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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Powder Found in Tacoma Mail Facility

Aired April 22, 2003 - 11:06   ET

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

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Our Mike Brooks is on assignment. He's actually in Modesto. He's covering the Laci Peterson case, but he is our law enforcement expert, so we're going to go ahead and bring him in and help us understand how law enforcement responds to a situation like this -- Mike.
MIKE BROOKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Daryn.

As Jeanne was talking about, the National Guard has civil support teams. These teams are placed around the country to deal with incidents such as these. It's ironic that they were right across the street, back when I was at that time federal law enforcement training center, putting together the weapons of mass destruction course. We brought in the team from Atlanta, that's based on Dobbins Air Force Base, to come in and put on a demonstration and go through an exercise with us. They have a mobile lab, so they can do the field testing and they can take it to one of their mobile labs, and that's assigned to each one of these civil support teams to do further testing.

Also, again, preliminary stages. Many times, as Jeanne was saying, these tests do come up with false positives. But if it does wind up being the plague or the other toxin, the FBI Hazardous Material Response Unit would get involved with this.

Each of the FBI field offices now have agents who are trained to go in, to recover these things, to assist the local authorities, and if it did wind up being a toxin, then they would open up a case on this, and would much likely be the lead agency working with the local law enforcement.

But again, very early stages in this, and we have to be cautious to say that we definitely don't know if these are definite toxins or not -- Daryn.

KAGAN: A couple of things here for you, Mike.

First of all, we're getting word that it wasn't a white substance; it was a brown substance. Does that mean anything to you?

BROOKS: Well, soon as everyone -- there's such a heightened sense of awareness with white powder, everyone thinks of anthrax. With a brown powder, it doesn't really mean anything. It could be from another form. They could get it from an auger, dry it down. It really doesn't mean anything. If I saw brown powder, firs I would first think of would be ricin. But we know it's not ricin. Apparently it's some other toxin. But no, the color really doesn't make much difference in the initial stages of the investigation. KAGAN: And Then I wanted to ask you a follow-up question about something you mentioned it, and Jeanne mentioned it, too, that these initial tests have an abnormally high number of false positives. Why is that?

BROOKS: Well, it depends on what kind of assay they used. There's a number of different field testings that they could be used on this. The science has not been perfected for the field test. Again, you know, it's a tool that they use to determine what is it? Is it a chemical, is it a biological? Is it a radiological? Is it a toxin? Is it something else? And they really just have not perfected the science of the field testing as of yet. They're good, but they could be a lot better.

KAGAN: All right, well, Mike, thanks very much.

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