and we had -- the two doctors came in and spoke to the entire staff, and this was on Friday.

After they spoke to the staff, we -- people pretty much calmed down, and at that time, we got a subsequent call later on during the day that the FBI was going to come in and they wanted to investigate Bob Stevens' desk and work area. They came in on Friday, made -- made their test. Saturday we didn't hear anything. And Sunday -- as a matter of fact, Larry, I was in my office on Sunday.

And Sunday, around 4 o'clock, I got a telephone call, and we heard from the FBI, we heard that from a senior person at the Justice Department that -- that there was a second person, Ernie, who was a mail room, that they found -- they found a spore and that our building was going to be closed. So this was Sunday.

Now, my newspapers, we -- everyone -- we have over 300 people in the building. They went ahead in their -- everybody is doing their normal work. On Friday, everyone left, and when they left, they expected to go back to work on Monday.

On Sunday, I get the telephone call. They asked me to leave the building immediately. I left the building. And we worked to notify all of our people, because the Department of Health said that everybody had to be tested and we had -- they were going to set up this triage unit in Delray and everybody had to go there.

KING: Were you tested?

PECKER: Pardon me?

KING: Were you tested?

PECKER: As a matter of fact, Larry, not only was I -- was I tested,, but I was tested and I'm taking these pills currently myself. And I'm also waiting for the results, pretty much like everybody else. And...

KING: You're taking antibiotics?

PECKER: I'm taking -- yeah, I'm taking Cipro. I'm taking the antibiotic myself.

KING: Your building is now closed. Is this a criminal investigation, David?

PECKER: Yes, the FBI is considering it a criminal investigation, and I wanted to add one other thing, Larry. In our building -- I think it's important for you to know. We had our employees -- we just moved in there in January. And because we -- we work 24-7 with all of our newspapers, we encourage our employees to bring their children. So a lot of the -- everybody's kids were brought in to work and then stayed on -- they stayed there.

And so then when we went there on Monday, not only did each of the employees have to be tested. All of their children had to be tested. All of their friends had to be tested. And we were outside.

And we also at the same time have to close the newspapers on Monday.

And what was so amazing to me is our employees, the employees of this, they -- they went in, had their tests, had their kids tested, picked up the -- picked up their antibiotics, and then went back to work. And since we did not have, Larry, which is fascinating, since our building was gone and being here in Florida, we had a hurricane plan. So we implemented this plan, and all of the editorial people went to all of the different areas in Florida.

KING: So the papers will be out this week?

PECKER: They finished the papers. As a matter of fact, the papers are going out -- they're going out this week. As a matter of fact, they...

KING: A couple of them.

PECKER: ... they were distributed today.

KING: I want to test some other bases. Jordan Arizmendi, he was the former summer intern. He was supposed to be with us tonight. We're going to reschedule him. He was falsely thought as a suspect, right? Turned out to be nothing.

PECKER: Turned out to be nothing, Larry. That's correct.

KING: OK. Do you think this is some sort of thing against you and what you publish? PECKER: Larry, I think this is attack against America. The World Trade Center was attacked. The Pentagon was attacked. And American Media was attacked. And I think that this is the first bioterrorism attack in the United States. As you're aware, this is the first time there was an anthrax, a pulmonary anthrax case since -- for the last 25 years.

I mean, things like this -- it's not a coincidence.

KING: So you think you, American Media, publisher of these many tabloids, were targeted?

PECKER: I think so, yes.

KING: And does the Bureau think that, have the police thought that, or is this a David Pecker thought?

PECKER: This is a David Pecker thought. I feel that we had a bioterrorist attack here. And it started here, it started with the magazine. It started -- it started in Boca, and it started at our editorial offices.

And the scary thing about this, Larry, is that it could happen to anybody. It could happen to -- it could happen to Time Warner. It could -- it could happen to "The New York Times." It could happen to basically anybody.

And the fear and hysteria is incredible. As a matter of fact, what is so amazing to me is after everyone has worked, after all my employees worked this hard to get the papers out, I'm getting calls from retailers throughout the United States that people, that our customers are afraid to touch...

KING: To buy it? Afraid to touch the paper?

PECKER: Are afraid to actually touch the papers, because they're afraid that anthrax can be communicated. And -- and -- and what I'd like to do, Larry, if you don't mind, the Center for Disease Control yesterday had a press conference at 5:30. And there was an excerpt that I think is very important for people to hear, and I'm hoping to relieve some of the hysteria.

And what they said was "We're aware of concerns that have been expressed by the general public about anthrax being transmitted to paper and ink. The public is at no risk of disease from handling printed paper. There is no risk of exposure of anthrax being transmitted by handling any tabloids or any publications published by American Media."

You know, Larry, as a matter of fact, in South Florida, in that Boca building that's closed, all the editorial offices were there. We actually print in five different locations throughout the United States. The closest printing company is a thousand miles away. We transmit by satellite. And there is this general hysteria that has gone on now throughout the United States where people are afraid to open up their mail and... KING: Yeah, we should -- we should make that clear, David. In other words, the work product that you will see on your newsstand was not printed in this building.

PECKER: That's absolutely correct, Larry.

KING: They're printed by -- they're sent by satellite and printed at outlets all over the country.

PECKER: That's absolutely correct.

KING: Do you fear, though, a tremendous loss of business?

PECKER: Yes, Larry, I do. I fear a loss of business because of this hysteria and the scare. We're -- we're taking this press release that the Center for Disease Control has -- this press conference that they gave, and we've communicated it to all of our customers -- to all of our retailers, and our wholesalers alike as well as our advertisers to explain that it's a -- that this is -- it's impossible to be transferable by paper and ink.

KING: Now, the FBI and other police sources, they're not saying anything definitive about this being an attack on you. That's all being investigated. Do you have some thoughts as to how it got in?

PECKER: You know, I -- I -- my feeling is that somehow it was either brought in by mail or someone dropped off a letter, or I think it came in, someone actually brought it into the building. I don't -- I know that there's a lot of discussions about Bob Stevens. As a matter of fact, Larry, I want to raise one point.

I went to Bob Stevens memorial service today. Bob had four children and seven grandchildren. And all he did was go to work, and at his desk, whatever happened, however this happened, he inhaled this anthrax.

KING: How carefully, David, are you dealing with mail you receive now?

PECKER: We...

KING: What are you doing?

PECKER: I'm sorry, Larry. Excuse me?

KING: What do you do when you get a letter?

PECKER: Oh. Well, all of our people, you know, it being in our business, we get numbers of letters all the time. And we have our own procedures of any letters that come in, whether it's a -- whether -- to which magazine it is, you know. And sure all news organizations get all types of letters, so we have our own review process.

KING: So what -- you're not going to have indiscriminate opening of suspicious-looking packages, right? PECKER: No, no, no. Absolutely not. As a matter of fact, Larry, we have a scanning procedure where, if any packages or anything that comes in, and we have several different security people which are helping us doing this.

KING: What's it doing to you personally, David?

PECKER: Larry, in my entire career, I have never felt so -- so -- it's such a difficult situation, and going to a -- and going to -- in seeing what has happened since September 11th, which thousands -- thousands of innocent people are being killed for absolutely no reason at all. And then to have it come here and hit our own -- and hit our own company, and what it has done to our employees, and what it has personally done to me, so this is a very, very difficult time.

And I think that instead of there should be any hysteria about anthrax, I think that our country should get as -- as -- as close together, and to have the same unity as they had before.

As far as I'm concerned, what President Bush has said is that we should not fear anything, and -- and we should go back to our normal lives. And I feel that...

KING: And David, I hope you can do that.

PECKER: That's what we've tried to do.

KING: Thank you, David. Thanks for giving us the time.

PECKER: Thank you, Larry.

KING: David Pecker, chief executive, American Media Incorporated. Another one of his employees tested positive for anthrax just late this afternoon.

When we come back. Colonel Randall Larsen, U.S. Air Force, retired, director of the Anser Institute for Homeland Security. And more on this.

Then, in his first appearance since September 11th, the secretary of the Air Force. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We now welcome another visit with Colonel Randall Larsen, U.S. Air Force retired. He's director of the Anser Institute for Homeland Security, former chairman of the Department of Military Strategy and Operations at the National War College.

You just heard from Mr. Pecker. You know the news today: a third. What do you make of it, Colonel?

RET. COL. RANDALL LARSEN, DIRECTOR, ANSER INSTITUTE FOR HOMELAND SECURITY: Well, the third case is really not surprising.

Obviously, there has been some sort of deliberate release in that building. And certainly our hearts go out to folks there and their families down there. And all of the victims of this terrorist activity are in the thoughts and prayers of all Americans tonight.

But I disagree a little bit with his use of the word hysteria. You know, I have seen people patiently standing in line to get testing, patiently standing in line to get their antibiotics. And I think hysteria is the wrong word. A lot of Americans have a little fear tonight. And a little fear is not a bad thing. We need to be alert. But what we have to be very careful about is what goes out over airwaves. And earlier tonight, I heard a media report. It was not this network. But it troubled me because it was wrong information.

KING: What happened?

LARSEN: It was wrong information.

KING: What did it say?

LARSEN: The reporter was talking to the anchorperson and said the Ames strain of this anthrax is resistant to vaccine, the anthrax vaccine. Well, first of all, that is wrong. The Ames vaccine -- or the Ames strain was catalogued about 50 years ago in Ames, Iowa. That is the strain of anthrax we use to test our vaccine. So, obviously, it is not resistant to it.

Second of all -- and, now, if I were just an average citizen at home and hadn't been studying this for seven years, that would have concerned me. That would have set my blood pressure up a little bit.

KING: You bet.

LARSEN: But it is also irrelevant, Larry. We don't treat folks that have been exposed like the folks in Florida with the vaccine. We give them 60 days of antibiotics. So it irrelevant and it is wrong.

Now, in the rush to get the story on the network news, we must not give up credibility and truth. We've got to get the facts right. And I think, if we give the right facts to the American people, we are going to be in a lot better shape. All the exercises we have done have proven it is important for our elected officials, our appointed officials and the media to provide good, solid information. We need to give the American people facts, not fear.

KING: All right. It is certainly OK -- certainly understandable for David Pecker to say something has gone wrong at his place.

LARSEN: No question.

I mean, this is a confirmed case of inhalation anthrax. Anyone who knows much about biological warfare, that sends little chills down you. But we also have to keep this somewhat in perspective here. We have had some major attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C. This seems somewhat controlled.

Now, one thing else I want to put out that I have gotten a lot of phone calls and e-mail about that we need mention again that I mentioned on Monday night: It seems like it is confined within this building. However, if you have pets or animals in that local area around there and they have had some mysterious deaths or any deaths, you should report that to the local animal unit. You should report to it your local veterinarian, because animals are great sentinels to discover that there has been a release of this.

KING: Is it true that we didn't have any anthrax lab restrictions until four years ago?

LARSEN: I'm not an expert. I can't answer that one.

KING: Is it true...

LARSEN: Well, OK, I can answer a little bit.

Look, this stuff is not like enriched uranium or plutonium. It is not controllable. You can go to laboratories all over the world. You go to see microbiologist conventions and they carry test tubes that carry different things with them. You go to major agricultural universities, like Texas A&M; University of California, Davis. They do research on this. Plague, tularemia, which is also known as rabbit fever, and anthrax, they exist naturally. We cannot control them like we do nuclear materials.

KING: There -- apparently, all U.S. diplomatic outposts have been advertised to stock the anti-anthrax drug. Good idea?

LARSEN: Great idea. Great idea. Stock it. Don't take it.

We have abused antibiotics a lot in this country. And one of the reasons we have public health problems with other diseases that we thought we had controlled 20 years ago is because of overuse and abuse of antibiotics. Stocking them in those sort of remote locations in some place, that makes a lot of sense.

KING: Mr. Pecker said he is taking his antibiotic. That is premature?

LARSEN: No, no, no. He has been exposed. Anyone who was in that building...

KING: So anyone exposed should absolutely take it.

LARSEN: Anyone who was in that building I am sure is on their antibiotic regime right now for 60 days. That's right.

KING: And it's 60 days, not 28 as...

LARSEN: Yes.

KING: Not 14 days, as originally said.

LARSEN: No. Sixty days is the latest CDC -- it is not the latest -- it has been that way for a long time: 60 days of antibiotics. KING: Colonel, there is a Sherlock Holmes aspect to this, a kind of detective story, right?

LARSEN: You bet.

KING: Finding who, what, where, when, why. You got some thoughts?

LARSEN: It is a fascinating detective story. In fact, folks like Dr. C.J. Peters and the virus hunters that have traced public health problems and viruses and disease around the world, this is a special one because it appears to be terrorism of some sort.

Now, everyone -- it's quickly been identified that it came out of a lab 50 years ago, where it's cataloged in Ames, Iowa. But the detective story is not over. When I first started researching this seven years ago, it was very easy to launch an anonymous biological attack. We would have great difficulty finding who did it. We have made some great technical improvements over the last few years, Larry.

Today, there is going to be a lot more work going on. And it is kind of like a detective story. It is a fingerprint here, a mark on a bullet here, some ballistics. There are capabilities in this nation today. It is not 100 percent. But, Larry, there is a reasonable chance we will get a return address on this attack. If we get a return address, we know what to send back.

KING: Explain that. We'll get a return address, meaning we are going to know who did this?

LARSEN: OK. When you have -- just because it is the Ames strain, that is just what is in a little test tube. You have to manufacture this. You have to produce it. And then you have to what we call weaponize it: get it down to the right particle size.

That is a production process that you go through. It's like brewing beer. It's a fermentation process. And you have large quantities of it. And then you have to what we call weaponize it, get it down to the right particle size. Those all leave little indicators in there that we can trace.

You know, this is a great scientific capability in this nation. And I think some people may have underestimated our scientific capability. Like I say, if we get return address, we will know what to deliver. And I think your next guest might be the one that can talk about that more than I can.

KING: Since he might well do the delivery.

What's your best advice right now tonight? We know of this third case. There is obviously more fear tonight than before tonight. What's your best advice to the public?

LARSEN: My best advice to the public is what I have been saying all along. We need -- a little fear is OK. I had a friend of mine that left a briefcase next to a metro station the other day and started walking around, got about 10 foot away from it and another woman came down the escalator and said, "Whose briefcase is that?" You know, a month ago, that would almost have been rude or whatever. The woman who left the briefcase sitting there alone knew that she had made a mistake. And she said: "Thank you. I should have known better."

We need to stay alert. We need to watch what's going on around us. But we don't need -- hysteria is the wrong word here. We need to be a little bit concerned. And we need to listen to the radio and TV. And, hopefully, the folks are going to be responsible and give us the right information, Larry.

KING: Well said.

Colonel Randall Larsen, U.S. Air Force retired, director of the Anser Institute for Homeland Security -- thanks, Colonel. I'm sure we will be calling on you again, probably tomorrow.

He has been with us every night.

When we come back: his first interview since September 11: the secretary of the Air Force, James Roche. The secretary joins us next. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HECTOR PESQUERA, FBI SPECIAL AGENCY IN CHARGE: At this time, the FBI and the CDC have thus far determined that the Florida anthrax contamination is limited to the American Media building in Boca Raton. Based on the preliminary testing by the CDC, there is no indication at this time that this action or this thing -- or this strain of anthrax, I should say -- was produced or caused by a terrorist group or individuals related to the incident September 11, 2001.

The FBI and the CDC, along with the state of Florida health agencies and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, are actively investigating to determine the exact source of the contamination. We have not ruled out the possibility that this contamination was caused by a criminal act.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: It's a great pleasure to welcome to Larry King live in his first appearance since all of this happened -- it will be a month tomorrow -- the secretary of the Air Force, James Roche.

Mr. Secretary, when did you take on this post?

JAMES ROCHE, AIR FORCE SECRETARY: The first of June during this past year.

KING: What a way to begin, huh? ROCHE: It is exciting.

KING: You worked in the aviation industry, although you were in the Navy, right?

ROCHE: Yes. I'm a retired Naval officer. But I retired 17, 18 years ago and worked for Northrop Grumman Corporation for 17 years.

KING: Do you have any thoughts, before we talk about the Air Force and the involvement and what's going on in Afghanistan, about this anthrax thing, which everyone is talking about tonight?

ROCHE: No, Larry. I have nothing I can contribute to that.

KING: OK, let's get to the developments of today. Is it true that we dropped a 5,000-pound bunker-buster on a Taliban troop equipment supply unit today?

ROCHE: Larry, we dropped various weapons on various targets. But I don't think you would want me to really say which we dropped on what.

KING: What is a bunker-buster, just for information?

ROCHE: Well, you have a very large weapon that can -- it is 2 1/2 times the size of our other large weapons. And it can penetrate beneath the ground and then explode. And it was a weapon designed to go after deeply buried targets.

KING: What's this been like for you, Mr. Secretary?

ROCHE: Well, it has been challenging, exciting. The people are wonderful. The times are interesting. I think it's fascinating that Secretary Rumsfeld had us working very much on issues like homeland defense and a change in the sort of threats we would face. I don't think any of us expected to have to deal with these as realistically as we have since the 11th of September. But it is interesting that we have been working on it for some time.

KING: Where were you on that morning?

ROCHE: I was in my office, Larry, with chief of staff of the Air Force. And we were standing with our backs to the window in my office in the Pentagon.

KING: And what did you -- you had learned then of what had happened at the World Trade Center, earlier, right?

ROCHE: We did. We noticed that the first plane -- that we were very much in a quandary as to what that meant.

As we were discussing it, we were watching TV and we saw the second plane hit. And that got us into action. We were on the phone to our operations center. And then we were called down. As we were called down, the building was putting out the alert that something had gone wrong. Once in our crisis action center, we found out that the building had been hit by an aircraft.

KING: Did you feel anything at the Pentagon?

ROCHE: Interestingly enough, I'm on the fourth floor, and I did not. But people on the third floor did.

KING: Were you one of those, then, taken to a special bunker or area? What was your immediate course of action there when all of this confusion was going on?

ROCHE: Well, the first things we did when the chief of staff and myself and some of the other officers got down into our basement crisis action center was to try and find out where our people were to make sure they were safe and safely out of the building.

The second thing we did was to try and hook up with the North American Air Defense Command, NORAD, and then to stand by and start to think of how we, the Air Force, could support any casualties or any other things that might develop during the day.

We only left the building when the smoke started to get a little too thick downstairs. And the sense was that we should try and get as many people out of there as we could. So then we went to another location in Washington.

KING: Now let's talk domestically. There was another air scare. F-16s had to escort another airliner, a Delta plane going from Atlanta to L.A., diverted by a disturbance in the cabin.

Is this now the rule of thumb? If a pilot has a disturbance, he calls somewhere and F-16s take him to the nearest airport.

ROCHE: Well, I think at this time, the FAA, which has always had a way of knowing that something was wrong with a plane, knows that in a number of our cities, we have competent air patrol flying over the cities and will ask us to escort an aircraft, to make sure that it gets down safely and nothing happens. That's what we're doing at this time.

KING: That didn't happen in the past, did it?

ROCHE: No, sir. We've typically not worried about airplanes flying around inside the United States. Our North American air defense command worried about aircraft coming into our airspace from outside our borders. This was something that's completely new, worrying about what might be flying around inside our own airspace.

KING: A lot of people also notice in Washington and other areas, fighter planes flying around a lot at night. What are they doing?

ROCHE: Good. Well, they're protecting the skies of the United States. We have constant, what we call competent air patrol or CAP over New York and over Washington. We have an AWACs and airborne command radar airplane that flies a, what's called the loop between Washington and New York. And then over other cities, randomly chosen, we maintain CAP over the cities. And this is to make sure that the skies over the United States are protected. And I should tell you Larry, a lot of these airplanes are flown by our Air National Guard, a number of them by the reserves of the Air Force, and some of them by our active duty airmen.

KING: So some pretty young men and women up there, right?

ROCHE: Yes, we are putting a lot of responsibility on young men and women. And they're doing just great.

KING: But somewhere, as we speak now, planes are flying over cities, watching.

ROCHE: That's correct. And very much hooked in with the FAA, so that we work together as a team.

KING: How about the policy that the military is authorized to shoot down a passenger plane if it poses imminent danger? Are you advised -- are you a part of that advisory go on that?

ROCHE: No, I would not be. My function is one to equip, train, and organize. Once the aircraft are being used operationally, there's an operational chain of command that goes through the North Atlantic Air Defense Command, up through the President. And so I would not be someone in that chain. My job is to make sure the planes are there and that they're working.

KING: One would imagine that would be the toughest of decisions.

ROCHE: It is. And it's something we've never really had a chance or ever wanted to train our pilots to have to worry about. It is something that we would hope we could avoid. We would hope that the maneuvers of the planes might -- the CAP might force somebody down before we have to do anything like that. We would try everything. That would be the last resort.

KING: When you took this job, what surprised you the most about the status of the Air Force?

ROCHE: I think two things. One, that the caliber of individuals in the Air Force was just as extraordinary as it's always been. And two, the fact that over the last 8 to 10 years, there really had not been the investment in either equipment or in maintenance and operations. And so, I was very much struck by the age of our airplanes, and the amount of maintenance that was overdue on those planes.

And I've been working assiduously with my colleagues to put in place plans to do that. Had a great deal of help from Secretary Rumsfeld, as we have looked at the budget, to make this right. We should not have planes...

KING: You're saying there was neglect?

ROCHE: I'm saying there was insufficient money for spare parts in many cases, and that we were asking our air crews to work especially hard to keep planes up when there was not the money being invested in them, to have enough spare parts available. That's correct. We were cannibalizing.

KING: Let's get to things occurring now. This is the fourth day of the airstrikes. What happened today?

ROCHE: Yes. Well, we continued, I think as the Secretary has been briefing each day, to do what we do, which is to attack al Qaeda targets and Taliban targets in Afghanistan. At the same time, to deliver food stuffs to starving Afghanis.

This is not a conflict or campaign that's against the Afghan people. On the contrary, we are trying to help them by dropping some food stuff. And it's certainly not a campaign against any religion.

Islam is a religion of peace. We are worried about international terrorism, and those who harbor international terrorists. And therefore, we are attacking al Qaeda targets. And we're attacking targets of the Taliban in Afghanistan. And we will continue to do that.

KING: And your assessment of the mission to this moment?

ROCHE: My assessment to this moment, we've done quite well. I think we can certainly back up the chairman and the Secretary and say that we have air superiority. There's no place in Afghanistan where we wish to operate our aircraft that we could not operate. We control the skies.

KING: We'll take a break, be right back with more of the Secretary of the Air Force, James Roche. And then we'll be meeting two members of the United States Senate and a major admiral, major figure in the United States military, U.S. Admiral William Owens retired, the former Vice Chairman of Joint Chiefs. This is LARRY KING LIVE. Stay there!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're going to take a few calls for the Secretary. And it's great to have him with us. I want to cover a couple other bases. There are Navy people involved on these airstrikes, too, right?

ROCHE: Oh, absolutely. It's been a well coordinated evolution. Both the Navy and the Air Force planes, attacking these targets, work together. Navy aircraft have been tanking from Air Force tankers. The targets have been coordinated. It's been a very seamless operation. And my compliments to my Naval colleagues.

KING: What, Mr. Secretary, is the most unusual aspect of this? It's certainly not -- we're not being shot down out of the sky. We haven't received a lot of anti-aircraft. I don't think anybody's been killed on the American side, have they?

ROCHE: No, not to my knowledge, Larry. I think the most unusual thing for our pilots is how this is very much like the training we've given them. And that's a great bit of feedback for us to get. They are going through the evolutions with the aircraft. The aircraft is doing what they're supposed to do. And they're doing it very well.

KING: What about stress on the pilots? They're flying quite great distances, night flying, etcetera?

ROCHE: Normally you would think these are very stressful, except we train our pilots to do that. And we train our pilots, B-2s for instance, to fly from Missouri or around the world and back. We're flying from other places, great distances. And this is what these crews are trained to do. And they do it superbly.

KING: Pentagon officials have said that they're going to start using low flying Army helicopters will be used to deploy, after American air and missile strikes make more headway in reducing the Taliban air defense. Is that is true?

ROCHE: I don't know, Larry. And I would again -- I wouldn't -- I don't think you would want me to start talking about what we might do with various aircraft.

KING: Are you concerned about military leaks?

ROCHE: I think we're concerned about a situation where we are putting young men and women in harm's way as something that may seem innocuous when you and I discuss it. It might not be innocuous to someone who is really looking to see if there's information there that could be harmful to those pilots or the crews.

KING: Niagara Falls, New York for Secretary James Roche, hello.

CALLER: Hello. I'd like to know, the Taliban has made it a point of, on an almost daily basis, of saying that bin Laden is alive and well and still in Afghanistan. Do you believe he is really still in Afghanistan?

ROCHE: Well, ma'am, I don't have any particular knowledge as to where he is. But as the President and the Secretary of Defense have said over and over, and we all understand this, this is a very long term thing.

And it isn't just one guy that we're after. We're after international terrorism. And that particularly, we're starting with al Qaeda network. Whether or not he's in Afghanistan or someplace else, we want to dry up the places where he can hide. We want to make it very uncomfortable for any countries who would harbor him. We want to track down financial things.

This is going to involve diplomacy, finance, all kinds of ways of shutting down this network. This is a plague on the earth. And it's time to be rid of it.

KING: Mr. Secretary, is it complicated getting the food and medicine down?

ROCHE: You mean down from the aircraft, Larry? KING: Yes.

ROCHE: Actually, we've developed ways of doing this, so that the material, working with the non-governmental organizations, we drop material to the people on the ground, not in an area where they are. So we avoid hitting them.

And we tried to make sure that we don't drop anything in an area that may have residual mines left over. So we target where we're going to drop the food, so it's safe for the young people, who may go out and pick up these small packages.

KING: Knoxville, Tennessee, hello.

CALLER: Hello, Mr. Secretary. I'm interested in knowing -- we saw reports where Iraq had shot down a drone over the no-fly zone. And I was wondering, and of course we don't want to give things away we shouldn't, but I was wondering if we are having some activity where we are gathering information in that direction to -- in case we need to go further?

ROCHE: Yes, ma'am, we lost a drone today. We're not sure whether it malfunctioned or whether it was shot down. But the interesting thing and the change in this modern area and something that fits this particular century is that there was no pilot on board. It was just a very brave computer chip.

And we treat these as things that can go into harm's way. And if they're shot down, so what? But not a pilot was shot down. This is part of the evolution of our forces, to put into very difficult situations unmanned vehicles. And that'll be a hallmark of our future.

KING: A couple of other things, Mr. Secretary. When we hear of special ops, we think of Green Berets, Seals, people on ground. There's an Air Force special ops, too, right? What do they do?

ROCHE: There is. We don't go around giving a separate name, but we provide the fixed wing aircraft and the special helicopter special aircraft to both put in special forces, to take them out again, to support them when they're there's, special gunships. And we're very much involved with the special forces. It's a tight team.

KING: Do we have any idea of how long this going to take, your part of it in the bombing area? The drop zone Afghanistan, do we have any idea or that would be poor to reveal?

ROCHE: I don't think it's so much a matter of revealing it, Larry. I think what the President and Secretary are asking us to do is to first and foremost, make the skies safe for us. From this point on, once we have most of threats eliminated or not so worried about them. we're going to be concentrating on hunting.

We're going to be concentrating on making the Taliban feel very, very uncomfortable. That may require five flights a day. It may require 15 flights a day. Whatever it requires, we're prepared to do it to make it clear that harboring international terrorists of the al Qaeda network type is something that is just not good for your national state.

KING: And finally, Mr. Secretary, what's the definition of "air superiority" or "essential air supremacy?" That means what?

ROCHE: Well, it doesn't mean that every single threat is removed. It doesn't mean that there are no anti-aircraft guns or there are no shoulder fired missiles, Larry. What it means is that we can operate in any part of the airspace over Afghanistan, where we choose to operate. And that's what we have at this time. There's no part of Afghanistan we cannot go, if we believe it's right to go there.

KING: In other words, their airspace is now our airspace?

ROCHE: Their airspace is our airspace. And we think that's good among other things. It makes it safe for the trucks of food to get into the people of Afghanistan. There are a lot of starving people due to the Taliban actions.

KING: Thanks for giving us the time Mr. Secretary.

ROCHE: Sure.

KING: It's been wonderful talking with you. I look forward to more in the future.

ROCHE: Thank you so much, Larry.

KING: Secretary James Roche, Secretary of the Air Force, on the job since June. Our panel will assemble and more to come. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE, Senator Richard Shelby, Republican of Alabama, vice chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence; Senator Joe Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, chairman of the Governmental Affairs Committee, member of Armed Services, former candidate for vice president. And in New York, Admiral William Owens, United States Navy retired, was vice chairman of joint chiefs from '94 through '96. And his career included command of the U.S. Sixth Fleet when the attacks first took place in Desert Storm, and was a senior military assistant to Dick Cheney, when Mr. Cheney was secretary of defense.

We'll start with Senator Shelby. What do you make of the military events, so far?

SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R-AL), VICE CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I believe that the military operation is going very well. I believe we're in what, in our fourth day now. And they've been assessing all along. And I believe we will move now into another phase, as the Secretary of Defense and others will tell you. KING: Based, Senator Lieberman, on what the Secretary of the Air Force just said, do you have total confidence in this mission and the people running it?

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: I do, indeed. Look, this is a war that we have to fight. We have never been struck as we were on September 11. These are people we have to destroy before they go further in destroying Americans.

And I think we've done exactly the right thing. We're following pattern not unlike what we did in Kosovo. The first phase is to knock out air defenses, military targets, in this case some terrorist camps. And now, we're going to move on methodically, to achieve our aims, which are to destroy bin Laden and the al Qaeda network, and to change the Taliban regime to get it out of power.

KING: Admiral Owens, what is the number one difficulty of this overall mission?

WILLIAM OWENS, FORMER VICE CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS: Well, Larry, I think the overall difficulty now, of course, is to figure out how we proceed in this next phase, and what are the conditions for ultimate success, both in this country and in the region? And what other countries around the world are we going to include in our next phases, as we go about this business of fighting global terrorism?

KING: Senator Shelby, are we getting good intelligence from the ground to your knowledge? Do we know where certain things are when commandos and that such go in?

SHELBY: I believe our intelligence thus far is very good. We always strive to make it better. But you can tell by what's going on in our operations, from what has been made public, that things are on time. And we're going to move, as I said earlier, to another phase.

KING: Senator Lieberman, I understand that tomorrow, you're going to unveil legislation to establish a permanent Department of National Homeland Security. Do you expect that to breeze through?

LIEBERMAN: Well, I'd like it to, because I do think that we have no more important in the federal government today, than to provide for the security of Americans here at home. Our history changed on September 11.

It's not that we're unprepared, but we're underprepared. And unfortunately, as you look back at what we now know of what happened before September 11, I think we have to say that part of our vulnerability that day was because some federal agencies didn't cooperate well enough.

We didn't have our guard high up in other areas. And I think the appointment of Tom Ridge, the establishment of the office in the White House are a step, important steps forward. But I don't think it's good enough to leave Tom Ridge as just an adviser to the President. I think we've got to give him power of a director of a separate agency in control of budgets of the agencies under him, and able to direct the people under him to do what he feels they have to do to protect the rest of us. Otherwise, the bureaucracy will make it hard for him.

KING: Let me get a break. And we'll be right back with our panel on this edition of "LARRY KING LIVE." Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Admiral Owens, did you like the President's idea today of listing the 22 most wanted terrorists?

OWENS: Yes, I do like that idea, actually, Larry. You know, we want to put some faces and do something about this thing that's happened to us. I do like the idea.

KING: Do you also dislike the idea of any networks playing statements released from the other side?

OWENS: Well, you know, I don't think it serves a great purpose for the networks to be doing this. It certainly plays into the hands of the terrorists in whatever form it comes, whether he's sending signals, or whether he is making a propaganda statement. And I think it's not at all helpful for the networks to be broadcasting.

KING: Franklin, Pennsylvania, take a call, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry.

KING: Hi. What's the question?

CALLER: I was just wondering if anyone knows where Dick Cheney is. I know what they say, you know, about keeping the President and him apart. But I was wondering if there's something wrong with Cheney?

KING: Senator Shelby, I will you that a lot of people that I run into through the day ask that.

SHELBY: Well, let me tell you, I don't know exactly where Dick Cheney is, but I can tell you the Vice President's doing well. I haven't heard anything to the contrary. And I'll tell you, he might be listening to this show right now.

KING: He was a regular viewer.

Senator Lieberman, you know your way around vice presidencies. What...

LIEBERMAN: Not as well as I'd like.

KING: What do you make of this idea of keeping him apart, away in secret?

LIEBERMAN: Oh, I think this is all being done for security reasons, national security. And it's a good idea. And the vice president, I know, is intimately and directly connected to everything that's happening. He brings broad experience. And I'm sure he's well and on the job.

KING: Gentlemen, this is for all three you. I can't go by without asking it. Admiral Owens, are you concerned about this anthrax thing?

OWENS: Well, I am concerned about it, Larry. I think we in the military have been following anthrax, as its been part of the story of Saddam Hussein, and the world of terrorism, for the last decade or so. And I think we always fear that something like this would start to be seen inside our borders.

So I'm very concerned about it. But I agree with the colonel earlier, that this not a time for hysteria. It's a big deal to get this to a stage where it's going to impact our country. And I don't think we should be overreacting to it. But I do think we need to take appropriate steps now to protect ourselves.

KING: Senator Shelby?

SHELBY: I believe it's a real wake-up call to us all over America, to what biological weapons could do to us. But I believe our response right now is measured, as it should be. And we should not panic.

KING: Senator Lieberman, we have 30 seconds. Your thoughts on anthrax?

LIEBERMAN: My colleagues are absolutely right. And I think it's important to go back. Don't panic. Be prepared. We've been thinking about this for a while. But I want go back to what Bill Owens said. Iraq and Saddam Hussein have been working to develop chemical and biological weapons. They've used them against their own people. They used them against the Iranians during their war. Saddam really ought to be the next target of this war on terrorism, because he can do the unthinkable to us if we give him a chance.

KING: Thank you, Senator Shelby and Lieberman and Admiral Owens. As always, we'll be calling on again. We appreciate it. We're going to come back in a couple moments, tell you about tomorrow night.

But those couple moments, we're going to share with chief master Sergeant Daisy Jackson, who joins us on the set. How long have you been in air force, Chief Master Sergeant?

DAISY JACKSON, CHIEF MASTER SERGEANT, U.S. AIR FORCE: 19 years, sir.

KING: And your role is director of public affairs for the U.S. Air Force Band, right?

JACKSON: That is correct, sir. It's a great way of life.

KING: Well, we salute on the job you're doing. And our special guest, Sergeant Jackson, is going to sing "America the Beautiful." Thank you. Go.

(MUSIC)

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


 
 
 
 


 Search   

Back to the top