Skip to main content
CNN.com /TRANSCRIPTS

CNN TV
EDITIONS





CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Anthrax Scare: Discussion with Former U.N. Chief Weapons Inspector Richard Butler

Aired October 17, 2001 - 07:40   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.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to talk more about all of that now. As we mentioned, authorities say the anthrax in a letter sent to Senator Tom Daschle was a very potent strain.

Joining us to talk more about that and about bioterrorism in general is Richard Butler. He is the former U.N. Chief Weapons Inspector in Iraq.

Welcome back.

RICHARD BUTLER, FORMER U.N. CHIEF WEAPONS INSPECTOR IN IRAQ: Good to see you Paula.

ZAHN: We're going to count on you to clear up some confusion ...

BUTLER: If I can.

ZAHN: ... here this morning. I know. It's really tough because the reporting is all over the place on this one, but CNN is reporting with great confidence that this anthrax that was found sent to Daschle's office was natural in origin, not genetically engineered, potent ...

BUTLER: Right.

ZAHN: (INAUDIBLE).

BUTLER: I'm not sure how all of those terms relate to each other, but I do think what we know is this. That what went to Senator Daschle's office, for example, was very potent meaning that the size of the particles were small, could become the kind of anthrax that killed Mr. Stevens -- float through the air and get in the lungs.

That means this wasn't the stuff that some amateur cooked up in a fermenter in his bathroom. That may have been the beginning of the process, but it means it was subsequently dried and milled so that the particle size got down to this small and making it potent anthrax.

ZAHN: So what you're saying, then, in this one particular case, it should narrow the field of potential people who sent this.

BUTLER: I would ...

ZAHN: Or who had access ...

BUTLER: I would hope so. In our last conversation about this, we tried to follow the logical line, which is that first you find out what kind of anthrax it is - that then leads your next step to how it might have been made, in a way that I was just describing, more than cooking it up in a simple fermenter.

And then after that, key question - where it was made. Some loony person in (INAUDIBLE) United States - maybe, but if that's the case, then we now know from the Daschle stuff, that this is a person who had pretty sophisticated equipment at his disposal, or I think more likely, a foreign country.

(CROSSTALK)

BUTLER: Look at the map we - look at the map we just saw ...

ZAHN: Well, yes.

BUTLER: ... and see where they are.

ZAHN: Which foreign country?

BUTLER: The two candidates for immediate investigation, I think would be Iraq and Russia - why? The size of their program, in both cases, quite considerable anthrax programs, the sophistication of their equipment. You go back to what I said a moment ago, the equipment that can make the particle size small and make the anthrax more potent, both Iraq and Russia had and have - well Russia had - Iraq I think still has big programs with that degree of sophistication.

I'm not accusing (INAUDIBLE) Russia the government of doing this, but you know, there is some very disaffected scientists ...

(CROSSTALK)

BUTLER: Yes, who worked in that program, who might have these materials and be prepared to sell them, you know, on the black market.

So they were be the two most fruitful lines of inquiry when you look at that map.

ZAHN: And what sort of importance do you attach to reports - the Mohammed Atta ...

BUTLER: Right.

ZAHN: ... one of the alleged hijackers actually had a meeting with Iraqi intelligence officials on two occasions.

BUTLER: I don't think there's any doubt that those meetings took place (INAUDIBLE) and one of the actions that the Czech government took was that they subsequently threw out that Iraqi so-called diplomat. He was an intelligence official. And those meetings also took place, we understand, there were similar meetings, rather, that took place down on the border of Afghanistan. I don't think there's any doubt about those contacts between the people who became the hideous terrorists here and Iraqi intelligence months ago.

The -- one of the reports says that in the Prague meeting, the Iraqi guy handed over some sample anthrax to Mohammed Atta. We don't know if that's true in the sense it hasn't been verified. But that obviously also deserves investigation.

ZAHN: Yesterday homeland security director Tom Ridge says that we must operate under the presumption that in some way Osama bin Laden might be tied to this. Our reporting this morning from CNN shows that the strains of anthrax found in the New York letters are similar to those in Washington. Florida still, of course, is non-conclusive.

BUTLER: Right.

ZAHN: "Washington Post" reporting that FBI investigators have told them that all three of these cases are connected.

BUTLER: Right.

ZAHN: Based on your knowledge of what you've seen so far, what kind of conclusions can you draw?

BUTLER: I can't draw any conclusions from that, other than it's complex. Paula, we're in a situation where there is some contradictory information. We need urgently to pull that together and find out what the facts are, following that chain of logic that I suggested to you. What kind of materials leads to, therefore, how it was made; leads to, therefore, who made it; and where was it made.

I think if we have those pieces, those dots connected, we'll then get the answer to the question, was this the same group that did September 11? Is this organized terrorism and above all, is it supported from outside say, by Iraq through the provision of this hideous substance.

ZAHN: But you ...

BUTLER: (INAUDIBLE)

ZAHN: ... you are comfortable this morning with ruling out the prospect that some wacko produced this in his garage or in a bathroom.

BUTLER: Good percentage possibility ruled that out. Yes it's not absolutely out of the question, but people should understand that you can grow simple anthrax in a kind of fermenter -- the same thing that you -- someone once said, you know, like home brewed beer, fermenter that you'd buy at Home Depot - something like that.

You can get it started in a very rudimentary way. But to go from that to the sort of weapons way or highly potent way that was in the Daschle letter -- no, no, you need machinery. I think Iraq spent millions of dollars in getting that machinery, and you need know-how. But maybe some, you know loony person who was once in the U.S. program years ago ...

ZAHN: Right.

BUTLER: ... might have. But would he have that machinery? I'm not sure. I would almost certainly rule that out.

ZAHN: All right. Well ...

BUTLER: OK.

ZAHN: ... we're going to do a line on your expertise a lot in ...

BUTLER: OK.

ZAHN: ... days to come. Thank you very much for dropping ...

BUTLER: Good to see you.

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