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CNN THE POINT WITH GRETA VAN SUSTEREN

Anthrax Scare: Who is Responsible?

Aired October 16, 2001 - 20:00   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.
ANNOUNCER: THE POINT: "Tracking the Terrorists, The World's Most Wanted."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a very strong form of anthrax, a very potent form of anthrax that clearly was produced by somebody who knew what he or she was doing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Where did it come from? And who is responsible?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN ASHCROFT, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: We treat it as an act of terror and terrorism.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Tonight, the anthrax terror that has a nation on edge. And what has history taught us? Could the cause of the anthrax scare be domestic?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are a lot of people who still don't like the United States, and some of them are right here within this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Plus, the step-by-step detective work. From the moment a suspicious piece of mail is spotted, the agents are called in, the location sealed off and the samples are sent to the lab.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most of the initial testing that are done are designed to be as sensitive and as quick as possible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: And, a "Tracking the Terrorists" timeline, from the first illness in Florida to the tainted letters and mass testing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's like, crazy, you know. But I'm not scared. I'm going in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: How a national scare evolved. THE POINT: "Tracking The Terrorists: The World's Most Wanted."

Now from Washington, Greta Van Susteren.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: Now we know what to watch for. I took a good, long look and you will probably want to, as well. Authorities today made public the similar envelopes, which contained anthrax, received on Capitol Hill and at NBC News in New York. CNN national correspondent Eileen O'Connor has more on the envelopes, plus today's latest developments in the anthrax story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

EILEEN O'CONNOR, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Released by the Justice Department, the envelopes of the letters sent to NBC and to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, showed similar handwriting, and the same postmark.

ASHCROFT: We believe that there may be other envelopes, that this would kind of give people a hint, that if you see an envelope like this, that you don't recognize, you might want to be careful.

O'CONNOR: CNN has learned the NBC letter contained language threatening to Israel and the United States, and warned the recipient to take medication, it ended by praising Allah. Sources say the letter to Daschle was threatening as well.

In addition, both were processed at the same suburban New Jersey facility, a state that has caught investigators attention before. Some of the suspected hijackers, sources say, stayed in this apartment in Patterson New Jersey, before the attacks. And New Jersey is the home of Sheik Omar Abdul Rahman, in prison for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

Still, the FBI says it is drawing no conclusions.

ROBERT MUELLER, FBI DIRECTOR: While organized terrorism has not been ruled out, so far, we have found no direct link to organized terrorism.

O'CONNOR: Another thing investigators are pursuing, with the help of the CDC, the form, the concentration and the strain of the anthrax involved in each case.

MUELLER: To discuss at this point any similarities would be premature because those tests have not been concluded. O'CONNOR: That information could help investigators determine the source, and whether this is state sponsored terrorism. Senators given a preliminary briefing say the letter sent to Daschle contained a high grade of anthrax. Sources say that means virulent.

SEN. EVAN BAYH (D), INDIANA: Clearly it suggests a level of expertise that's disturbing and that might also suggest the presence of some state involvement by a nation that had been involved in producing weapons of mass destruction.

O'CONNOR: Sources close to the investigation say that doesn't necessarily rule out individuals.

JAYED ALI, BIOWEAPONS EXPERT: I think it's still too early to tell whether -- definitely whether that is from a state sponsored source or that is from another terrorism organization that managed to acquire the material themselves, or develop it themselves or even steal it themselves.

O'CONNOR: In Florida, it's the dissimilarities to the New York and Washington cases that are confounding investigators. Differences in, the method of infection, in Florida, inhalation, not via the skin, as in New York. The effect, in Florida, deadly in one case, serious illness in another, sores and a good prognoses in the cases of infection in New York. And the delivery, in New York and Washington, it came in a powdery substance via letters. In Florida, it's unclear; there are no letters or packages to examine, though anthrax spores have been found at a Boca Raton post office near by.

DEL ALVAREZ, U.S. POSTAL INSPECTOR: We're relying on science to conduct this investigation. We actually don't have physical evidence that can tell us the origin of the anthrax.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'CONNOR: And potentially health investigators figure out how to stop these -- more letters from being sent.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, Eileen, looking at these two envelopes, I mean even with the bare eye and being unschooled, you know, there are so many similarities that's extraordinary, the outside of the envelopes. What about the content of the Daschle letter? Does that mirror what was in the letter to Brokaw?

O'CONNOR: Well, we're being told by sources that it isn't exactly the same wording. But both were threatening and in fact, one distinct similarity, both had mentioned of Allah as God.

But again, investigators also indicate that that doesn't necessarily mean that there's a Middle Eastern associated group or international group. It could be that this is a domestic group that purposely trying to plant evidence or wording that could mislead investigators, trying to point the finger to an international group.

VAN SUSTEREN: Are they discounted -- are they saying that the Florida is different because I noticed in your reporting that you noted the differences in Florida. There's an inhalation case. It may just be that no one inhaled the powder in New York. So that could be lucky. The fact that someone died, that's a -- you know, a horrible tragedy in Florida. And the delivery, maybe we're just not lucky. We don't have the envelope.

O'CONNOR: Absolutely. But what they're trying to see is are those dissimilarities telling or perhaps they're not telling at all. I mean the fact is that perhaps someone didn't inhale the powder.

VAN SUSTEREN: But they may not be dissimilarities. It may be that we just don't have the information.

O'CONNOR: Exactly. Because we don't have a package. We don't have a mail. There are spores. But again, they don't actually have the substance of how it was delivered. They have the spores but not enough evidence to go on.

And another thing that they're saying in Florida is that, you know, they have to really find the strains, the exact strains, look at all the evidence. And that's going to take some while to do those very, very conclusive tests.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, the -- there's -- you've said in your piece that there's no -- that they're not focused on a particular group, that nobody has been ruled out. Who is in the university of possibilities according to these investigators?

O'CONNOR: Well, there's a lot of international terrorist groups, but there's a lot of domestic terrorist groups.

VAN SUSTEREN: Like?

O'CONNOR: Like, for instance, white supremacist group, anti- abortion rights groups. There's also left wing groups. There could be people who are militia groups and others. There also could be just a person out there perhaps deranged who has a particular ax to grind, a person like the convicted Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski.

VAN SUSTEREN: But you know, it's so weird. I mean even if you take one in Nevada and I know there's been some controversy about whether or not there is anthrax in that letter or not. The fact that it was mailed from Malaysia and there was some report that one of the hijackers met with one of the people involved in the USS Cole in Malaysia.

O'CONNOR: That was a while ago.

VAN SUSTEREN: I know that's a while ago. But there are an awful lot of similarities that you know, that -- you know, if it looks like a horse, you don't guess it's a zebra.

O'CONNOR: Exactly. But again, it could be people trying to raise those similarities or raise those coincidences almost as a frame up. And, again, it doesn't necessarily mean because it came from Malaysia, it could have been intercepted. And that's something that investigators aren't necessarily discounted, that that envelope was somehow intercepted here, perhaps before it got -- you know, once it got back into the United States, even in a mailroom.

VAN SUSTEREN: It had to be someone so clever that you've even gotten me suspicious that it is international terrorism when it might not be. We have no proof of it. Thanks, Eileen O'Connor for joining us.

Much of the medical detective work is being performed at the government's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. But it is a team effort involving the nation's entire health system. CNN medical correspondent Rhonda Rowland tells us how a biological threat is spotted, and what steps are taken to protect the public's health.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RHONDA ROWLAND, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The threat may come in the form of a mysterious letter, watermarked, excess postage, no return address, filled with a suspicious substance, a powder or sand. First step, local health authorities are notified. Next, local FBI agents, police or, hazmat personnel in protective gear arrive on the scene. The suspicious package is put in a plastic bag and taken to a nearby laboratory for testing. Immediately, lab technicians conduct so called rapid diagnostic tests to look for signs of the anthrax bacteria.

Then, if these preliminary tests strongly suggest anthrax, several simultaneous actions may be taken. The building or location where the suspicious substance was taken from may be evacuated and sealed off. People known to have been in the immediate area may be given a nasal swab test to see if they were actually exposed to anthrax spores. Environmental samples are collected from the location to try to determine exactly where the anthrax exposure occurred. The CDC headquarters in Atlanta is contacted, and samples are sent for confirmation.

DR. DAVID FLEMING, CDC: So you may be able to get a preliminary result on a sample, but to be absolutely certain that the result is correct, you want that confirmatory, more specialized test.

ROWLAND: Preliminary rapid tests are not necessarily accurate, because they cannot tell the difference between a harmless bacteria or the deadly anthrax germ. The CDC confirms the presence of anthrax. This sophisticated test can take up to a day or two to produce results. As soon as the CDC is confident anthrax exists, more simultaneous steps.

People, who may have been in the area, are given antibiotics protectively, to keep them from getting sick. The number of people tested with nasal swabs for exposure may be expanded. Antibiotics may be released from the CDC's national pharmaceutical stockpile. The CDC dispatches a team of disease detectives from Atlanta to the scene to assist local and state health authorities in the investigation.

DR. JEFFREY KOPLAN, DIRECTOR, CDC: Who has gotten sick and not just one person but are other people, you know, potentially ill? Where did it happen? When did it happen? And how did it happen? So these range of questions are asked and we try to gather information in a systematic way to get that information quickly.

ROWLAND: Tracking anthrax is not complete until those questions are answered, and the public's health is secure.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROWLAND: There's no question that the anthrax investigations are taking a toll on the CDC. We understand that so far three-dozen disease trackers been sent down to Florida, New York and D.C. In addition to that, the CDC has opened a command center, an operation center, with 50 workstations and they are fielding hundreds of calls every day from the public, from health professionals. It's open 24 hours a day, also around-the-clock. The laboratory here is open.

And now, there are 50 lab technicians devoted totally to just testing for anthrax and they've already processed hundreds of samples. But Greta, our sources here at the CDC assure us that they are still able to attend to other important public health issues.

VAN SUSTEREN: Rhonda, how stretched are they though? It seems rather ominous from the description you've given us. How much more they can take?

ROWLAND: Well, what we've been told is that they have been preparing for this. They've been preparing for years and this is what they do all the time for any kind of disease situation. But clearly, we've heard in recent days that there are -- the -- at the Senate level that they are asking for more funds so they can add more lab technicians, open more laboratories, beef up the staff here so they can handle a bigger biological threat if it should occur.

VAN SUSTEREN: What's the update in the state of Nevada? Has that been determined to be anthrax or not, that letter that was sent to the Microsoft subsidiary?

ROWLAND: Well, what we were told by our sources here at CDC yesterday is that they completed the test here at CDC. They have been working on this for a two-day period. This is gold standard type test. We were told that it would indeed be conclusive. It was negative for anthrax.

And as you may recall, in Nevada, when their health officials did tests, they had two positives, one negative. Now what we understand is that in Nevada, the health officials there are challenging the CDC results and they plan to send more samples here for testing.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you know, it's rather bizarre, Rhonda. I mean you've got the -- you know, I was talking to Eileen about the fact that there was this Malaysia contact, having to do with a terrorist. And maybe it's just, you know, my wild imagination, but we've now got two tests that say that it is anthrax. We've got the gold standard one at CDC, saying it is not. Where do you go from -- how do you test it, the final -- what's the final test?

ROWLAND: Well, the tests that are often done at state level are not as sophisticated as what can be done here at the CDC. They can just given an idea or a suggestion of it possibly being anthrax. So you can get these different results and that's where the frustration, the confusion comes in.

But once again, the CDC officials have assured us, the kind of test they do here, where they grow up a culture in the laboratory, this is the gold standard, this is conclusive. So we're not sure if the people in Nevada will be sending a different sample or more of what they have from the letter.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Rhonda Rowland from the CDC thanks very much.

The CDC's researchers may be on the case, but when anthrax has turned up in the office next door, who wouldn't be worried? The jitters on Capitol Hill were obvious today, especially after word got around that an especially potent form of anthrax had been sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. Joining me from the Hill is Christian Science Monitor, Congressional correspondent, Gail Russell Chaddock.

Gail, thank you for joining me this evening.

GAIL RUSSELL CHADDOCK, CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR: Glad to be here.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK, Gail, what's the mood on Capitol Hill?

CHADDOCK: Let's just say it's got everyone's attention. They say, in Congress, the hardest thing is to get senators to focus on anything and they're certainly focused on this.

I think what's interesting, though, is the level of resolve all the way down to the youngest pages. I was talking to three that were waiting to be tested today and they said, when they came here, they came to serve and they expected it to be intense, but not like this. But they stayed.

VAN SUSTEREN: Gail, do you get a sense that people are simply interested and motivated and determined or is there actual fear on Capitol Hill?

CHADDOCK: There is certainly fear, but people often won't talk about it in those terms. Often senators talk about frustration, but not about fear. They talk about resolve. They talk about wanting to only focus on the essential things at this point and possibly to get out as quickly as possible. But there's a lot of focus on getting the public business done.

VAN SUSTEREN: Now, Capitol Hill is quite big. For the viewers who haven't been here in Washington, it includes a lot of property. Is there a particular area that remains quarantined or cutoff from -- while they're still doing the investigation?

CHADDOCK: There's still a lot of focus on a quarter of the Hart building where they are doing environmental tests. They expect that to be that to be over by tomorrow though. VAN SUSTEREN: And by quarantine, do they have police tape up? Is it like that or it is simply under guard so people can't enter?

CHADDOCK: You can't enter.

VAN SUSTEREN: And so how is Senator Daschle's staff doing their work, if you know? And how is Senator Daschle doing his work?

CHADDOCK: Well, he's doing very well. He was in his leadership office when this occurred, of course, greatly concerned for his staff. And people are working from remote locations, some are home.

VAN SUSTEREN: Who's getting tested?

CHADDOCK: Anyone that wants to. Anyone that -- even the press that were covering this case could go and get tested and treatment today.

VAN SUSTEREN: Any idea on the numbers of how many have gotten tested?

CHADDOCK: Oh, I've heard at least 1,000.

VAN SUSTEREN: And are they -- they're the nasal swabs and not the blood test, do you know?

CHADDOCK: That's right. This -- so far it's a preliminary test.

VAN SUSTEREN: Did you get tested?

CHADDOCK: I did not. I was not...

VAN SUSTEREN: Why not?

CHADDOCK: ... in the building.

VAN SUSTEREN: But you've been around the Capitol Hill and for at least, you know, quite a bit.

CHADDOCK: Well, working for the Christian Science Monitor, you have a slightly different take on that, Greta, than most people. But we're -- are going -- doing our job as well.

VAN SUSTEREN: What about security? Does that seem significantly different on the Hill?

CHADDOCK: Oh, absolutely. The security -- there's much more in evidence. There's many more streets that are blocked off. There are a presence of security in places where you haven't seep them before.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you get a sense that -- with the security though, it puts at least some people at ease or do people resent the sort of intrusion of security because it's -- you know, Capitol Hill was so open for so long?

CHADDOCK: There's a lot of concern that the public doesn't have the access that it used to. You know, people often say -- and it's not just a phrase that this is the people's house. They actually like seeing tourists wondering about and looking at things and watching the people's business being done. And there's a lot of interesting in getting the public back as soon as possible. But I'll tell you right now, people are very grateful for every policeman they see.

VAN SUSTEREN: What about any other scares? Any more powder or suspicion of powder on Capitol Hill today?

CHADDOCK: In a lot of different ways, a package showed in the press office today that ordinarily that just looked like a bag of makeup. Today, it was a -- you know, serious effort calls were made. People came to check up on it. A resume that would be dropped off in a senator's office without a second glance suddenly becomes an object that calls need to be made for and it needs to be tested. So the things that used to be normal, Greta, are not anymore.

VAN SUSTEREN: But, you know, Gail, it's funny. People love to sort of wonder the halls of Capitol Hill and drop fliers off or drop -- I mean citizens going to petition their members of Congress. Is that over?

CHADDOCK: That's over. Do it by e-mail, I would suggest.

VAN SUSTEREN: So you don't see any tourists in the halls at all?

CHADDOCK: Not tours anymore. People are still allowed into the galleries. They want to preserve at least that.

VAN SUSTEREN: And do they expect -- is this temporary or does this look like it's going to be the way of life on Capitol Hill?

CHADDOCK: What they're telling me is that they want to make sure that the security measures are in place, that they can screen mail in an effective way, that they can screen people in a more effective way. You know, this visitor's center that's been on the books for a long time could get a big boost from this, a way to screen people before they get into the capitol itself.

VAN SUSTEREN: And I understand the capitol had some reinforcement, is that right?

CHADDOCK: That's absolutely right.

VAN SUSTEREN: What's been done for the reinforcement?

CHADDOCK: Well, you're looking at people that have had 12 to 16- hour shifts. And that is beginning to wear really thin so they're beginning to boost with support from outside, especially National Guard.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK, Gail Russell Chaddock with the Christian Science Monitor. Thanks very much for joining me this evening.

CHADDOCK: Thank you, Greta. VAN SUSTEREN: Everyone remembers September 11, but do you know the date the first anthrax scare surfaced or the first tainted letter? In a minute, how the anthrax story developed, a TRACKING THE TERRORISTS timeline, when THE POINT continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAN SUSTEREN: It has all happened so quickly. First, the anthrax story was just a footnote. Now, it is on every newscast and has everyone talking. How did we get here? CNN's David Mattingly puts it all together in this TRACKING THE TERRORISTS timeline.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): September 18, one week after the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center, a letter containing anthrax spores is quietly mailed from Trenton, New Jersey, to NBC's Tom Brokaw in New York. It's opened September 25. And days later, an assistant to Brokaw develops sores and flu-like symptoms. But at this point there is no anthrax diagnosis, no public reports. October 1, South Florida, Bob Stevens, a 63-year-old photo editor for the tabloid publisher, American Media Company is hospitalized. Three days later, the first public confirmation.

JOHN AGWUNOBI, FLORIDA SECRETARY OF HEALTH: This is a very serious illness. But once again, it's an isolated case. We have a team of epidemiologists both from our state, Public Health Department and from the CDC as well as our local team working vigorously on trying to establish exactly where or how this individual came in contact with this germ.

MATTINGLY: Stevens is infected with inhalation anthrax, the most serious form. October 5, Stevens dies and the first intense investigation is under way with clues leading to the company's mailroom. Employees are tested. And October 7, 73-year-old mailroom worker, Ernesto Blanco, hospitalized earlier for pneumonia, tests positive for anthrax exposure. Spores found in his nasal passages, but doctors say he has not actually been infected.

Two days later, the same for mailroom worker, Stephanie Dailey.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LARRY KING LIVE")

LARRY KING, HOST: First reaction?

STEPHANIE DAILEY, EXPOSED TO ANTHRAX: It was like getting hit in the gut. I mean it was OK, what happens now?

KING: And what did happen now?

DAILEY: I just was told to take the medication like everybody else and that I would be find.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: And at this point, there are suspicions but no evidence or pattern to suggest a coordinated terrorist attack. But then October 11, the assistant to Tom Brokaw tests positive for cutaneous anthrax, a skin infection, not fatal, curable with antibiotics.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "NIGHTLY NEWS")

TOM BROKAW, HOST: This is so unfair and so outrageous and so maddening it's beyond my ability to express it in socially acceptable terms.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: Hundreds more NBC employees are tested. And now a possible emerges, anthrax in powdery substance delivered by mail. The "New York Times" newsroom is evacuated, no anthrax found. Microsoft in Reno, Nevada, another scare, no anthrax.

Then Monday, October 15, a rapid series of developments. The CDC reveals America Media employee, Ernesto Blanco, like deceased coworker, Bob Stevens, has developed inhalation anthrax. And in Washington, D.C., an announcement -- anthrax mailed to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just talked to Leader Daschle, his office received a letter and it had anthrax in it.

MATTINGLY: Another threatening letter mailed from Trenton, New Jersey. The one to Daschle mailed October 9, two weeks to the day after anthrax was mailed to NBC. Fifty congressional workers are tested, waiting for results.

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MAJORITY LEADER: I'm concerned deeply for my staff. And I feel so badly for each of them. They are innocent people caught up in a matter for which they have nothing to do.

MATTINGLY: And while this is unfolding, a new case. This time at ABC News in New York, another case of cutaneous anthrax. This time infecting a seven-month-old boy, the child of a news producer. The child expected to fully recover, but the source is a mystery.

DAVID WESTIN, PRESIDENT, ABC NEWS: We have been working with the authorities through the evening to set up a policy by which we will do thorough investigation to try to identify exactly what the source of this was, to make sure that there is no further exposure possible here.

MATTINGLY: And now, Tuesday, October 16, a focus on post offices in Trenton and Boca Raton. Postal workers in both places tested for exposure.

In Washington, capitol mail service suspended, 12 offices near Daschle's closed for screening, a 1,000 staffers line up for anthrax checks. The anthrax here said to be of professional grade, relatively concentrated. SEN. SAM BROWNBACK (R), KANSAS: What you're seeing here and what you will see us do is taking overly precautious measures. But it's not going to shut the government down. The terrorists had hoped that it was going to do that or would put us in such a state that we couldn't operate. That's just not going to happen.

MATTINGLY: Nationally, there have been four symptomatic cases of anthrax -- two people with cutaneous anthrax symptoms in New York, two cases of inhalation anthrax in Florida, one resulting in a fatality. And now, a congressional appeal to expand the national supply of anthrax-fighting antibiotics.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Hopefully, we won't even need to use the Cipro we already have in the stockpile. But if we make plans to purchase it from multiple generic drug manufacturers, we'll have it if we need it. That's the bottom line here. Let's take cautious, proactive steps now to avoid the potential -- and I repeat the potential -- for a hastily responsed -- a hastily planned response to crisis later.

MATTINGLY: And through it all, appeals to the public to maintain perspective. So far, relatively few cases from a statistically insignificant amount of mail, but still demanding the need for a swift and sweeping investigation.

David Mattingly, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAN SUSTEREN: A late word from Florida is that Ernesto Blanco doctors are encouraged by his response to antibiotics even though Blanco had to undergo surgery. The Associated Press reports doctors inserted tubes in Blanco's lungs yesterday to help drain fluids so he can breathe easier.

Where did the anthrax come from? Perhaps we are jumping to conclusions too quickly. A timely reminder about past sources of terror, when THE POINT continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SUSTEREN: Who mailed those anthrax envelopes in Trenton, New Jersey? At least some people suspect the source is not connected to Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda terrorists. As our Chicago bureau chief Jeff Flock reminds us, there's plenty of hate out there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF FLOCK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When a bomb blew up the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, some assumed terrorism from abroad. Turned out to be domestic. And so, given the events of 9/11, some assume the anthrax scare is connected to Osama bin Laden.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I wouldn't put it past him, but we don't have hard evidence yet.

FLOCK: But what if it's not?

CHRIS KOZLOW, SECURITY EXPERT: There are a lot of people who still don't like the United States, some of them right here within this country.

FLOCK: Counterterrorism expert Chris Kozlow has been monitoring chat rooms frequented by militia members and white supremacists in the U.S. He says there is anger at the use of National Guard troops at airports and increased security. And use of ID cards has sparked fears of a national ID card, abhorrent to militias.

"The resistance may have to carry out a policy of poisoning and low cost, cheap, effective biological warfare," writes one. "The time for Aryans to attack is now, not later," says another.

KOZLOW: So they may see that as, hey, it's time to act because they're coming to take my guns away or they're coming to collect me up. So I need to strike out at the government.

FLOCK: Under scrutiny domestically, say experts, what one called a Ted Kaczynski or Tim McVeigh type, someone angry at the government, who has the knowledge and ability to do something about it.

KOZLOW: Law enforcement is going to be looking at past actors, also the lone wolf types, individuals who are basically have a grudge against the United States.

FLOCK: The search for whoever is responsible for the anthrax is being complicated by the literally thousands of reports of suspicious powder across the country, most of which are either false alarms or hoaxes, like this one at a Connecticut state office building.

The federal government is prosecuting a state worker there for knowing about the hoax and lying about it.

JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL: He could face a maximum sentence of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to twice the gross loss to the victims, in this case, potentially up to $3 million.

FLOCK: There is also the possibility that those responsible will never be caught. Mailing anthrax is a crime not unlike the seven murders in and around Chicago in 1982, by someone who laced Tylenol capsules with cyanide.

(on camera): An FBI agent who worked on that case tells CNN the anthrax cases could be bin Laden's network or they could be domestic in origin, or they could be a little of both. And the truth is, we may never fully now for sure.

I'm Jeff Flock, CNN in Chicago.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SUSTEREN: Two people have now been charged in connection with anthrax hoaxes. One of those indicted is an employee of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection. He allegedly placed white powder on a desk and attempted to blame co-workers for the scare.

And just a short time ago, a second man from Connecticut was charged with making a 911 call, saying three court buildings had been dusted with anthrax.

There's also been a scare at the Arlington, Virginia offices of the "USA Today" newspaper. This afternoon, an employee reported she may have seen a powdery substance after she tore open an envelope that had no return address. Several dozen staffers were evacuated. The FBI, of course, is conducting tests. We may know the results tomorrow.

When it comes to anthrax, just who are the terrorists we ought to be tracking? Two guests join me to explore all the options. Counterterrorism expert Larry Johnson is a veteran of the U.S. State Department. And Amy Smithson specializes in chemical and biological weapons at the Stimson Center, an international security research institute.

All right, Larry, first to you, who are your candidates for the culprits in this latest anthrax scare?

LARRY JOHNSON, COUNTERTERRORISM EXPERT: I think right now, the most likely culprits are domestic, not international. No. 1, the fact that these people mailed this a week after the incident, these terrorists did not come back to life and mail these things out.

No. 2, they've gone only after, if you will, the liberal media so to speak and after a Democrat. They've not gone after any military targets. They've not gone after any targets overseas that you would associate with terrorists. And from people I've talked to, who are in a position to have some information about this, they're increasingly looking at some people that have taken advantage of this terrorist incident and trying to use it to settle some scores from their standpoint. So I think...

SUSTEREN: But Larry, you know, that makes it incredibly clever, if that's true. And let me play devil's advocate with you.

First of all, the fact they you say they didn't come back to life. German intelligence said that there probably were 30 involved in this initial attack. Only 19 died, leaving 11 unaccounted for. Plus, there are the possibility of sleeping cells here in the United States.

No. 2, geography. The fact that some happened in Florida, again geographically correct because Mohammed Atta took flying lessons nearby. Then you've got the incident with the Microsoft out in the state of Nevada. And of course, that's interesting because the letter was coming from Malaysia. And as you may recall, one of the hijackers allegedly meet with someone in Malaysia to discuss the U.S.S. Cole bombing.

Then you've got the Trenton, New Jersey postmark on two of the letters. And of course, some of the hijackers took off from Newark and lived in the New Jersey area. And finally, media and politicians make for good motives because you get lots of attention. What about that?

JOHNSON: Well, I think, No. 1, the information about Florida and Trenton was out available within a week after this. And so, it fits within that timeframe. Secondly, what I'm really concerned about is we're sending the wrong message that terrorists group who are overseas, who haven't done this yet, what they're saying is, gee, look how crazy the Americans are getting over what is right now only one person dead, three people infected. And we're acting like the end of the world is upon us. That's really what concerns me, is we're sending this message to the world, that this is the way to really affect us.

And I think, we need to ratchet it down a bit. Ultimately, it's going to be determined, not by analytical speculation. It's going to be by the evidence. But note this, if there was evidence right now of an international link, you'd be hearing about it.

SUSTEREN: All right Amy, what do you think? Where do you weigh in on this?

AMY SMITHSON, STIMSON CENTER: Well, in the aftermath of a horrific attack like the country suffered on September the 11, the tendency is to accredit to the enemy, al Qaeda, capabilities they may not have. And linking this automatically to those groups of terrorist, I think, is a jump of conclusion at this point of time.

SUSTEREN: Do you mean when they say don't have it, they don't have wherewithal to get the anthrax spores? Is that what you mean? Because it seems to me the other aspect is relatively easy. You have access to the mails, but are you talking about actually getting anthrax spores and distributing them?

SMITHSON: Well, what I said was that we're giving them credit for a capability they may not have. We know that they've been dabbling in chemicals. And certainly, the availability of anthrax from natural sources or from laboratories is something that's been widely discussed. We don't know who's doing this and where. And until the evidence tells us some answers, it would behoove to us all to calm down a bit.

SUSTEREN: I agree we should calm down, but I think we ought to be alert. But Amy has just given me another clue to toss back your way, Larry. The fact that we know they've been dabbling in this that sort of further, you know, pushes in the direction to keep our eyes open on al Qaeda as being the culprit?

JOHNSON: Well, it's true, except their capabilities to produce this kind of agent in Afghanistan was nowhere in the ballpark of what we saw with Aum Shinrikyo in Tokyo. That's No. 1.

No. 2, if they were to try to get something, they'd have to probably buy it. But then they face the problem of shipping it. And you know, just for the sake of argument, let's assume that this was al Qaeda and the terrorists. Are they idiots? I mean, sure they've got enough, if they're really the terrorists that we've seen act on September 11, their goal wasn't to scare people. Their goal was to murder people. These folks are not producing this in any kind of quantity that's actually killing people, other than the one individual. And the right now, I think the public health system has got it in hand.

SUSTEREN: Amy, what do you make of the report that the grade of anthrax sent to Senator Tom Daschle, and I've heard the terms pure or professional-grade, what does that mean in terms of who might be responsible?

SMITHSON: Until I hear reports coming out of the mouths of people directly associated with the investigations, no offense whatsoever to the individuals who have called this professional-level anthrax, I think I'm going to hold silent on that.

SUSTEREN: All right, let me give it to you in a hypothetical. Assuming it is a pure grade, what does that mean about where it might be?

SMITHSON: It would mean that there's a fairly sophisticated scientific capability behind this. But again, let's look at the differences in the modus operandi of al Qaeda, which is to kill as many people as possible. And what's happening here, which is a limited scope of harm, but an intent to have the rest of us watch and get scared. So these are different modus operandi.

SUSTEREN: But see, I see the M.O. of al Qaeda and bin Laden is to inflict terror. I mean, you have -- and this certainly has inflicted terror. You've got people discussing it. But you even have the messages from bin Laden and from his P.R. spokesman about, "Beware, don't be in tall buildings, you know, don't fly on airplanes."

I mean, the M.O. is to cause terror, Amy. And so, isn't that part of it?

SMITHSON: Well, I'm not going to buy everything that comes out Osama bin Laden's mouth. SUSTEREN: I know, but...

SMITHSON: An actual capability.

SUSTEREN: But in terms of being his M.O.. I'm not saying that he could actually do this, but in terms of his M.O. is to create the terror.

SMITHSON: Bullies issue threats, OK? And there are some things that I think are going to be beyond the capability of a fairly sophisticated terrorist group. And mass casualty attacks with anthrax is a very sophisticated thing.

That's a vast difference between learning how to pilot aircraft into tall buildings.

JOHNSON: Greta, just to follow up on what Amy said. I disagree with you. Bin Laden's not...

SUSTEREN: With me or with Amy?

JOHNSON: While I agree with Amy, I disagree with you.

SUSTEREN: OK.

JOHNSON: Bin Laden's not about causing terror. He's about killing people. He's tried to do it in the World Trade Center. He did it in the East Africa embassy bombings, in the U.S.S. Cole.

This guy, terror is an after effect, a serendipitous effect, if you will. This guy is about murder. He's about -- because he sees us as infidels that must be destroyed, not as people that he can negotiate with, to get us to turn around.

SUSTEREN: Larry, is he sophisticated, murderous thug or is he unsophisticated?

JOHNSON: I would call him visionary. Sophisticated implies somebody that, you know, is fluent in multiple languages and able to whip up some scientific, exotic gadget. I see this guy as understanding exactly how you can try to cause maximum amount of damage by hitting very high profile targets.

Remember, he's also implicated in a plan to blow up 11 U.S. jumbo jets. So frankly, I don't see him, you know, reaching out and touching people through the U.S. now. I think if they're going to -- they will try and use chemical and biological weapons if they can get their hands on it and produce it and find a way to deliver it, but they'll do it to kill as many people as they can, not just to frighten us.

SUSTEREN: Amy, does he have access to chemical, biological, and does he have a way to deliver it?

SMITHSON: At this point, we know that he's gotten about as far Aum Shinrikyo did, if we're to judge by satellite photographs. He's probably figured out how to make chemical agents in a small quantity and stakes them animals and killed them with that.

But again, there's a technical hurdle here. In order to kill lots of people with a chemical agent, you have to make lots and lots of chemical agents. And those are the things that aren't written in textbooks.

The formulas are available. The chemicals are out there. And so are the equipment on the open market. But those insider tricks, remember Aum Shinrikyo had more production accidents with its $10 million state-of-the-art facility, they had so many accidents that they had to shut it down before they ever got it working.

SUSTEREN: Amy, in 20 seconds, is the U.S. prepared then for anything in terms of biological and chemical that could originate from bin Laden? SMITHSON: There are a number of cities across this country, I think, that have gotten a very good head start on improving their capabilities in this regard, but no one is prepared for, you know, absolute calamity.

SUSTEREN: Larry, 20 seconds, is the U.S. prepared?

JOHNSON: Yes, we're prepared for what bin Laden's capable of delivering. If we were faced with a nation-state delivering it, we'd be hard-pressed, but I think we finally got people galvanized into moving in the right direction, to take the appropriate steps we need to keep people safe.

SUSTEREN: All right. My thanks to both of you tonight. Larry Johnson and Amy Smithson. Anthrax can be deadly, but some survive to tell their story. We will hear from one such woman when THE POINT returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SUSTEREN: We're all scared of getting it, but does an anthrax infection feel like? Carrie Ginder knows. She developed an anthrax infection in 1973. And she joins us from Mobile, Alabama tonight.

Good evening, Carrie.

CARRIE GINDER, SURVIVED ANTHRAX INFECTION: Hi, how are you?

SUSTEREN: Good thanks. Carrie, what was your occupation back in 1973?

GINDER: I was a journalist in the United States Navy, stationed aboard U.S.S. Sanctuary, a hospital ship.

SUSTEREN: Now there came a time when you got sick. Can you tell me what happened?

GINDER: Yes, ma'am. I had -- well, we were in Haiti for a 30 day goodwill mission. We had medical personnel aboard the ship that were treating various medical cases in Haiti, Port of Prince, Haiti.

Of which 40 were anthrax cases. My being a journalist, I never came in contact with any of the anthrax cases, but I purchased bongo drums as souvenirs and to send for Christmas presents to various members of my family, and for keepsakes.

And when I returned to Mayport, Florida, which was where the ship returned to on the 14th of December, 1973, the 23rd, 24th of December, I was wrapping the congo and bongo drums up to send off. And several days after that, I developed a swelling of the left eye.

SUSTEREN: And those of course are the pictures. And I don't know if you noticed, Carrie, but those were the pictures that we showed the viewers a second ago.

GINDER: Yes, ma'am. And the doctors at the Naval dispensary diagnosed it as severe conjunctivitis and treated it with some kind of a salve and told me to put hot and cold packs on it and sent me home.

In the meantime, I ran into a friend of mine on board the ship, who was a hospital corpsman, Mike Goble. And he was one of the medical people that had treated cases of anthrax in Haiti. And he was convinced that I had anthrax, but the doctors didn't believe him.

SUSTEREN: So what happened?

GINDER: Well, they sent me home. And he went over and finally beat them over the head with a baseball bat, basically, and convinced them that I had anthrax. And they sent an ambulance out to my home, brought me back in, and did a biopsy. And sure enough, it came back positive for anthrax.

Then they went out and confiscated the bongo drums from the people I had sent them to in Louisiana and Michigan. And they confiscated the ones I had, all of which came back tested positive for anthrax. And the health department went and confiscated everything in my apartment and burned it.

So then I was hospitalized on December the 30th. And I spent 30 days in the hospital and then 30 days on convalescent leave.

SUSTEREN: Now looking at those pictures, that we showed viewers, you can see your eye all swollen. Were there other symptoms besides the swollen eye?

GINDER: Well, the first symptoms was the swollen eye, similar to pink eye, which is what I thought I had, personally. But after they sent me home, the swelling continued to the point where I had no neck. It had come down in my throat and cut off my airway.

And at the time I was hospitalized, they said I wasn't going to live, that I would surely die. It was cutting off my air passageway. And they were getting ready to do a tracheotomy, but they decided to treat me with massive doses of steroids and penicillin, before the tracheotomy.

And they said I didn't have anything to lose because I was going to die, you know, one way or another. And -- but the penicillin and the steroids worked. And the swelling gradually began to diminish. And I was able to breathe. And like I said, but if it hadn't been for that corpsman, I wouldn't be sitting here talking to you today.

SUSTEREN: Obviously, you're very lucky. Do you have any permanent effect from that 1973 case of anthrax?

GINDER: Yes, ma'am. I scar tissue on my left eye, which I'm 49- years old now. This was -- I was 22 when I had it. My eye looked like a 50-year-old woman at that time because of the scar tissue. Now you can hardly tell it. And especially if I use eye makeup, I can conceal it, but other than that...

SUSTEREN: I could tell you, Carrie, that from here, I can't see it at all. It looks like you're good and healthy. And I thank you for joining us this evening.

GINDER: Thank you.

SUSTEREN: THE POINT will be right back after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SUSTEREN: A lot of my e-mail contains basic questions about how you can get and treat anthrax. We have a shortcut answer for you. On our Web site, CNN.com, you will find 10 things you feed to know about anthrax, as well as a dozen tips for handling suspicious mail.

There is much more, too, as close as your computer. Just go to CNN.com or AOL key word CNN, and follow the links. And if you have any other questions about tracking the terrorists, send an e-mail to askgreta@cnn.com. That's one word, askgreta.

I'm Greta Van Susteren in Washington. Navy Secretary Gordon English is among the guests next on "LARRY KING LIVE."

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


 
 
 
 


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