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CNN BREAKING NEWS
World Reaction to Danish Cartoon Controversy; A Senate Office Building is Evacuated for Fear of a Nerve Gas Attack
Aired February 8, 2006 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Lou.
And to our viewers, you're now in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all the time. Standing by, CNN reporters across the United States and around the world to bring you today's top stories.
Happening now, it's 1:00 a.m. Thursday in Denmark, where one Muslim cleric is accused by some of fanning the flames of fury over the cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. Tonight, I'll ask him about those accusations.
It's 4:00 p.m. in the San Francisco Bay area. Talk radio there and across the United States buzzing over the cartoon controversy. We'll listen into the heated conversations.
And it's 7:00 p.m. here in the nation's capital, where an image of the Muslim Prophet can be found on the United States Supreme Court. Why hasn't it and similar images sparked rioting? We're going to hear from the experts.
I'm Wolf Blitzer, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
New violence and new deaths from the furious demonstrations around the world protesting caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed. Governments in many Islamic countries are struggling to try to control the violence while western leaders try to balance sensitivity with free speech rights.
We have comprehensive coverage for you tonight here in THE SITUATION ROOM, starting with our senior international correspondent, Brent Sadler. He's in the Lebanese capital -- Brent.
BRENT SADLER, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Wolf. Protests in the Muslim world show no sign of dying down, despite worldwide appeals for calm. As international efforts intensify to repair the damage, Denmark's prime minister tells CNN he's shocked at the events, explaining their days of witnessing the protests with disbelief and sorrow.
SADLER (voice-over): New violence and more deaths, this time in the southern Afghan city of Kalat. Muslims outraged by the cartoon depictions of the Prophet Mohammed set fires and tried to storm a police station, as well as a U.S. military base. At least five people were killed, although it's not clear by who.
COL. JAMES YONTS, U.S. ARMY: At this time, I'm not able to say whether or not the U.S. forces fired the shots.
SADLER: There were more demonstrations in the Afghan capital as well, despite pleas from a top Muslim organization there for an end to the rioting.
And in neighboring Pakistan, a sign of how broad the Muslim rage is, the Danish flag burned side by side with the U.S. and Israeli flags. Protests are spanning the globe from Asia to Africa. Some Muslim leaders concede radical jihadists are fanning the flames of hatred.
KMELEDDIN IHSANOGLU, ORG. OF THE ISLAMIC CONFERENCE: I think extremism breeds extremism, fanaticism breeds fanaticism. And this is the radical answer to a radical provocation. And, unfortunately, certain elements are making use of this.
SADLER: In Iraq, hundreds of followers of the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr marched through Baquba. This protest, largely peaceful. The country's most revered Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has condemned the cartoons, but also the violent reaction.
Still, some 500 Danish troops stationed near the southern city of Basra remain on alert. They've had stones thrown at hem, but so far nothing more.
SADLER: Shia Muslims in Lebanon, as elsewhere in the Middle East, commemorate one of the most important dates in the Islamic calendar Thursday, Ashura, when it's hoped Muslim leaders will urge calm -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brent Sadler reporting for us in Beirut. Thank you very much.
President Bush is reacting on the violence, calling on governments around the world to help put an end to it. Our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux, has more on the president's reaction -- Suzanne.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The back story here, Wolf, is that according to White House and State Department officials I spoke with, they were not happy with the initial reports about this story coming up late last week.
They felt that the administration officials' messages were being misconstrued, that somehow the U.S. was blaming Denmark for this controversy. Today, the White House wanted to make it absolutely clear that that's not the case.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I call upon the governments around the world to stop the violence.
MALVEAUX (voice-over): Backing him, the president's powerful Middle Eastern ally, Jordan's King Abdullah.
KING ABDULLAH II, JORDAN: Anything that vilifies the Prophet Mohammed -- peace be upon him -- or attacks Muslim sensibilities, I believe needs to be condemned. But at the same time, those that want to protest should do it thoughtfully, articulately.
MALVEAUX: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accused America's foes of deliberately stoking the controversy.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: Iran and Syria have gone out of their way to inflame sentiments and to use this to their own purposes. And the world ought to call them on it.
MALVEAUX: The outrage over the Mohammed cartoon, first published in the Danish media, is admittedly a sensitive issue, Mr. Bush said.
BUSH: We believe in a free press. We also recognize that with freedom comes responsibilities.
MALVEAUX: Saturday when Muslim protesters set the Danish and Norwegian embassies on fire in Syria, the White House issued a carefully crafted statement expressing "solidarity with Denmark and our European allies in opposition to the outrageous acts."
But Monday, the president's spokesman made a point to recognize the protesters' concerns.
SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: We understand fully why Muslims find the cartoons offensive.
MALVEAUX: In the same statement, the administration also condemns offensive Arab media.
MCCLELLAN: Cartoons and articles that frequently have appeared in the Arab world espousing anti-Semitic and anti-Christian views.
MALVEAUX: And, Wolf, yesterday President Bush called Denmark's Prime Minister Rasmussen to offer his support. White House officials say they're also very pleased with the statements they've gotten today from some of the Middle Eastern allies, including those form Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Suzanne Malveaux reporting from the White House. Thank you very much.
While the cartoons are sparking violent protests throughout the Muslim world, in this country, there's outrage over the outrage. It's certainly a hot topic on talk radio and elsewhere. CNN's Chris Lawrence is joining us now from San Francisco with more on this -- Chris. CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we listened to hours of talk radio and found that a lot of Americans are very upset about the violence that these cartoons have created. But some of them are just as frustrated with what they see as the reaction to the reaction.
LAWRENCE (voice-over): The outrage across the Middle East has spawned another kind of outcry in America.
JEFF KATZ, KNEW 910 AM: I hear some leaders of the world falling all over themselves to apologize. Oh, my goodness, we didn't mean to insult you. What have we done now?
LAWRENCE: Conservative talk radio host Jeff Katz and his callers criticized those who make excuses for the violent protests.
CALLER: I keep looking for some sign of this religion of peace and these so-called moderate Muslims that don't act this way, and I haven't heard that.
KATZ: We'll go to more of your calls and ...
LAWRENCE: But a guest on San Francisco's NPR station says prominent Muslims have condemned the outburst, and are reacting with restraint.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The vast majority are not out there on the streets demonstrating or calling for violence.
LAWRENCE: Another caller called the protesters hypocrites, saying Muslin countries publish anti-Semitic cartoons that defame Jewish leaders.
CALLER: If you have a cartoon of Sharon eating a baby, is that permissible just because there's a political figure in there?
LAWRENCE: It's against Islamic teachings to depict the Prophet Mohammed at all, much less with a bomb on his head, as the cartoons are drawn.
KATZ: We're not seeing these cartoon images on our news outlets.
LAWRENCE: Some American media are showing the cartoons. Most are not. But in an age when the Internet instantly spreads content all over the world, some question how artists can be culturally sensitive to every community where material can appear.
KATZ: Westerners will either retain their civilization, including the right to insult or blaspheme, or they will not.
LAWRENCE: Now, for its part, CNN managers decided not to show the negative caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed. The network believes its role is to cover the events surrounding the publication of these cartoons, while not necessarily adding more fuel to the controversy itself -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Chris Lawrence reporting for us. Thank you very much.
Let's check in with Jack Cafferty in New York. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Muslim extremism has been on display around the world for almost a week now, and it isn't pretty. People killed and wounded, property destroyed, all over a cartoon.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accused the governments of Iran and Syria of inflaming the situation, and she has a point. You don't get near a foreign embassy in Syria unless somebody in charge allows you to. The silence from the governments of the Islamic countries is deafening. A few moderate Muslim clerics, as well as King Abdullah of Jordan, have called for peaceful protests.
But where's the outrage from the Muslim community as a whole? Sort of reminds you of 9/11, doesn't it? There were actually celebrations in Muslim countries over the murder of almost 3,000 innocent people in the United States. To me, the message seems pretty clear.
The question is this -- what do you want to hear from Muslim leaders in reaction to the cartoon controversy? E-mail your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can go to cnn.com/caffertyfile.
BLITZER: Jack, thank you very much.
And coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM my interview with the Muslim cleric, who some say fanned the flames of hatred. We are going to show you his role in the cartoon controversy.
Also, the U.S. media grappling with whether or not to show the cartoon to their viewers, their readers. Details of who is, who isn't and why.
Plus, editorial cartoonists are all over the story. We will look at their work and how they are handling this very delicate story.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Cartoon outrage. Are depictions of the prophet Mohammed blasphemist? We are taking a closer look at Muslim law. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: More now on the controversy over those cartoons of the prophet Mohammed. Deadly violence intensifying around the world. And news media organization here in the United States, around the world as well, grappling with whether they should show the caricatures to viewers and readers or not.
CNN's Mary Snow is in New York. And she has been watching this part of the story--Mary.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, most news organizations here in the U.S. are not showing the images of the prophet Mohammed. And it has led to a debate over the line between freedom of the press and religious sensitivity.
SNOW (voice over): At the Associated Press headquarters editors have grappled with the question being debated in news rooms across the country. In reporting on the growing anger over the publication of the prophet Mohammed cartoons, should news organizations show the actual cartoons sparking the controversy?
At the A.P. executive editor Kathleen Carroll was among the editors, who decided not to show them.
KATHLEEN CARROLL, ASSOCIATED PRESS: They were provocative and deliberately offensive to millions of people. And we felt we could tell the story just fine by describing them without showing them.
SNOW: However, the cult has showed the controversy is so intense at the small "New York Press," staff of six, that four staff members resigned from the paper to protest the decision not to show the cartoons.
TIM MARCHMAN, NEW YORK PRESS: It would have made a mockery of what we were trying to do. And also because we felt every outlet in the country should be running these so that there are no writers who go over the American press.
SNOW: "The Philadelphia Inquirer" said journalistic values are at the heart of the debate. Its editors explained the decision to print one of the illustrations saying the paper did so to, quote, "lay out all sides of the issues for a well informed public to debate and discuss."
Major newspapers have not printed the drawings. Media observers say besides not wanting to offend Muslims there are other pressures on news executives.
HOWARD KURTZ, WASHINGTON POST MEDIA CRITIC: But you have to know there are walking on egg shells because of the violent reaction in many countries around the world.
SNOW: Of the television networks CNN, NBC and CBS have not aired the controversial caricatures of Mohammed. At Fox, anchor Chris Wallace showed them on his Sunday program, he says, to show people what the controversy is about.
ABC showed them once, it says, to put the story in context. But is no longer doing so.
SNOW: And in explaining its position, CNN says it is not showing the negative caricatures of the likeness of the prophet Mohammed because the network believes its role is to cover the events surrounding the publication of the cartoons while not unnecessarily adding fuel to the controversy itself--Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Mary. Thank you very much.
Islam frowns at any images of the prophet Mohammed, but there are some to be found around the world.
CNN's Brian Todd has been speaking with experts about the depictions of the prophet and why they are so controversial--Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Islamic scholars say what is going on now after the publication of these cartoons needs to be put in context. A critical part of that, they say, is understanding how Muslims feel about images of virtually any spiritual leader.
TODD (voice over): For many Muslims the outrage goes beyond the derogatory depiction of their prophet. Experts says the Koran does not specifically ban images of the prophet Mohammed, but you likely will not find a painting of Mohammed in any mosque as opposed to churches where likenesses of Jesus Christ abound.
Islamic scholars we spoke to say its their teachings that have traditionally frowned upon these images and not just those of Muslim spiritual leaders.
IMAM YAHYA HENDI, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: Muslims believe that those prophets and messengers have to be honored, have to be respected, must not be insulted whether they are Mohammed or Moses or David or Jesus Christ.
TODD: But images of Mohammed are found in art museums in New York and Washington even at the Supreme Court where the prophet is carved in stone sculpture right above the justice's bench. The court's web site calls this well intentioned and says it bears no resemblance to Mohammed.
Still, this sculpture has drawn protest. One scholar says the general view is these symbols can become a distraction.
KARIM ABDUL BANGURA, PROF., AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: The teaching says that when you start associating a picture of such symbols that people will start either worshipping those symbols or selling those symbols for profit. And then your attention becomes diverted from the only supreme beings as opposed to worshipping just God.
TODD: Two Muslim scholars sought to put the current protest into perspective saying when the recent movies, "The Passion of the Christ" and "The Last Temptation of Christ," came out they were banned in several Muslim countries. In part, they say, because it was believed those films insulted Jesus--Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us. Thanks for that explanation.
Still to come here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the Danish prime minister talks to CNN about the cartoon controversy. Why he says his government has nothing to apologize for.
Plus, a string of fires at predominately black churches. Now, officials offer some new theories on who might be behind them.
Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back. The controversy and the violence are especially shocking to Denmark, which historically has had good relations with the Muslim world. CNN's senior international correspondent Matthew Chance is in Copenhagen where he spoke about the controversy with the Danish prime minister. Matthew asked him if he was surprised by the reaction around the world.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN, DANISH PRIME MINISTER: Actually, it is a bit shocking. We're witnessing the events unfolding with disbelief and sadness. We're not used to it. And I think it's a false picture of Denmark.
We are portrayed as a society which is intolerant and an enemy of Islam, and it's a false picture. On the contrary, I consider Denmark one of the most tolerant and open societies. You might call it a liberal society, in the world. We're used to having friendly relations with all countries in the world. So for us, it's a very unusual and shocking situation.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Denmark has a small contingent of troops in Iraq. It's been a big supporter of the U.S.-led war on terrorism. Do you think this latest controversy over the cartoons could potentially increase the risk of the people of Denmark being targeted by terrorist groups?
RASMUSSEN: All over the world, there is a risk, including in Denmark. So obviously, we're very much aware of that. But I don't think this specific case will increase the risk, specifically, for Denmark. But we should be aware of the fact that globally there is an increased risk.
CHANCE: Given the outrage, given the violence that we've all witnessed overseas as a result of these cartoons, do you still stand by the right of Danish newspapers to publish images like this?
RASMUSSEN: As you know, freedom of expression and freedom of press are cornerstones in the Danish democracy. But from the very outset, I have emphasized that freedom of expression must always be exercised in such a way that we respect all faiths and respect religious beliefs.
We have freedom of expression, but also, freedom of religion. So, of course, it is a balance. But I think that everybody should realize that neither the Danish government nor the Danish people can be held responsible for what is published in a free and independent newspaper.
As far as Syria and Iran are concerned, we hold the government responsible for what has happened, and we have condemned the attacks. We have protested. And I think the international community should study carefully what has really happened. Because it is up to the host countries to protect diplomatic missions. That's one of the cornerstones in the international community.
CHANCE: One of the features of this controversy, perhaps, has been the amount of misinformation put out there that has kind of fanned the flames of anger amongst many of those crowds we saw across the Middle East, across the Islamic world. Pictures, for instance, depicting the Prophet Muhammad as a pig which never appeared in Danish newspapers.
Do you think your diplomats, do you think your government was quick enough to recognize that or was it too slow in countering those false allegations?
RASMUSSEN: You're quite right that we have been a victim of wide-spread misinformation. False pictures have been distributed. Rumors of burning of the Koran in Denmark have been distributed. Everything is false.
It's very, very difficult to counter all of these false pictures and rumors fast enough. Of course, they're spread as messages, web logs, mobile phones, and it's extremely difficult for our diplomats to counter it fast enough. So obviously, we have to speed up our efforts to counter all of these -- all this misinformation. But I think we couldn't foresee this new way of attacking a whole nation, I would say.
It's really -- it's really, I would put it this way, it's really a war taking place in cyberspace.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The Danish prime minister speaking with our Matthew Chance earlier today in Copenhagen.
Just ahead, the man accused of sparking the riots in the Middle East. I'll ask him why he exported anger, in effect, from Denmark.
Plus, political fear, cartoonists in this country now walking the fine line as they try to get their jobs done. Our Jeanne Moos has the story. Stay with us.
BLITZER: You're back in THE SITUATION ROOM. Welcome back. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Did a Muslim cleric from Copenhagen spark the worldwide riots over cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed. The leader of a Mosque in the Danish capital first organized a letter- writing campaign after the cartoons appeared in a newspaper there last September.
When that got nowhere he showed the cartoons to Muslims in the Middle East and then the issue caught fire. Just a short while ago, Imam Ahmad Abu Laban spoke with me from Copenhagen.
BLITZER: Imam thank you very much for joining us.
These 12 cartoons were originally published in Denmark at the end of September. There really wasn't much reaction outside of Denmark. You then went in November with your delegation to the Middle East. What was the purpose of that? Why did you want to do that because the crisis really started to develop after that trip?
IMAM AHMAD ABU LABAN, ISLAMIC BELIEF SOCIETY: When the issue came to the status of the prophet Mohammed in these cartoons we tried to alarm the situation to reach the newspaper and to tell them about the consequences. We did not receive a response to that.
BLITZER: Imam, the editor of this Danish newspaper, Flemming Rose, who says that when you went on that trip to the Middle East in November you took drawings that weren't even published in his newspapers.
He says, "The imams manipulated Arab opinion by misinforming them and showing them drawings that never even appeared in our newspaper, making them believe that we are continuing to publish the caricatures."
Is he right?
LABAN: No, I don't think so. It was written in some correspondence to different sides in Denmark that our main concern is to reach the director. We have no capacity to reach Egyptian masses or to talk to the common street people.
Our target is the head of the Sunni-Muslims in Cairo. We give him a professional documentary. The delegation had put it very clear about having been published by the conservative newspaper. Everybody knows that it is only a dozen of the cartoons not less, not more.
But to make the case clear we made a second section with another weekly newspapers called "Vicken a Vicen" (ph) had published other cartoons. And if that section--when some imams in Denmark had received intimidation letters as usual when we have these cartoons which Mr. Rose is speaking about.
And when you ask me why we included the third one because we honest enough, accurate enough to tell the people about the mood of atheism. And we are in a desperate of their help not by putting political pressure but to come as academics and theologians and to be an equal counter parties to the people in Denmark. And we would have a better chance for communication.
BLITZER: Was it your intention, Imam, to incite this angry reaction against Denmark?
LABAN: No. The issue started from Denmark. It will come back to Denmark. Mr. Rose can tell you that we tried to list in his paper. We sent a letter to the minister of culture. All our concern is to make it in Denmark. To publicize the issue was never of our interest.
BLITZER: As you know though, there has been a huge angry reaction. Do you support the violence, the anger that has been displayed in so much of the Muslim world right now?
LABAN: We denounce and we reject and we refuse any act of violence. From religious judgment it is a sin to resort to violence and nobody is allowed to go to embassies and to stone them.
BLITZER: The co-founder of Hamas, the Palestinian organization, Mahmoud al-Zahar, is quoted by the Associated Press as saying, "We should have killed all those who offend the Prophet." Clearly, an extreme statement.
Do you understand why there is this strong attitude among some in the Muslim world that those responsible for these caricatures should be killed?
LABAN: Number one, we disagree with any fatwa coming from abroad. We are living in Europe and we think we are competent enough to produce the necessary fatwa. We have enjoyed the atmosphere of democracy.
The prime minister in Denmark had repeated so many times that the situation in Denmark is to respect people of any faith and to deal with them in a decent and fair way.
BLITZER: Here in the United States there are many who are very angry over what they see as a double standard in the Muslim world. Deep anger, even fury and violence resulting from these pictures of the prophet Mohammed.
Yet, no similar outrage when we saw pictures of kidnapped American journalists or the beheading of some who have been kidnapped by Muslims in various parts of the Middle East. Do you understand why there is this accusation of a double standard? Why is there no outrage, similar outrage, over these other evil pictures that we have seen?
LABAN: It's the contrary. Me, as a good listener to CNN, I have seen so many of your Muslim guests and Arab guests are speaking the contrary. They are accusing the west of double standard.
Most of the tragedies are taking place in the Muslim land. The devastation is available in the Muslim land. The raping of wealth is taking place in the Muslim land. Atrocities and massacres and civil wars are available in the Muslim lands. They suffer.
BLITZER: You condemn the beheading of these Americans, the taking of hostages like Jill Carroll?
LABAN: Yes, we condemn the--in the first place, the American decision to invade Iraq and so many critics have come. We have seen it all together on CNN that democracy can never be developed or served by tanks, et cetera, et cetera.
While I think the Palestinian democracy so far is functioning in a better way than what we see in Iraq under the acclimation of the-- what do you call it?--allied forces. Let's hope that democratization will spread day to day.
BLITZER: Imam thank you very much for joining us.
LABAN: My pleasure. Thank you.
BLITZER: And yesterday we spoke with the editor of that Danish newspaper that first authorized the publication of those cartoons, Flemming Rose. More on this story coming up this hour.
But let's check in with CNN's Carol Lin. She is joining us from the CNN Center in Atlanta with a closer look at some other stories making news right now.
CAROL LIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there Wolf.
Alabama Governor Bob Reilly says he thinks the string of church fires in his state is the work of a few locals and not a conspiracy against religion. Federal and state investigators are trying to determine if fires at four Baptist churches in western Alabama yesterday are linked to last week's church fires near Birmingham.
Now officials say last week's fires were arson, and they say it's possible yesterday's church burnings are copycat crimes.
Well, right now sheriff's officials are trying to calm another inmate disturbance at a county jail in Castaic, California. Authorities say it is the same detention center where racially charged riots left one inmate dead and more than 100 others injured on Saturday.
Now, fighting broke out over the weekend. And on Monday between Latino and African-American prisoners. At least inmate is said to be hospitalized in today's disturbance.
Well, the new House majority leader's landlord is a lobbyist. "The Washington Post" reports Congressman John Boehner rents a basement apartment in D.C. from a lobbyist whose clients had an interest in legislation Boehner had overseen.
A spokesman for the Ohio Republican says he is not aware of any specific efforts by the lobbyist to try to influence his tenant. Boehner is currently involved in GOP efforts to reform lobbying rules in Congress.
Well, ABC's anchor Bob Woodruff remains under sedation at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. He suffered serious head injuries in a roadside bombing in Iraq 10 days ago.
Now, ABC says he is making progress. And his cameraman Doug Vogt, who was also injured has been moved to an outpatient facility. And, Wolf, that is very good news indeed. It sounds like they are improving, both of them..
BLITZER:: We wish them both only the best, a speedy recovery.
Carol, thank you very much.
Let's check in with Anderson Cooper now for a quick preview of what is coming up on his program later night--Anderson.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, hey, Wolf.
Tonight at 10:00 on "360" the latest on the Entwistle's murders. A mother and her baby shot execution style in their Massachusetts's home. Tonight, a timeline of events, what police are facing in their investigation and we will talk over the legal issues with CNN's Jeffrey Toobin.
Plus, we'll continue our look at medical mysteries. Imagine having the hiccups not just for a few minutes but for years almost half a decade. One man shares his misery and what he is trying to do to stop them.
Also, a lot more ahead on medical mysteries. That's "360" at 10:00--Wolf.
BLITZER: We'll be watching Anderson. Thanks very much.
Up next here in THE SITUATION ROOM more on those controversial cartoons. You've heard from the president, from European leaders and others, but what do you want to hear from Muslim leaders?
Jack Cafferty has been going through your email.
And what is your home worth? For that matter, what is your neighbor's home worth? Ever wonder? Now you can find out. Stay with us we are going to tell you what to do.
BLITZER: There's a real mysterious story developing up on Capitol Hill. CNN's Ed Henry, our Congressional correspondent, is standing by. What are you picking up, Ed? ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, from two Senate sources we're being told that police officials on Capitol Hill believe that there was a nerve agent found in the Russell Senate Office Building. That's one of three office buildings on the Senate side of the Capitol.
We're told a short time ago an alarm sounded, an alarm that staffers in that building had never heard before, urging all police personnel to leave the building immediately, all staffers and the Senate are -- I'm told there are over 200 staffers still in the building -- were then told to go to a safe area. It's a parking garage, connected to the Russell Building.
They're being held there as we speak. They're being told, again, according to two sources telling CNN, they're being told by police officials there have been two positive hits for a nerve agent found in the Russell Building, some sort of biological agent. They're waiting on a third test that's supposed to be coming in any minute, Wolf.
BLITZER: So basically what you're hearing, are staffers actually fleeing the building or are they just being concentrated in this parking lot area?
HENRY: They're being concentrated in the parking lot. They could not leave the building. I'm told staffers who were trying to leave could not leave. There's a concern among the police.
We don't know whether this is going to be borne out or not, but there's a concern from the police that these staffers -- and I can tell you, some senators may have been exposed to a biological agent. I'm told by these two sources there are over 200 Senate staffers and about eight U.S. senators in this parking garage right now, Wolf.
BLITZER: And we're standing by, you say, for a news conference, is that right?
HENRY: Well, we're expecting one at some point. We don't have any details on that. On my way over to the bureau here, I was passed by several fire engines that were literally rushing to the scene trying to aid the U.S. Capitol police in dealing with this situation.
Again, about eight U.S. senators, we're told over 200 Senate staffers still in this parking garage. We don't know where it's headed. But they are being told that there were two positive hits for a nerve agent of some kind. They have not gotten any more details, but I'm getting some phone calls from people in the parking garage who are quite obviously concerned, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Ed. We're going to stay on top of this story. I know you were heading to a black tie dinner here in Washington. You're obviously not going to be heading to that dinner until we get this matter clarified. Ed Henry is our Congressional correspondent.
And we'll get the latest for you on this story as soon as we learn. And if that news conference happens, we're going to bring it to you live. Hopefully, it's a false alarm, but let's wait and see.
Let's return now to our top story, worldwide protests over those cartoons published in a Danish newspaper. First, there were the cartoons perhaps drawn to evoke some humor. But as you've seen from the chaos, many Muslims are not amused at all. Now, some are making fun of the unfunny reaction. CNN's Jeanne Moos explains.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These are not the offending cartoons, these cartoons about the offending cartoons. Take the one about a cartoonist who gets a message. "We resent your inaccurate depiction of Mohammed as a murdering terrorist. So we're sending over some terrorists to murder you."
Even when the late night comedians make jokes about this subject, one thing they joke about is no joke.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I chose not to show the offending cartoons out of an ethical concern that I would be killed.
DAVID LETTERMAN, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": I have decided to stop drawing Muslim cartoons. It's just not fun anymore.
MOOS: But cartoonists haven't stopped drawing. Mike Luckovich showed east and west arguing, "sword mightier" -- "pen is."
MIKE LUCKOVICH, "ATLANTA JOURNAL CONSTITUTION": You have in the back of your mind, well, geez, you know, what if people object to this cartoon and they're carrying sabers?
MOOS: This cartoonist loses his head while protesting, "yes, but it's Muhammad Ali."
(on camera): Since CNN and many others aren't showing cartoons that depict the Mohammed, we won't show you all of the cartoons drawn by Daryl Cagle.
DARYL CAGLE, CAGLE CARTOONS: I drew a figure of a kid who drew a stick figure and he wrote the word Mohammed with an arrow pointing at it, and a guy who would seem to be a Muslim says, "thank you for the drawing, Billy, but now I have to kill you."
MOOS (voice-over): Cagle, who's collected cartoons into books and runs a syndicate of cartoonists, says even cartoons about the offending cartoons have provoked reaction.
CAGLE: Some of our cartoonists are getting phone calls and e- mail threats.
MOOS: Exactly the theme "The Daily Show" picked up on.
JON STEWART, "THE DAILY SHOW": What are your thoughts on the violence, Ed?
ED HELMS: None, no thoughts, only profound respect for a great religion.
STEWART: Where are you, Ed?
MOOS: Right before our eyes, cartoonist Mike Luckovich whipped up this cartoon.
LUCKOVICH: OK, this is the cartoonist's nightmare.
MOOS: It shows a cartoonist being introduced to a Muslim. "Meet your new editor." But we wouldn't blame a cartoonist for not wanting to touch this subject with a 10-foot pencil.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BLITZER: And when we come back, we're going to update you on what's happening on Capitol Hill right now. There's been an alarm for some evidence, perhaps, of a nerve agent. It may be a false alarm. But we're going to go back to Capitol Hill, show you what's happening in the Russell Senate Office Building where people have been evacuated. We'll tell you what's going on in this story right after this.
BLITZER: We're watching breaks news on Capitol Hill. Here in Washington, I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. We want to welcome our international viewers as well. Let's get the latest on an alarm that's been sounded up on Capitol Hill. Our congressional correspondent Ed Henry is standing by. What are we learning, update our viewers, Ed.
HENRY: Just got new information from at least one person who is being held in a quarantine situation, basically, along with over 200 other people in a Senate parking garage.
This is being confirmed with other sources as well. The first hit, the first test was positive for a biological nerve agent being found in the Russell Building. The confusion that's going on now is a second test came in and that was negative.
So they're now conducting a third test to try to come to some sort of conclusion about whether or not in fact this biological nerve agent is present in The Russell Senate Office Building which as you know is right next to the Capitol dome there. It's the oldest office building on the Senate side. A lot of prominent people, John Kerry, Ted Kennedy, Hillary Clinton have their offices there.
I'm told that among the Senators who are being quarantined right now because of a fear that they could have been exposed to this nerve agent, Republican Gordon Smith, Republican John Thune, Republican Chuck Hagel, among others. And again over 200 staffers as well.
They're being held in the parking garage adjacent to the Senate Russell Building. It goes underground, of course. To be clear, the first hit was positive for a biological nerve agent. Now being told by multiple sources some inside the quarantine and others outside, that the second test was negative. That's why they're conducting a third test.
I'm finally being told that test expected to come in within 30 to 45 minutes, Wolf.
BLITZER: Ed, stand by our justice correspondent Kelli Arena is also watching the story. What are you picking up?
KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, law enforcement officials are stressing at this point that nothing is confirmed. U.S. Capitol police are in the lead. The hazardous materials team is there. The Washington field office of the FBI has been advised. It's also sending a team over to assess the situation.
But they said the testing, as Ed said, is inclusive at this point, Wolf. You know, many times we have a lot of those white powder incidents where is tests first are positive, and then they come back negative. So law enforcement officials caution that right now it's inconclusive.
They say, yes, there was one test that did come back positive for a possible nerve agent. They did not identify what nerve agent they were talking about. But said that they have to wait until further testing is done. Everything they say is being done, obviously, to take every precaution necessary. But they stress that they're not reacting because of what they know. They're reacting more on what they don't know at this point, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, stand by for a moment as well, together, with Ed. I want to go to The Russell Senate Office Building. The garage there now.
Eileen McMenamin is on the phone. She's the communications director for John McCain, Republican of Arizona. Set the scene for us. What are you hearing there, what are you seeing?
EILEEN MCMENAMIN, MCCAIN COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: We were all at work and an alarm went off. And there was an alarm to immediately leave the building. Everyone grabbed their bags. Didn't even log off their computers. Ran down the hall. They wouldn't let anybody go outside, the Capitol Police that is, and told us to go into the west garage which has apparently been described to us as a safe zone.
There are guys down here testing the air. They assure it's a safe place to be. There are a bunch of people here including senators. Senator Hagel is right here in front of me. Senator John Thune, Senator Burr and we're all just sort waiting to be told to do next.
The Capitol Police have been briefing us. We've gotten two briefings so far. Reporting much the same as you guys are reporting. But we will know more about test results in 30 to 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, they said they don't want any of to us leave the garage, I guess the fear is if any of us are contaminated we would go out into the wider world and spread whatever it is we may be contaminated with.
BLITZER: What are the Capitol Hill police saying to you, Eileen? What specific information are they giving you?
MCMENAMIN: They said there was a hit for a chemical agent by one of the monitors, I guess they have been in place since after 9/11. And there was a hit in the attic of The Russell Senate Office Building which is where is where I work. And they did another quick test to see if there was any positive result, and they said there was.
They said this is precautionary because it could be fertilizer or anything else. And I think they're giving these bigger tests and sending individuals down to trailers that they said they'll be able to get more and probably more accurate information to us. But that we should wait another 30 to 40 minutes before we know anything for sure.
In the meantime, they set up a place to be a little treatment facility. They've got a little sort of tent-like thing here in the garage where I presume if any of us need any sort of treatments, they would whisk us over there and administer any treatments that may be.
BLITZER: They're saying this is a biological nerve agent. Of course, it's going to remind a lot of the viewers after 9/11 of the anthrax letters that arrived on Capitol Hill. Are they giving you any more specifics on the nature of perhaps what this biological nerve agent may have been if in fact it turns out to be an actual threat?
MCMENAMIN: Not at all. They just used the words nerve agent. They weren't any more specific than that. Like I said, they did do one test that was negative. They're testing that again. The mood down here seems to be pretty jovial for people stuck in a garage. It's surprising the number of people that are down here. I guess that just goes to show how hard everyone works on Capitol Hill. Because there's quite a few people still at the office at this time.
BLITZER: What time exactly did that alarm go off? Have you ever heard that specific alarm going off in the building?
MCMENAMIN: Yes, if they ever have any sort of suspicious package or anything like that. The alarm will go off. It's weird that they actually have had us evacuate the building. It's happened once or twice, and I know that CNN has covered that, but always, thankfully, false alarms. Tonight the alarm went off, it was around 7:00, maybe five after 7:00, and it seemed much more urgent, they said everyone needs to leave, including senators and staff and Capitol police.
BLITZER: Eileen, I'm going to show the viewers a picture of the Russell Senate Office Building. Here it is from the outside. We see lights inside. This is one of the Senate office buildings not directly on the U.S. Capitol, it's to the side of the U.S. Capitol. But this is where all the senators have their office and in these three Senate office buildings and they have these underground subways that bring them back and forth to the Capitol. You say Senator Hagel, among others are right there. What do they say? MCMENAMIN: Well, you know, I think we were all watching when the senators were first brought down here to the garage. They were sort of, you know, antsy to get home, as we all are. We were watching to see what would happen whether they would be released out of this garage. When they weren't, we all sort of took that as a bad sign that maybe something more is going on here and they didn't want to let anyone leave, no matter if you are a staffer or a senator.
BLITZER: And perhaps through an abundance of caution, that's why they have concentrated everyone, the senators and the staffers and others in the Russell Senate Office Building in this parking garage. Eileen, I'm going to have you stand by, if you don't mind.
Pat D'Amuro is a CNN security analyst, former deputy director of the FBI. Pat, when you hear about this alarm going off, positive test, one positive test, then a negative test for a biological nerve agent, undefined at this point, what goes through your mind?
PAT D'AMURO, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Wolf, I think it's important to note when you're talking about testing of biological agents, a lot of times you'll get a false positive reading on biological agents. There is really no adequate field test to determine biological agents.
(INAUDIBLE)... is much more accurate in determining that there might be a possible nerve agent there. What they're in the process of doing, I'm sure, is securing the building, locking down the building, making sure that any inhabitants there are going to be tested to see if there's a contaminant on some of the clothing of if they're in any way affected by this item that they found.
BLITZER: In the field are there usually good lab equipment that they can do a precise test like this.
D'AMURO: Well, technology is getting better every day, but unfortunately for biological agents the technology is not quite there to do an accurate field testing. Many times you will get a false positive on a biological device and you really need to send those items to the lab to determine what, in fact, you have, if anything.
BLITZER: Pat D'Amuro is our CNN security analyst. Pat, thanks very much. We're going to stay on top of this story, a security scare on. Capitol Hill. Paula Zahn is going to take over our coverage right now. She's standing by in New York. Paula.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: And for folks just joining us here at top of the hour, we are going to start out tonight with tonight's breaking news out of Washington, on Capitol Hill.
The Russell Senate Office Building has been evacuated, after an alarm signaled the presence of some kind of chemical agent. A hazardous material team from the Capitol Police is now on the scene. A second test has come back negative. More testing is being done right now.
We have just heard from someone on Capitol Hill, it might take 30 to 40 minutes to process that test. Now, just a reminder that we are not talking about this going down in the Capitol Building itself, but in one of the large office buildings right next door.
And a law enforcement official tells CNN, an alarm went off in the attic of the Russell Building, signaling the presence of, potentially, a chemical agent. Eight senators and some 200 Senate staffers who were in the building have been quarantined. Many of them have been told to wait in an underground parking garage under the building.
And we understand, from an interview Wolf just did from someone who works on John McCain's staff, that there is actually some sort of tent structure set up downstairs, if, ultimately, medical attention is required.
Let's quickly turn to Ed Henry, our congressional correspondent, who has gotten this information by a number -- number of Senate sources.
What else are they telling you tonight, Ed?
HENRY: Well, they're telling us that, basically, it was quite scary for them.
I'm talking to some people who are actually in this parking garage, adjacent to the Senate Russell Building. They heard this hazardous material alarm go off. All police personnel, all senators, staffers, ordered to leave the building right away.
The police were able to leave the buildings, but the senators and staffers were told to go to this parking garage, this so-called safe zone. What they are being told, right in that parking garage, by U.S. Capitol Police, is that, first of all, there was a first test that was found positive for some sort of a nerve agent. That's all they're being told.
A second test, though, was found to be negative. So, it's -- it's inconclusive. And, so, what we are being told is that they're -- they're basically either cleaning out or changing the filter, so that they can then conduct this third test. They're expecting the results on that in some 30 to 45 minutes.
Among the senators in there, Senator Chuck Hagel, Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire. We are told John Thune of South Dakota, Chris Dodd of Connecticut. They're being held in this -- in this quarantined area, out of a fear that they could have been exposed to a nerve agent, but I stress the word could.
Nobody has -- according to an e-mail I just got that is being sent around by the U.S. Capitol Police, no one has yet shown any signs of being sick, any signs of actually being exposed to any kind of agent like that. But, under an abundance of caution, they're keeping these senators and staffers in the parking garage, until they get this third test resolved -- Paula.
ZAHN: And, Ed, I was interested in hearing, I guess just about 10 minutes ago, saying that she has in fact heard this alarm go off, once an association, I guess, with a suspicious package that had been delivered to the Capitol.
Are you ever aware of this particular alarm having been sounded?
HENRY: I have heard of this alarm. And I know it -- these types of alarms are around the Capitol, but I actually have never heard them. I mean, I do want to stress that there are false alarms of -- of various kinds, for anthrax or other things, on a fairly regular basis on Capitol Hill.
It's a fact of life post-9/11. And, fortunately, most of the time, it turns out to be nothing. But I have not personally, in all the time that I'm on the Hill, heard this hazardous materials alarm.
You see all kinds of detectors when you're walking through the corridors up there in -- in somewhat discrete places on the ceilings, that are beeping, and you can tell that they're detecting things in the air. I have never heard this particular alarm go off. I have -- one staffer, Eileen McMenamin, from Senator McCain's office, said she has heard it a few times.
And all -- all those times, it has turned out to be negative, and -- fortunately. But I have not heard it. And I have spoken to other staffers who are in this parking garage who were quite alarmed when they heard this alarm go off, because they had never heard it before -- Paula.
ZAHN: Ed, please stand by. I want to give you the opportunity to call back a couple of your sources.
And, while you're doing that, I am going to bring Pat D'Amuro into our discussion, who used to be with the FBI, is now a CNN security analyst.
Pat, first of all, your reaction to this third test that's being conducted. We are told we probably won't have the results to this. The first test came back positive for what could potentially be a nerve agent, the second one negative, and now these current tests being done. What do you make of all this?
OK, unfortunately, we lost our -- our signal with Pat D'Amuro.
But it does beginning the question about the kind of testing situation that these agents might have on the ground right now, and how accurate that might potentially be.
Once again, a reminder now that we have some 200 Senate staffers sort of holed up in a -- a garage right now. They have been told they can't leave what is being called a safe zone. We know that, inside that, in addition to those staffers, are Senator Byrd (sic), Gregg, Thune, Dodd and Hagel.
Let's check in with Kelli Arena, who now has some more information from our Washington bureau.
Kelli, what are what are your sources telling you?
ARENA: Well, Paula, my sources are cautioning, saying, look, you know, we have nothing confirmed here.
These field tests, you should know, are very sensitive. And they often give off false positives. And there are often a series of tests that need to be done, that take a little bit more time, to really figure out exactly what they're dealing with.
And while it is true that initial testing indicated that there was a positive reaction for a nerve agent, subsequent testing, of course, was inconclusive. And -- and that happens more often than -- than our viewers probably are aware.
There are so many white powder calls, as they call them here. Law enforcement officials head to the scene. And -- and, at first, it tests positive, and, then, subsequent testing turns back negative, and -- and, you know -- this does seem to be, though, more precautionary moves that are -- that have been taken, when we don't often see buildings that are entirely evacuated and people held for as long as this group of people have been held.
But I have to tell you, Paula, the law enforcement officials that I have spoken to are -- are -- are really cautioning us to -- to take a deep breath and know that nothing is conclusive at this time, and to stress that these field tests are sometimes overly sensitive.
The technology is a lot better, but it's still not where they want it to be -- Paula.
ZAHN: Can you give us a better sense, Kelli, of the kind of resources that Capitol Police have on hand, on site, when something like this happens?
ARENA: Well, I -- I can't get into sort of the technical, you know, machinery that they have.
But I do know that it -- it's a lot more sophisticated than it was pre-9/11. And you also have, not only Capitol Police, but you have the FBI's hazardous material team as well that responds from the Washington field office in this situation.
And -- and they do have usually mobile units that they can test in. And, then, what they probably will do is grab it back and take it to the lab, the FBI lab, for further testing that would be more definitive, in terms of results. But they -- they usually are able, though, within -- within, you know, an hour or two, pretty able to determine, pretty definitively, what it is that they're dealing with.
And I think that we will probably hear that within the course of your program, Paula, whether or not this is for real, but Capitol Police...
ZAHN: Well, what -- whatever we're looking at, Kelli, they're sufficiently concerned on Capitol Hill tonight to have evacuated these folks and to have sent 200 staffers, as well as, we are told, eight senators...
ARENA: Exactly. Right.
ZAHN: ... to a parking garage to wait this thing out.
ARENA: As I said, we haven't seen this -- right.
We haven't seen this type of reaction before, but -- but lots of cautionary, you know, advice going out. They're saying, look, you know, keep in mind, these field tests are not as accurate as we would like them to be, inconclusive at this point. It may turn out that -- that we are dealing with something positive, which, of course, then brings in a whole other layer of security that would be put in place -- Paula.
ZAHN: Kelli, we are going to let you go to continue to work your sources...
ARENA: You got it.
ZAHN: ... and figure out any new information you can share with our audience.
And joining me now on the phone is Dean Wilkening. He is with the Stanford Center For International Security. He is an expert on biological warfare.
And, sir, I -- I guess we need to point out that, so far, our -- our sources are telling us that this alarm signaled some kind of presence of a chemical agent, not a biological agent.
The distinction here?
Unfortunately, I think our line has gone down with Dean -- Dean Wilkening.
Please, understand that there is an awful lot of information we're trying to bring to -- in to you from 16, 17 different sources.
Let me take one more crack at Mr. Wilkening.
Are -- are you there, sir?
DEAN WILKENING, STANFORD CENTER FOR INTERNATIONAL SECURITY: Yes.
WILKENING: Can you hear me?
ZAHN: I just -- yes, I do now. Thank you for your patience here.
I just wanted to reestablish with our audience, what we are being told is that this alarm signaled the presence of some kind of chemical agent. Originally, we thought it could be a biological agent, but now we're being told a chemical agent.
The distinction between that and a biological agent?
WILKENING: Well, I should, first of all, reiterate what I gather a number of other people have told you, that the chance that this is a false alarm in the detector is probably fairly high, as I think somebody mentioned.
The more sensitive these detectors get, the more likely you will see false alarms out of such detectors. If it is a chemical agent, as you have suggested, one thing that's interesting to note is that chemical agents act very quickly on humans.
And, so, if there was a fairly high concentration of chemical agent in the office building, people would have smelled it. They would have come out of the building with stinging eyes, difficulty breathing, dilated eyes, and the sort. And, apparently, nobody's reporting symptoms from anybody down there in the garage.
ZAHN: In fact, the last report we got described people being as quite relaxed about all this...
ZAHN: ... and not terribly worried.
WILKENING: Probably a bit bored with the whole thing.
Yes. Well, you remember the incident in the Tokyo subway in 1995, when Aum Shinrikyo released sarin gas, which is a nerve agent. And people were fleeing the subway with tearing eyes. They were covering their faces. They were choking, difficult breathing. Some people collapsed. That's the kind of event you witness when a nerve agent is released in modestly high concentration.
And even the Tokyo subway incident was relatively low concentration, compared to a -- a sophisticated attack. So, given that nobody is showing those symptoms, and given that the sensor indicates that it's chemical and not biological, my guess is -- and I hesitate to go too far out on a limb here -- my guess is that this is probably a false alarm.
ZAHN: Well, I hope you're right.
And, Mr. Wilkening, just stay with me for one second, because I want to go through the information we have had confirmed from a couple of Senate sources.
One is that the first test that was done came up positive, the second test, negative.
(CROSSTALK) ZAHN: The third test is in the process of being done right now. We're told maybe 8:30 would be the earliest we would get the results back from that.
Can you describe to us what you think is happening on site? We know that we have the Capitol Police working now in conjunction with the FBI hazardous material team. What kind of equipment is required to do this kind of testing?
WILKENING: Oh, there are a number of different field sensors that people can bring in to detect a chem -- the presence of chemical agents. The U.S. military has some.
They may be on loan to various people in the Washington area. I don't know if the Washington, D.C., police has this equipment or not, but I'm sure that the hazardous material teams that have been called in to this event have a range of different sensors. Now, they -- they tend not to be as sensitive as laboratory tests.
And, so, it wouldn't be surprising that some of them come up false. Maybe another one will come up positive. But suffice it to say, there are a range of detectors...
ZAHN: All right.
WILKENING: ... that...
WILKENING: ... be brought into the -- the scene there, and to double-check to see whether there are high concentrations of a nerve agent.
ZAHN: And -- and, when you talk about the range of -- of testing available, what are we to understand about the reliability of any of these tests, then, on site? You had made the point earlier, with the more sensitive these -- these detectors have become, probably, the greater the chances of a false positive.
Well, let's put it -- let's turn the question around a bit. If there's a high concentration of chemical agent, nerve agent, in the building, in the air in the building, then, most of these detectors are going to detect it fairly reliably.
So, they will be finding positive indications very quickly. If the concentration is very low, then, that's when the sensors -- when you get close to the sensor threshold, then, sometimes, they turn up positive, sometimes negative, and the tests become much less reliable.
And, so, the fact that they are going in with various detectors and sensors and are not coming up with strong positive signals indicates that, if there is any chemical agent there, it's probably in fairly low concentration. And, so, one could infer from that, that it's -- may not be a chemical agent at all, or, if it is, it doesn't -- well, who knows...
WILKENING: ... if it's a deliberate attempt or not. But if it was a deliberate attempt, it sure didn't go off very well, because a deliberate release of nerve agent in a building would send off very loud alarms, and you would be able to detect it quite readily with all kinds of different sensors you bring into the facility.
ZAHN: And -- and, once again, Dean, I want you to -- to stay with me, as I walk through some of this information we have just learned in the last nine minutes.
We just had Kelli Arena, who has reported from -- through her Homeland Security sources for everybody to take a deep breath here and sort of hold our breath until these tests are done. They're urging extreme caution in jumping to any conclusions about what we're talking about.
And, yet, when you hear that you now have eight senators, as well as 200 Senate staffers, who are holed up in the building parking lot, more or less -- maybe quarantined is too strong of a word, but definitely holed up -- it does make you wonder about this alarm that, in fact, went off in the attic of the Russell Building.
ZAHN: Let me ask you this.
If it turns out that there is -- we have one test showing positive, the second one, negative, third one now being conducted -- that -- that there is the presence of some sort of nerve agent in this building, can you describe us to how this would even get into the building, how it would be carried, how it would be transferred?
WILKENING: That's hard to speculate.
If it's a deliberate attempt -- well, first of all, some of the chemicals of the effluence inside of buildings might fool sensors, depending on the kind of building material used in the building.
But if it was a deliberate attempt, presumably, people, they -- they might carry a small vial of nerve -- nerve agent into the building, although that's pretty hard to do undetected, although I suppose it's possible. I don't know how they got in the attic, since that's where the sensor went off.
That would not be the best place, necessarily, to release nerve agent, unless there's a big air intake there. Most of the scenarios people worry about are where a terrorist comes up to some air intake and dumps it right into the air intake, and then the -- the heating ventilation system sucks up the agent and spreads it all over the building.
But, again, those scenarios, you would have a very -- a dramatically different situation unfolding than what has been described so far.
ZAHN: Sure, because I think...
WILKENING: You would have...
ZAHN: ... one of the things you were talking about that you would have immediately seen, had there been a high concentration of a nerve agent in the air, that -- that people's eyes would have been watering, and they would have had a pretty strong physical response...
WILKENING: Oh, they would describe it..
ZAHN: ... to it, which is not...
WILKENING: They would be...
ZAHN: ... what we have heard described.
WILKENING: They would be describing a foul smell. Often, these things are very acrid. Yes, their eyes -- they would have blurry vision, choking, chest problems, all kinds of very distinct, very sudden onset symptoms, if you will.
And, Dean, again, please stay with us, as we continue to try to elicit information from a whole bunch of sources out there.
Once again, all we can confirm at this hour is that law enforcement is telling us that an alarm went off in the Russell Senate Office Building, signaling the presence of some sort of chemical agent. A first test came back positive. A second test came back negative. A third test now being done.
Dean Wilkening, who is an expert in all this, just explaining to us, it would not be unexpected, perhaps, if this was a false alarm. For example, if you had a very, very high concentration of this stuff, clearly, it would have set off the alarm.
But where this gets a little more murky is if you were to have low concentrations of -- of these things. And you have got various kind of, apparently, detection methods being -- right now to assess all of this.
And, as soon as we can get a confirmation on this third test, we will bring the results to you. But, in the meantime, we are going go to some of the other day's headlines.
And, then, when we come back here, we are going to be talking with someone who is actually holed up in that parking garage of the Russell Senate Office Building, along with eight senators.
Erica, before I go to you, I can confirm right now that we know, in that garage are Senators Byrd (sic), Gregg, Thune, Dodd and Hagel, and as well as 200 Senate staffers.
So, we will go back there in a moment.
But, actually, let's go to Susan Hendricks, who joins us now with some of the other top stories at this hour.
SUSAN HENDRICKS, HEADLINE NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Paula. Thanks so much. We know it's a busy night in Washington.
We start in Los Angeles, though. The lockdown continues tonight at an L.A. prison, after continued racial brawls by inmates. Fighting last weekend at the Pitchess Detention Center killed one inmate and wounded scores of others. At least 19 may have been injured today.
The FBI now says an American charged with being part of a terrorist cell also tunneled out of the prison in Yemen last week. Jaber Elbaneh was connected to a terror cell busted in Lackawanna, New York. A suspect in the bombing of the USS Cole also escaped.
Oops. McDonald's says it's french fries contain one-third more trans fat than previously thought. Trans fat is believed to be a factor in clogged arteries. McDonald's is in the process of updating its nutrition information.
And aviator Steve Fossett took off from the Kennedy Space Center this morning in his Global Flyer, on a quest to set a non-stop flight record around the world and across the Atlantic twice.
And those are the headlines -- Paula, back to you.
ZAHN: All right, Susan -- a lot to figure out here tonight about what is going down on Capitol Hill this afternoon -- or this -- this evening.
Once again, the Senate -- Russell Senate Office Building now essentially been evacuated, after an alarm went off in the attic, signaling the presence of a chemical agent. You have got eight senators, some 200 Senate staffers, now, more or less, holed up in this parking lot, until they're told that it is safe to go outside.
Joining us right now is Kelli Arena, who has some late-breaking information from her sources at Homeland Security.
Kelli, what else have you learned?
ARENA: Well, Paula, some law enforcement officials that we spoke to said that, just now, they -- they have been checking the people that are there, that are holed up in that garage. And, still, no one is exhibiting any signs of being sick.
No one is complaining of, you know, chest pains or -- or respiratory problems at all. So, that's good news.
My producer, Carol Cratty, just got off the phone with Capitol Hill Police Chief Terrance Gainer, who is on the scene, says that testing remains inconclusive. They are still waiting to find out exactly what they're dealing with, that -- that there is no signal for anyone to go back into that building yet.
They're going keep people holed up there for some time more, until they get more definitive results -- so pretty much status quo. Those people will not be moving any time soon. We had heard earlier that -- that they might be able to move them in the next 20 minutes or so. So, far, no-go signal from there -- Paula.
ZAHN: Kelli, you made a very interesting point earlier about how sensitive these field tests are. And we just had an expert on from Stanford about four minutes ago who was talking about these tests being very reliable, when you would have a high concentration of the chemical agent, but somewhat less reliable with lower concentrations, and that's when you might get a false positive sparked.
ARENA: I was also told -- one of the -- one of the law enforcement officials that I spoke to on the phone told me that they actually had a -- a similar situation in another office building, and it was because of the cleaning fluid, the chemicals within the cleaning fluid that was used in that building. That triggered an alarm.
So, they have seen false positives like this. Again, Paula, as you pointed out earlier, they don't usually react in this way. I mean, this is -- this is unusual, in terms of the -- the cautionary, you know, reaction, but it's not like we haven't heard about these alarms going off before. So...
But I do think we need to point out -- I guess we can come to this -- this quick conclusion so far -- if your sources are telling you that the folks now holed up in this parking lot have exhibited no physical symptoms of having been exposed to a chemical agent, our expert was just saying, had it been a high concentration, you would have people, you know, coughing...
ARENA: Right. Right.
ZAHN: ... coming out of there with blurry vision. A very foul smell would have permeated the place, none of which has been reported so far.
ARENA: That's right.
ZAHN: Correct? ARENA: That's right.
ZAHN: All right.
Kelli, you stand by. And keep on working the phones for us.
And let's turn to Jeanne Meserve, who also has excellent contacts at Homeland Security Department, to tell us what she has learned.
Jeanne, what are...
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Oh, Paula...
ZAHN: What are your contacts telling you they make of this?
MESERVE: Paula, it seems to be a bit of a confusing situation.
I just spoke to one official who is in very close contact with the scene. And he tells me that, yes, a sensor did go off, but there have not been follow-up tests as yet, that they're preparing to send a team in. It would be a combination of D.C., fire and Capitol police.
They're suiting them up. They will go in. And he says that the detection devices they have for a chemical agent -- and if we're talking about a nerve agent here, that is a chemical -- that they would be able to determine in pretty quick order whether or not they're dealing with the real thing or not, and that, as other people have said, it's a very positive sign that, thus far, nobody has been symptomatic at this point in time.
So, this -- this is a question, whether we're dealing with a chemical agent or a biological agent. It is the biological field tests that are unreliable, that often come back with false positives. Testing for chemical weapons is a lot more precise.
Let me tell you a different line, this gathered from Steve Turnham, one of our producers. He talked to a staffer who is amongst those in the garage. This person told Steve that, initially, the enunciator system in the Capitol, in the Russell Office Building, broadcast that alarms in the attic had gone off. The enunciator system is sort of their mini-broadcast thing that sends alerts through the building.
It told them that a sensor had gone off in the attic. About 30 minutes later, they were told to evacuate. They were not allowed to go outside of the building. They were sent from the building right down in to that parking garage. This person says that they were told by the Capitol Police -- and, again, confusing info here -- the Capitol Police told them there had been a second test; the second test was positive for a biological agent. And, then, there was a third test; they are going to be checking the filter on the sensor.
So, what are we dealing with here? Is it a nerve agent? Is it a biological agent? We just have very conflicting reports at this point in time. ZAHN: Exactly, Jeanne, because we actually reported the exact opposite of that, which is understand -- understandable, as everybody's trying to make sense of this.
We had the first test coming back positive for a chemical agent, the second negative, the third being done now. And you said -- your sources said the second one came back positive for a biological agent.
But, understand, this is a Senate staffer who may not be particularly well versed in the intricacies of testing and may have misunderstood something that was told to him from the Capitol Police. But this is one of the people involved in this incident. He's one of those people who has been put down in the garage. This is what he says they're hearing.
He also says that there are fewer senators there than -- than we believe. He said Senators Gregg, Hagel, Thune and Burr are the four senators who are down in that garage.
ZAHN: Repeat that one more time, Senators Hagel, Thune, Byrd.
MESERVE: Burr -- B-U-R-R.
ZAHN: Burr. Oh, Burr.
MESERVE: Not Byrd.
MESERVE: And Gregg.
ZAHN: OK. We were told two more than that. So, we will continue to work on that.
Jeanne, clear up one more piece of information that seems contradictory. We were originally told that the FBI hazardous material team was either on the scene or en route, in addition to Capitol Police. And you are now saying that D.C. Fire and Capitol Police are getting suit up -- suited up to go in.
MESERVE: You're right.
This is a very confusing jurisdictional picture here in the District of Columbia. And Capitol Police is quite proprietary. But, in an instance like this, they would certainly call on the resources of the FBI and of D.C. Fire.
I do know that a decontamination tent has already gone up in the area, in preparation for teams and what they might be confronting when they go in, or if they have gone in -- as I say, a very muddy picture right now.
ZAHN: And, Jeanne, can you also help us with the picture that we see endlessly being re-looped on screen? From -- from where I'm sitting, I can't make out this intersection. Can -- can you make it out?
MESERVE: You know, I wish I could. But the monitor I'm looking at is small enough that I'm not able quite to make out exactly what that is.
Obviously, it's the streets outside of the Russell Office Building. But I can't be any more precise with you than that. I'm sorry, Paula.
ZAHN: Jeanne Meserve, thank you so much for the update.
MESERVE: You bet.
ZAHN: We will continue to come back to you.
And we are told that a news conference is expected, potentially, to get under way by Capitol Police in the next four or five minutes. When that happens, we will bring it to you live.
In the meantime, we are going to get some really good information now from Eileen McMenamin. She's a spokeswoman for Senator John McCain of Arizona. She also happens to be one of the evacuees.
Eileen, describe to us what happened from the first moment that alarm went off.
MCMENAMIN: Sure, Paula.
It's a little bit different than some of the reports that I have -- I have heard coming in on the air. And I -- I just wanted to make clear that, when the initial alarm sounded, and they said to immediately evacuate the building, no one stuck around for half-an- hour.
We grabbed our coats. We grabbed our bags. We didn't log off of our computers. We were running down the hall to evacuate. They said everyone, including senators, staffers, U.S. Capitol Police, need to leave the building immediately. So, we took off running.
They -- they would not let us go outside. They separated us all into this west garage here, where we are now. They have got air monitor systems set up. They're testing the air continuously, to make sure that we are in a safe zone.
There is a tent set up here in the garage, I guess in case there is some sort of a positive result. And it looks like they would be ready to -- to offer some sort of treatment. I'm not quite sure what that would be.
Some of the officials here at the scene tell me that they are testing filters now where some of the -- where the first hit supposedly happened in the attic of the Russell Senate Office Building.
One of the medical workers down here did tell me that it's possible that, if there are -- if people are contaminated, they may not show symptoms for up to three days. And he says -- but -- but they are -- they're doing continuous tests. And if a test does come back positive, they obviously wouldn't wait for anyone to become symptomatic.
They would begin (INAUDIBLE) antibiotics immediately, if there was a -- a positive result from any of the tests.
ZAHN: And, of course, Eileen, you haven't been able to listen to all of our coverage tonight.
But because there is so much that's not clear from this testing tonight, there's a tremendous amount of confusion about what kind of reaction those of you that potentially could have been exposed would have.
We just had an expert on a while ago that said, had there been a strong concentration of the chemical agent, you certainly would have seen right now, by now, a physical manifestation, in either a -- a foul smell, blurry vision, watery eyes, a lot of coughing. You have seen no one exhibit any signs of that, correct?
MCMENAMIN: Right. That's absolutely right.
People are here. They're sort of antsy to get home to their families, but no one seems to be exhibiting any signs like you mentioned, you know, no like watery eyes, and, you know, really violent reactions or anything like that.
Like I said, they do have this medical tent set up here, in case anyone were to have any symptoms. But no one seems to be going over there at this point.
ZAHN: And can you confirm -- we know that 200 Senate staffers are very important people, but we have also had varying accounts on the senators, though, that are holed up down there in the parking garage with you.
Confirm who you have seen.
MCMENAMIN: Sure. I have seen myself Senator Hagel, Senator Thune, Senator Burr from North Carolina. Those are the only ones that I have actually seen. There may be others here, but there are quite a number of people down here. And it's a somewhat limited space.
ZAHN: Eileen, I don't know if you are close--you know what, I am going to come back to you. But we would love to talk to one of those senators if you would be kind enough in a couple of minutes to hand the phone to one of them.
I am going to break away so we can listen to Capitol police that are now stopping--well, apparently it hasn't started.
All right. Eileen, in the meantime, just once again describe the mood of folks down there. There's not a whole lot of fear. There's just more sense of anxiousness about getting home? MCMENAMIN: Yes, I think so. I mean, the Capitol Police have been pretty good about briefing us. We have gotten briefed a couple of times about the situation and what to expect. We should have another briefing here within the hour.
They did in the last briefing, Paula, use the words nerve agent. So that got some people a little bit nervous down here. But they said that, you know, obviously the first test was positive. The second test was negative, but now they are conducting this third test. And we are supposed to be hearing within the hour what the result of that is.
ZAHN: Did any of these officials happen to mention that some of these detectors now are so sensitive that there is a chance that there could have been a false positive from the first test that came out positive?
MCMENAMIN: Sure, sure. That's absolutely a possibility. They said that the first test being positive could have been a result of something as minor as fertilizer. So, you know, I think that's why they are doing some continued testing. And they really don't want anyone leaving the facility here until they have, you know, absolute confirmation that something has occurred.
I think that they may--there was some mention about maybe taking down the names of people that are here in case anyone is affected or develops symptoms later on.
ZAHN: All right, Eileen. Let's break away now for the news conference from Capitol Police.
SGT. KIMBERLY SCHNEIDER, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE SPOKESWOMAN: Ready to go. Good evening this is Sergeant Kimberly Schneider, public spokesperson for the United States Capitol Police.
At approximately 6:30 this evening we received an alarm at the Capitol Police for a nerve agent in the attic of the Russell Building. This is on the Senate side of the Capitol.
At this time we have received negative results on this testing. We are taking samples to our testing facility. I will take any questions that you may have at this time.
QUESTION: Where is your testing facility?
SCHNEIDER: That's in a location in Washington, D.C.
QUESTION: Are people still in the building or are they being allowed to leave?
SCHNEIDER: People have actually been evacuated. We have an area in the west legislative garage of the Russell Building, which is about two blocks from here. And people have been directed to that area approximately 200 plus individuals at this time.
QUESTION: Are they being just held there? SCHNEIDER: They are being briefed on the situation, and they are also being cared for.
QUESTION: One of those individuals being held say that symptoms would not show for two to three days depending if it is prevalent. What's the course of action after that?
SCHNEIDER: Well, I will tell you that our tests initially indicated a nerve agent. Subsequent tests have indicated that it is not a nerve agent. At this time nobody has indicated that there are any symptoms present. Symptoms normally would indicate would be a runny nose or something of that nature. That would indicate a presence of a nerve agent. And nobody has reported that thus far.
QUESTION: How many senators were in the building at the time?
SCHNEIDER: I can tell you that roughly a dozen or so senators are now in the west legislative garage being briefed.
QUESTION: Are staffers being told to come back?
SCHNEIDER: Staffers have been evacuated. Anyone who is in the building has been evacuated from the building at this time. Noone has actually been told to return at this time yet.
Right now this is affecting the Russell Building.
QUESTION: Sergeant were there any communications, any letters, notes, threatening phone calls?
SCHNEIDER: That information is not available right now. To my knowledge, I have not received that information in regards to this incident.
QUESTION: What was the nature of the substance? Was it a powder? Was it a liquid?
SCHNEIDER: It is actually--what the initial test indicated was that it was a nerve agent so that is what the suspicious substance was.
QUESTION: But you don't know whether it was powder, liquid?
SCHNEIDER: I don't have that information.
QUESTION: Where exactly in the attic was it found? Is there a mail room there?
SCHNEIDER: In the attic there are several storage facilities, small storage spaces in the Russell attic. I'm not sure what the location was in the Russell attic. It is rather a large area. It actually takes up the entire floor of the Russell Building so it is a rather large area.
QUESTION: Can you tell us what the nerve agent was that the alarm triggered? SCHNEIDER: I don't have that information for you. I intend to give another briefing later just so that you all know so we can keep up to date on the information. And we'll get that for you.
QUESTION: Was it an actual package or substance or was it just something that triggered the alarm?
SCHNEIDER: Something in the air would be a more accurate description rather than a package. The alarms that we got was for a nerve agent. That would not a be package. That would be something that would be in the air. That was the initial test.
Many of the tents that you see are decon tents, decontamination tents. When people come out of the building they have to be in the proper protective gear in order to enter the building under these circumstances, and one they come out they do have to be decontaminated. And that is just routine procedure.
QUESTION: What's the procedure as to who gets to leave the building and who gets to go to the garage?
SCHNEIDER: Anybody who was evacuated from the building was moved to the garage. That was our procedure this evening.
QUESTION: Have they been released?
SCHNEIDER: They are still in the garage to my knowledge.
QUESTION: Do you have a timeline on when you expect the further tests and how long these folks will be held in the garage?
SCHNEIDER: Well, our experts are determining what the nerve agent right now. I don't have a timeline as far as when people will be released from the garage. I know we are keeping everyone up to date. We want to keep everyone safe. We want to keep everyone briefed and make sure everyone is certainly in the loop with our security procedures. And that's why we will keep everyone until we don't have a need to keep them anymore.
QUESTION: Did they go to the garage? Was it underground or how did they get from Russell to the garage?
SCHNEIDER: That information is unknown. I can tell you there are two ways to get there. You can get there from inside the building. You can also get there from outside the building.
QUESTION: Whatever the substances, what are the chances that it would have gotten into air vents beyond the attic?
SCHNEIDER: We do take precautions to make sure that--we have learned from our previous experiences up here on the Hill, we do take precautions to make sure that our congressional community is protected, if we do have any indications of a nerve agent. I can assure you of that.
QUESTION: So it wouldn't have gotten beyond the attic? SCHNEIDER: I can assure you that we have security procedures in place and we are extremely concerned about keeping our congressional community safe. And we have several security procedures in place which we do enact.
ZAHN: You have been listening to Kimberly Schneider of the U.S. Capitol Police giving the public its first briefing on what the heck is going on Capitol Hill tonight. This is the best we can cobble together the story at this hour.
The Russell Senate Office Building was evacuated earlier this evening when an alarm went off indicating--and it was in the attic, which Kimberly was just describing as an entire floor of the Russell Office Building. An alarm going off in that attic signalling the presence of a chemical nerve agent.
This is where the story becomes a little less clear. Initial tests came back positive. The second test came back negative. Now, contrary to what we were originally told, the tests are not being done now on site. According to her, the samples are now being taken to a testing facility in Washington, D.C. No indication on when the results of those tests will come back.
Kimberly Schneider saying that at least a dozen senators are held up in the west legislative garage along with 200 staffers. We have spoken with some folks underground not that this is critically important at this hour.
They have been able only to confirm the presence of three senators down there at this hour, Senators Hagel, Senator Thune and Senator Burr of North Carolina.
Let's quickly go back to Kelly Arena who has been working her homeland security sources for the very latest from her end--Kelly.
ARENA: Well, Paula, everything that you heard in this press conference is pretty consistent with what my sources are saying.
One that of course the testing so far is inconclusive, that it will be brought to a lab for more definitive results, that no one that is in that garage has exhibited any symptoms of being exposed to any sort of a nerve agent. And we don't have a specific timeline for when they will have a definitive answer or when that building will be given the all clear.
And there are no other incidents right now that are similar in nature that are being reported in the Washington area either, Paula.
ZAHN: Now, the one question we didn't get a clear answer to was whether there was any threatening phone call made, any threatening letters made. She wasn't able to share that information with us obviously. What have your sources said about that?
ARENA: My sources have said no that there was nothing accompanying this that would lead them to believe that there was anything, you know, threatening going on. They have not heard of any communication whatsoever.
ZAHN: Kelly, please stand by.
I am going to quickly turn my attention to Ed Henry now, our congressional correspondent, who was the first to break the news of what is going down tonight on Capitol Hill.
What else have you learned, Ed?
HENRY: Paula, one of the sources who first tipped me off to the story who was inside the parking garage just emailed me to say that the police have just announced to the people...
HENRY: Paula, one of the sources who first tipped me off to the story who is inside the apartment garage just e-mailed me to say that the police have just announced to the people in the garage, the senators and the staffers, it's going to take a lot longer than they originally anticipated.
We were reporting a short time ago it might be a half hour when they'd have that conclusive test. They are now being told by the police at least another hour. They are being told there are two tubes of material that need to be tested. They're collecting names of people so they have it all catalogued, but I can tell you that the mood of the people I'm talking to inside the garage is quite good.
One staffer for Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama just called me and said Senator Sessions is one of the people in the room. He is in black tie, like I am, because he was headed to the same press dinner that I'm supposed to be at right now, but Senator Sessions is very calm. He's telling his staff he's fine. As we've been reporting, no symptoms.
In fact another staffer e-mailing from the room that they want somebody to send some pizza over. So you can imagine people are almost -- I don't want to say humorous about it, this is a very serious situation, but they're trying to take it in stride, they're hoping for the best, that this is just a false alarm. And quite frankly, they're hungry right now and they want to go home, Paula.
ZAHN: A slightly lighter point of view than what Eileen McMenamin, who was on the staff of Senator McCain described, when a couple of people, she said, you could hear were profoundly affected when they heard there was the potential perhaps of a nerve agent having been in the building.
So, Ed, walk us through, the best as you can figure this out because our sources have told us a bunch of different things tonight about these tests. Is it your understanding that from your Senate sources that the first test came back positive for the presence of a nerve agent, the second one negative and now the third test, of course, being done off-site at a testing facility in D.C.?
HENRY: That's the best information we've had from multiple sources, not just one person here or there. Multiple sources, some of them inside that room, others coming second-hand from senators and staffers calling back to their colleagues and telling them the information is that there was a one test that was positive.
A second test that was negative and now this third test is being done again, two tubes of material being tested. The police just saying the last few minutes.
There may some question though, was that first test, so-called test, the detector that went off? That's unclear to me. Was it an actual test of the material or are they saying that the quote on quote, "positive test" was that first detector sounding an alarm saying there's something here and then a second more specific test saying negative. That's something we're not sure of now and I don't think the police really made that clear, Paula.
ZAHN: Ed, stay with me for a second because we had a chemical scientist who specializes in these materials say to us that it is his belief that these tests are highly reliable when you have high concentrations of a nerve agent in the air, less reliable when you'd have a lower concentration and that would be when you would get a false positive, perhaps a false alarm.
HENRY: Yes. And you know, the people, initially, who were there in the garage, they're obviously not experts on this issue. Some of them were initially telling us they were being told it was biological. Then others saying nerve or chemical and consistently the vast majority of people in there have said nerve or chemical and you heard that from the police, that it was not biological nerve agent.
In terms of the details of it, this is something they don't deal with every day. The people in the room are -- you know, as I said, while they're trying to take it in stride, as you noted, some of the ones we've spoken to are quite concerned just because they've never seen a situation go to quite this level. It is fairly routine as Kelli Arena has been reporting, that we get false alarms and they move on.
But usually we get that false alarm announcement sometimes within minutes just because it's going longer didn't mean it's ominous, but it's certainly concerning to the people there. They want to know that it's a false alarm as soon as possible.
ZAHN: And the other concerning thing, Ed, of course, as we heard. One of those witnesses down underground describe a medical tent having been erected and she said that she was assuming that was being set up potentially if someone need to be treated down the road.
But once again, the good news is not only from our guest that said, but Kimberly Schneider of the U.S. Capitol Police, it does not appear that any of the people who were evacuated are showing any signs of a physical reaction to what potentially could have been an agent. No watery eyes, no coughing, no blurry vision, none of those obvious signs that would normally exhibit themselves if there was a high concentration of a nerve agent.
HENRY: That's right, and I think the medical tent being set up, obviously you can safely infer that it's an abundance of caution. It doesn't mean that they're expecting a lot of people to take ill, but they want to be prepared.
For example, when I was driving over here to the bureau from Capitol Hill to report this story, I saw fire engines coming from every direction, more than I've ever seen on the Hill at one time. And I think that was also an abundance of caution, obviously. There was an all-call to as many fire engines that they could get from the nearby scene from various jurisdictions here within the city to aid the U.S. Capitol Police.
Again, that doesn't mean that it's going to be ominous. It just means that they're pouring as much resources as they possibly can in terms of medical tents, in terms of fire engines and police personnel to just make sure that they're on top of the situation.
ZAHN: Ed, we're going to break away to give you a chance to read the all e-mails, I'm sure about a hundred of them have amassed since we've been speaking over the last couple of minutes because he has great sources down there under the ground. Let's quickly turn to Jeanne Meserve, who's also been working this every way she knows how. Jeanne, what else have you learned?
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Paula, I just wanted to say that this isn't the routine thing. Since Anthrax, there have been numerous reports of various biological agents. In fact, I heard a D.C. fire official say the other day, they get on average three a day in the city of Washington and if there's been an incident somewhere else it can go up to more than 80 calls a day on suspicious white powder where people think it's a biological agent.
This was an alarm for a nerve agent, a chemical weapon. That is very different than a biological agent, far different impact. So this response that you're seeing is not what you would see on the average call, on the average day, the setting up of decontamination tents, the preparation for possible medical treatment, the decision to take these people and keep them in isolation until they know exactly what they're dealing with. Some of them, yes, you'd see with a biological agent, but some of this response is a little bit different because this alarmed on the nerve agent rather than something that was biological.
ZAHN: And once again, clarify something for us because we've had a couple of contradictory reports on this. Do we -- we have Reuters reporting that nine people in hazardous material suits have actually gone into the building. Kimberly Schneider of the U.S. Capitol Police made it sound like folks were still getting suited up for the U.S. Capitol Police to go in. What's your understanding?
MESERVE: I would have to defer to the U.S. Capitol Police on that one. They're the people who are on scene. They're the people who are in charge of this incident. I think they probably have the very best handle on what's happening up there.
ZAHN: All right, Jeanne, you please stand by, continue to work your sources, we're going to quickly turn to Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who understands a lot of the details of what goes on with this testing and what's going on at this hour. So Sanjay, we now have had it confirmed by U.S. Capitol Police that samples now have been taken to an outside testing site to be done because of these contradictory results. The first test positive coming back for the presence of a nerve agent, the second test coming back negative. The third test now either being conclusive or still being processed depending on who you talk to. What do you make of all that?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, it's a little bit hard to get a sense of everything. Obviously, a little bit of confusion there, not surprisingly. The first test you almost got a sense listening to that press conference, just like you did.
The first test was actually the sensor itself going off and I think that sort of sounds like what they're considering the first test, than when they actually went in there and tested for an agent. It sounded like that test was negative.
Now a third test being done. It's hard to figure out exactly, Paula. A couple of things that sprung to my mind is I don't know if the terms are sort of being thrown around a little bit loosely in terms of nerve agent.
I did hear the press on Capitol Hill, the spokesperson say that, versus a chemical agent. A nerve agent could be a type of chemical agent. Then you heard Eileen from Senator McCain's office saying they were told it could be up to a couple of days before they would exhibit symptoms and that certainly doesn't sound like a nerve agent when someone is telling you that it could take a couple of days.
ZAHN: No, because our other expert was saying that you would have immediate symptoms, particularly if there was a high concentration of it in the air.
GUPTA: That's right.
ZAHN: Your eyes would be burning, you'd be watering, you'd be coughing. What else would be obvious?
GUPTA: You might be drooling, you might develop some chest tightness. You'd feel very uncomfortable for sure. Your pupils might start to constrict, you'd have trouble seeing. All that could be happening. It would happen pretty quickly.
There is one type of nerve agent called V.X. nerve agent, in which the symptoms could take a little bit longer to develop, but absolutely Paula, for the most part with nerve agents you'd know pretty quickly.
So the one thing from your previous interview, I was just listening where they were told by somebody that it would be a couple, three days before they might develop symptoms -- that throws it a little bit into question, as to exactly what they're thinking.
When you say a couple, three days, that puts it back more into the realm of biological agents. I just heard Jeanne Meserve say that's not likely for sure. But when you two-to-three days, you do think about things. Like we've talked so much about in the past with Anthrax. Things like botulism as well. Those types of things can take a little bit longer to develop symptoms. So it just seems like there's a little bit of lack of medical information. Again, not surprisingly, coming out right now.
ZAHN: Let's also put in perspective the fact that we've had the Capitol Police confirming that decontamination tests have been set up outside the Russell Office Building and of course anybody that enters the building now that it has been evacuate has to go in suited up and of course go through the decontamination process what they come out.
They made it sound like that was being done simply as a precautionary measure and part of this, I suppose you would call it, investigation, that they're a part of.
GUPTA: Yes, you know, and Paula, you talk about the different types of agents here. You know, you talk about the nerve agents, obviously. There's also blister agents like mustard gas, which this doesn't sound like it, biological agents. All of those would probably require some sort of decontamination depending on your index of suspicion.
With the nerve agents in particular, there's medications that can be given specifically Atropine is a medication that they can be given very quickly. Sometimes it's given even if you can't confirm the presence of nerve agents just because it's not going have any long lasting detrimental effect and it could possibly help. So that's a medication that's sometimes given.
Sometimes as part of the whole medical care you have actually ambulances set up. You can hear them in the background I think there. Also possible breathing tubes in case someone does develop any difficulties.
But, again, this just doesn't all--it is not all fitting together, Paula. The nerve agent, again, to say the sensors went off, nobody had any symptoms. Maybe it was just a very small concentration. Maybe it was a false positive or maybe it is something else altogether, Paula.
ZAHN: And I wish we could get contacts to that rapid response truck. It looks like it's leaving the scene, but we do know that Capitol Police, of course, have their resources on the ground. The FBI, we are told, is moving. It has its hazardous materials people into this area as well.
Once again, you've got 200 Senate staffers now underground in what they call the west legislative parking lot along with what the Capitol police say are a dozen senators. We've talked with folks underground who have only been able to identify five senators. So there's a lot of information coming at us in different forms, often contradictory.
Let's turn to Mike Brooks, who is a security analyst, who can give us some insight as to what we're looking at on screen and potentially what could be happening inside the Russell Office Building right now--Mike.
MIKE BROOKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Paula.
That vehicle you were just talking about that just went down the street. That is a support vehicle of the D.C. Fire Department Hazardous Materials Unit, but the U.S. Capitol Police has their hazardous material response team that is suited up.
And we heard that there were nine people in suits going in there to take samples. That is a normal procedure that they would take if they went in to take samples off of the filters, put them in the two tubes and them send them to a lab.
Now, there are a number of labs in the Washington, D.C. area that can do tests for chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear. And that's where they're sending them now. It will probably take at least an hour, possibly more to make sure that there is no hazardous material within that particular tube.
But the U.S. Capitol Police, the D.C. Fire Department along with the FBI's National Capitol Response Unit, which is also capable of having equipment to go into assist U.S. Capitol Police. They're some of the best in the country, and they're in good hands there on Capitol Hill.
ZAHN: And let's try to make sense of some of what else Kimberly Schneider said in the U.S. Capitol Police briefing we just had. When someone asked her what this material might have looked like had it been a nerve agent and she really didn't go to any details.
What would it look like?
BROOKS: The nerve agent could be something that would be basically -- have some kind of odor to it, but basically if you look back and you look at the sarin attacks back in Japan a number of years ago back in 1995, those were nerve agents that were used in that particular case. People were instantly overcome by the sarin.
If this had happened, if there was an actual nerve agent in the attic of the Russell Senate Office Building there would be immediate, immediate, you know, runny nose, tightness of the chest, other symptoms that people would be indicating.
And now we hear that the 200-plus staffers and 12 senators that were evacuated to the garage, no one has indicated any symptoms whatsoever. That's a good thing.
ZAHN: But Mike, this is where it gets a little bit confusing because one of our other guests said that underground when they were briefed they were warned even though they were being told it was a nerve agent that it could be three days before they exhibited any symptoms of having been exposed to an agent, which got Dr. Sanjay Gupta to thinking that now this picture is even more confusing than we thought. BROOKS: Well, it is. And I agree with Sanjay, but what they also may do, you know, since the first test was positive, the second one was negative we're waiting for the final test to come back from a lab. They could just also be preparing these people who are in the garage for a possible nerve agent, a chemical agent or a biological agent.
Now, you know, it's 24, 72 hours down the road, it could be something such as, you know, that we've seen before and up on Capitol Hill. It could be anthrax. And they could be just preparing these people that, you know, if in fact it does come back with a positive for one of these chemicals that this is what they may be looking at down the road.
ZAHN: All right.
BROOKS: But my sources have told me, Paula, that the initial indications was a nerve agent in the attic there from the sensors that they had there in the Russell Senate Office Building attic.
ZAHN: Mike, please stand by.
And once again, as we are cautioned to all take a deep breath before we draw any conclusions here, I think it is important to remind all of you of something Jeanne Meserve just reported. That it is not uncommon in the Capitol for police there to get three reports a day of suspicious powders.
This of course is something different. We're not talking about powders. We're talking about the potential of nerve agents.
Let's turn to Jeanne Meserve and see what else she has got-- Jeanne.
MESERVE: Paula, I just talked to a D.C. Fire official who was on the scene who tells me he is very comfortable in saying that they do not have anything serious here.
This person tells me that the HAZMAT teams have gone into the building. They've had handheld chemical detectors. They have gone through with various types of machine, various kinds of technology, and they've have not gotten any positive hits at this point in time.
He says those teams have come out. They're now going through decontamination. Those tubes we heard about do contain air samples, he says. Those air samples are taken to the lab. His estimate is it is going to be about a half an hour before they have a final result.
In the meantime, those folks are being held in the garage but simply as a precaution until they get the final all-clear on that last set of tests.
ZAHN: And of course we're all hoping that this ends up not being something very serious, but let's once again help remind all of us who are trying to make sense of this what we could be looking at. As we understand it, Jeanne, these monitors are so sensitive now that even something like a trace amount--someone was saying even cleaning fluid or fertilizer--could have set off this alarm.
MESERVE: Right. As somebody just said to me our greatest strength is our greatest weakness. We want a machine that's very sensitive. We want a machine that will pick up small traces of something that's dangerous, but the flip side of that is often they pick up something that in the end turns out not to be dangerous at all.
There also of course is the possibility that you have a detector that's malfunctioning in some way.
ZAHN: And when you talk about these hazardous materials teams now that are combing through the Russell Office Building with what you described as handheld chemical detectors, how accurate are those detectors?
MESERVE: I'm led to believe that they're quite accurate and that there are a couple of different technologies that could be used. And so they can cross-check one technology against the other. One may give the all-clear in a certain instance another other may alarm.
In this case, none of the technologies are indicating that they have anything dangerous that they're dealing with.
ZAHN: OK. Jeanne, please stand by.
Let's quickly go back to Mike Brooks, who is our security analyst.
I don't know if you're breathing a sigh of relief yet, maybe it's too early, but I guess when you have D.C. legitimate sources telling Jeanne Meserve this does not appear to be anything serious upon some of these teams having come in and gone out with these handheld detectors. I hope you think this is good news.
BROOKS: No, it's very good news, Paula. You know, I was part of the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force there in Washington, D.C., and actually I used to be part of the team that would respond and check these things out.
And I can tell you that the handheld -- the technology that they have in handheld detectors now has come a long way, and if they're pretty comfortable with that then I'm very comfortable with that having used those in the past.
And both the U.S. Capitol Police and D.C. Fire Department has materials unit, which is a also very, very professional unit. If they say that then I feel very comfortable that most likely it was a false positive and things will probably be back to normal in fairly short order there at the U.S. Capitol.
ZAHN: And I am hoping that we are confirm shortly is if in fact the alarm that was triggered in the attic of the Russell Office Building was the so-called positive test and not in fact a positive test on materials that was done.
BROOKS: Well, you know, there are a number of other things depending on what is going on at this time of night at the Russell Senate Office Building. There are other chemicals that can give the false positive as this is sucked up into the filters and goes through the detector system.
You now, it tests for certain things, proteins and other things, don't want to give away any secrets, but false positives happen on a regular basis. My sources tell me that it happens on a regular basis there at the U.S. Capitol. So this could be another false positive.
ZAHN: And that's why you got, Mike Brooks, some 200 folks underground right now in a parking garage, including or plus 12 senators in addition to those 200 staffers. They have been told by Capitol Police they will not be able to leave that area for at least an hour until Capitol Police can confirm that the coast is clear.
But Jeanne Meserve just confirming her sources are saying it doesn't appear at this hour that this is something serious or just a false positive due to very sensitive detectors.
Thanks so much for joining us until now. Our coverage of this breaking news continues with Larry King--Larry.
LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks Paula.
Tonight, a Senate office building in Washington is evacuated when a possible nerve agent is detected, one test positive, another negative, more testing underway. Eight Senators, 200 staffers now holed up in a parking garage.
This is a special edition of LARRY KING LIVE.
Let's begin with Ed Henry, our congressional correspondent. By the way, you're in a tuxedo. Where were you going tonight? Where were you going when you got diverted here?
HENRY: This is the congressional, Annual Congressional Press Dinner is going on as we speak right now and I understand some of the Senators, including Jeff Sessions of Alabama, they're being held in a parking garage right now in their tuxedos in their formal clothes because they're supposed to be at this dinner as well.
It's an annual event and we're obviously not there because this all started, Larry, at about 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time when a hazardous material alarm went off in the Senate Russell Building. It's the oldest Senate office building on Capitol Hill.
Basically they were told, police, Senators, staffers were told to get out of the building right away. Tests were being conducted. We're told the first test tested positive for some sort of nerve agent in the Russell Building, second test came back negative. They're conducting a third test as we speak. We're expecting that within the next hour, some sort of results there. To bring some clarity to why there were conflicting tests, we're being told right now, in fact in the last few minutes I was told that the Senators and staffers were just brought some bottled water. They're all getting quite hungry.
They've been in this parking garage adjacent to the Russell Building for a few hours now. They're getting hungry. They're getting thirsty. So, they've just gotten water. But the good news so far is that none of those Senators, none of those staffers have exhibited any signs of being ill.
Among the Senators, we're told, eight Senators there, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, John Thune of South Dakota, Gordon Smith of Oregon, Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, who I mentioned, and Chris Dodd of Connecticut -- Larry.
KING: Where are you? Where is your location?
HENRY: Well, normally my camera position is actually in that very building. I happened to not be in the building at the time because I was headed to the dinner. I got a tip from a staffer who was quite alarmed and said he had not heard this alarm, this detector for hazardous material go off before.
Given the speed with which the police threw all these Senators and staffers into the parking garage, he called me and said that he thought it was a much more serious situation than he had seen.
Because, as you know, Larry, there are a lot of false alarms on the Hill, especially post 9/11 where there are fears of something like this, fears of a nerve agent, fear of anthrax and fortunately it's usually a false alarm. And so, now I'm in our bureau here on Capitol Hill but not actually in the capital -- Larry.
KING: Kelli Arena, why are they being held, the Senators and the staffers?
ARENA: Out of an abundance of caution. The law enforcement officials that I've spoken to are very cautiously optimistic that the more definitive testing that's taking place right now will show that this was indeed a false alarm but until they have that definitive answer, Larry, they cannot let those people leave in case they have been contaminated in any way.
As Ed said, and as several law enforcement officials have confirmed, no one is exhibiting any signs of contamination but they do -- this is the procedure that's been laid out and they are following it by the book -- Larry.
KING: Are signs usually quickly evident?
ARENA: If you've been exposed to a chemical agent, I am told that those signs -- that you would -- you would respond very quickly. I happened to be in Tokyo, Larry, during the sarin gas attacks and was on the scene very quickly and saw people physically reacting immediately after being exposed to that sarin, so at least from my firsthand experience it was very noticeable right away.
KING: On the phone is Dean Wilkening. He is director of science programs for CISAC. Dean, from your vantage point, what does this look like to you?
WILKENING: Well, from everything that I can tell, it looks like it's going to be a false alarm of some sort. I say that with some caution because here at my desk in sunny California it's a little hard to know exactly what's going on.
But, we understand there's a hazardous material alarm that's gone off that apparently gave an indication of nerve agent. If it was nerve agent as was just mentioned, it does tend to react fairly quickly and people react fairly quickly to it, especially if the concentration is high, stinging eyes, meiosis, runny nose, difficulty breathing.
And, again, the (INAUDIBLE) attack on the Tokyo subway when they released sarin was a classic chemical agent exposure. Often these chemicals have a very noxious smell to them, if not because of the chemical agent because some of the contaminants that are in the liquids that they produce.
And so, given that none of that's happening, it sounds like either it's a very low level exposure or it's a false alarm that something else tripped off the sensor and we'll find out within a day or so that this was nothing more than a false alarm.
KING: What, Dean, could have tripped off the sensor?
WILKENING: Well there sometimes are other chemicals, cleaning fluids and the like that can be in a building that might mimic a nerve agent or at least fool a detector into thinking that or sometimes it's just a malfunction of the electronics and whatnot. It depends on the details of the technology embedded in the sensor and I'm not quite sure what the hazardous material alarms what technology they have.
But with any detector of any sort you can always get false alarms where the sensor indicates the presence of something even though it's not there and this tends to happen the more sensitive the detector or the sensor becomes.
So, when you're trying to detect very, very low levels of in this case a chemical agent, you can get noise in the system that will trip it off and give you what we call a false positive.
KING: You stay with us Dean.
At the bottom of the hour the Washington Police will have another kind of mini press conference.
Eileen McMenamin is with us on the phone. She works in Senator McCain's office. What do you do there Eileen?
MCMENAMIN: Yes, I'm communications director for Senator McCain.
KING: All right, what happened and give me the scenario tonight. MCMENAMIN: Sure. We were in our offices and we have an alarm system, an internal alarm system that goes off and it goes off, you know, with some frequency. I think since 9/11 everyone is, you know, particularly cautious so sometimes they will say that there's a suspicious package in the building or, you know, to avoid a certain area, something like that, which could just end up being like, you know, a lost backpack or something like that.
But tonight when the call came it was a little bit more urgent. They said there should be immediate evacuation of the Russell Senate Office Building and this means everyone. This means Senators, staff, Capitol Police. So, we all just grabbed our bags and basically started running down the hall, you know, a little bit alarmed as you would be.
And, we got down into the garage here where we still are and they would not let anyone leave, I think for fear that if we are contaminated with, you know, anything they didn't want us going out into the world at large to spread whatever it may be.
KING: Where's the Senator?
MCMENAMIN: Luckily, Senator McCain had already left for the day, so he was not here. There are a few Senators down here and a bunch of staffers. They've just brought in bottled water for us here and now police, U.S. Capitol Police are circulating through the crowd getting everyone's information, everyone's names, offices, contact information in case, you know, there were to be any symptoms that would arise later I suppose.
KING: Describe the scene in the garage.
MCMENAMIN: Well, you know it's just people milling around. I think there is a congressional dinner tonight. I've seen a man in a tuxedo here. He obviously had someplace else to go and is not probably going to make it.
There's a medical tent set up in case anyone had any medical problems and I don't think that anyone has visited that tent over there. People are sort of milling around a lot, people on their cell phones, a lot of people on their Blackberry's talking to folks at home trying to get an update because, you know, we have no television or really any way to get news down here, so people are just getting what they can from the outside world.
KING: Anybody getting panicky?
MCMENAMIN: No, no, not at all. It's been very calm and, you know, people are joking and, you know, pretty lighthearted I think but, you know, getting antsy to go home. We've been down here for, you know, two hours now.
KING: Good luck, Eileen and thanks for reporting for us.
MCMENAMIN: Thanks, Larry.
KING: Eileen McMenamin of Senator McCain's office. Let's check in with Sanjay Gupta if he's available. Sanjay, our chief medical correspondent, what is nerve gas?
GUPTA: You know a nerve gas, Larry, is an agent that basically disrupts all the nerve impulses in your body and typically the way that somebody knows they've been contaminated with this, they start to drool. Their eyes may become quite blurry. Their vision might become quite blurry. There may be some tightness in their chest. That's typically what happens.
In very high concentrations this is a weapon and it could actually kill somebody within a few minutes. There are different types, sarin gas, you were just talking about, Larry, there's also VX gas, which is a weaponized gas actually created by the United States military in the 1950s, has been used as a weapon but that's basically what they are and what they do.
KING: Haven't they, a lot of them, been banned?
GUPTA: Yes, sir. They've absolutely been banned in many countries and, in fact, that's what's a little bit concerning when you hear about a nerve agent release. I know I was just listening to Dean saying there are things that can mimic nerve agents like, for example, fertilizer can but it's different when you talk about the nerve gas sensor going off.
You know if it's a release of an actual nerve agent, it would be hard for this to be an accident or some sort of mimicking thing. This would have to be a deliberate thing because these agents really aren't supposed to exist and are not around so it would have to be more of a -- you'd have to think that it was more of a deliberate thing -- Larry.
KING: Could it wipe out a whole building?
GUPTA: Well, you know, the tricky thing with nerve agents and I think that they learned a lot after the subway attack in Tokyo is that it's not a very effective sort of weapon of mass destruction, meaning that it aerosolizes and get into the air but it becomes very diffuse. It becomes very low concentration very quickly.
So, in terms of wiping, it could make a lot of people very sick for a period of time but it's unlikely to wipe out a whole building in terms of actually costing lives. It could make people sick. It could frighten people but unlikely to actually be a very effective weapon of mass destruction.
KING: Why do you keep people isolated? Why are all these people in the garage?
GUPTA: Well that's a good question. I mean it's not a contagious thing and that's an important point.
KING: Yes, that's why I asked.
GUPTA: But you can get contaminated. You can get it on your clothes for example and then you subsequently go shake somebody's hand, for example. It can be something that can actually be spread through the skin. It can be spread through your clothes to someone else, for example, so that's part of the decontamination.
If it were present for sure, a couple of things would happen. Probably the clothes that the people were wearing would have to be removed for that very purpose. Their skin would have to be thoroughly flushed so they couldn't carry it out on their skin and they might even be given some medication prophylactically so they don't develop any of the symptoms that are associated with a nerve agent poisoning.
KING: Mike Buttry joins on the phone. He's in Chuck Hagel's office, works in Chuck Hagel's office. What do you do there Mike?
MIKE BUTTRY, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR SEN. CHUCH HAGEL (by telephone): I'm his communications director, Larry.
KING: You also. All we have is communications directors. Are you in the garage too?
BUTTRY: I am.
KING: All right what happened?
BUTTRY: I'm trying to find Eileen. I heard she was just on.
KING: Yes, she was. What happened in the office?
BUTTRY: Well, we were actually all just getting ready to leave. We had all packed up our bags and the alarm started going off and we were on our way out anyway so we thought that wouldn't be much of a problem.
But when we got to the door they told us we needed to come down into the garage and it was very orderly. Capitol Police did a great job and everybody just kind of walked in the garage and they've been giving us updates pretty regularly about the situation.
KING: Were you scared?
BUTTRY: No, Larry, you know, this is the kind of thing, we haven't been sent to the garage before but every couple of months there's an evacuation or a drill. Ever since September 11th and the anthrax scare this is -- you know people learn to take this in stride and Capitol Hill Police do a world class job of keeping everybody calm and informed.
KING: Chuck Hagel must be with you huh? He was in the office.
BUTTRY: Yes, Senator Hagel is down here.
KING: How's he doing? Is he close to you?
BUTTRY: He's not. He's over, he's got a bunch of people around him right now.
KING: Did he lead the procession down?
BUTTRY: No, I don't want to get...
KING: I mean he's a Vietnam veteran. He's used to panic.
BUTTRY: Yes, well there wasn't a lot of panic and he's awfully calm. He's awfully calm. Everybody down here is awfully calm. He's not unique in that. Everybody is kind of taking this in stride.
KING: All right, thanks very much Mike. Thanks for checking with us.
BUTTRY: No problem, Larry.
KING: Ed Henry, there's going to be a conference, police conference at the bottom of the hour. Can we expect something definitive?
HENRY: Well, we don't know for sure, Larry, but I tell you I've been getting e-mails the last couple minutes from the U.S. Capitol Police that they're distributing to Senate offices that say they hope to have these results in in about a half hour. I don't know if that's that third test.
I don't know if that's coinciding with this press conference. We can certainly hope for the benefit of the people in that parking garage that have been waiting for so long that they will have some final answer there but we don't know for sure.
Again, the first test came back positive for the nerve agent and second test saying it's negative. They're all waiting for that third test to get some sort of a verdict, if you will, Larry.
KING: Let's check in with Jonathan Tucker. He's with the Center for Non-Proliferation. What's the feeling of the center with something like this?
JONATHAN TUCKER, CHEMICAL AND BOLOGICAL WEAPONS EXPERT (by telephone): Well, it does look like a false alarm. I think if it was nerve agent you would see some pretty dramatic symptoms, people with pinpoint pupils, shortness of breath, runny nose, all very clear signs of nerve agent exposure.
KING: What's your expertise, Jon?
TUCKER: I'm a specialist in chemical and biological weapons and chemical and biological arms control.
KING: Does this concern you?
TUCKER: It does. I mean this is -- it's a very real possibility so we have to take these situations seriously even if it does appear to be a false alarm in this case. But I think it is responsible on the part of the Capitol Police to take it seriously.
KING: Dean Wilkening, do you have any fears or are you pretty much, pretty sure nothing is going to happen here? Is Dean Wilkening there? I asked him to hold on. WILKENING: Yes, I think that it most likely is a false alarm. The one note of caution I would add, earlier in the evening there was confusion about whether it might have been a biological agent or a chemical agent and I think it's an important distinction to make because if, in fact, it was a biological agent then we would not be seeing symptoms. We would not be seeing any indication that these people had been exposed.
Of course that begs the question of why the sensors then went off but I think it's good that they are checking for both the presence of chemical or biological agents. But given that most of the evidence seems to suggest a nerve agent and that we're not seeing any reactions of the various sorts that have been described by the people, the potential victims, then it looks like it's a benign event.
KING: Could we get a delayed reaction?
WILKENING: Well, with chemical agents you don't get the delays. They're in minutes to hours. You could if it's a very low dose exposure. Remember the Gulf War syndrome was thought to be a very, very low dose exposure to some chemical agents and then you might have some very difficult to detect symptoms like memory loss, things like that, showing up weeks, months, maybe years after the exposure.
But for high dose exposures, which was what most people are concerned about and that's what those sensors are usually designed to detect medium to high dose exposure, you would see very rapid reactions on the part of people exposed to those agents runny nose, like we say, meiosis, chest, coughing, things like that.
KING: Sanjay Gupta wanted to add something to that -- Sanjay.
GUPTA: You know it's been a little bit confusing. It sort of brought up the point that Eileen was just on the phone a little while ago saying, from Senator McCain's office saying she was told that it could be a few days before they could develop any symptoms and I think that immediately raises some red flags, I'm sure with Dean as well.
If they're being told that, that argues against a nerve agent for the most part with nerve agents you're going to develop symptoms very quickly, the drooling, the runny nose, all that.
I'm curious about that, the fact that she was told that and also, you know, these tests are designed to be so sensitive. When you talk about a false alarm you mean a false positive. It went off when it shouldn't have but I also get the sense they're not as specific for exactly what type of agent and I think it just -- I think the terms become somewhat important here.
KING: Kelli Arena, since there is a comparison can you tell us what you observed in Japan?
ARENA: Well, what I observed was people coughing, eyes watering. Some people were falling on the ground. I don't know if that was just, you know, out of fear and confusion but people were definitely sort of, you know, gripping their chests and gasping for air, like I said lots of eyes burning and you could, you knew that something was sort of in the air. It was sort of a foul smell -- Larry.
KING: How many deaths resulted from that?
ARENA: You know I don't remember. I don't think -- I'm not sure anybody died from that. I think a lot of people got sick but it was quickly dispersed. The wind was blowing. As we heard before it's not -- it's not a very effective weapon when it's used in a situation like that. Of course it was on the subway but once the doors were open and air got in, you know, it sort of dispersed very quickly.
KING: Ed Henry, do you want to add something?
HENRY: Yes, Larry. We're getting a little bit of new information from one senior leadership source on Capitol Hill saying that "Things are looking good" adding that they're expecting that for the release of people being held in that garage to begin soon.
This information coming into our producer Steve Turham (ph), who's saying that then the people in that parking garage will be asked to monitor their own health over the next few days, so that's obviously a very positive sign.
We can now report that they're expecting fairly shortly, and as you said there's a press conference at 9:30, so perhaps it would be announced there that people in the parking garage, we are told over 200 Senate staffers, about eight U.S. Senators, are about to be released and told that things are looking good. So, we're expecting that third test result we've been waiting for, for hours now, to be coming in any moment now -- Larry.
KING: What should they monitor Sanjay?
GUPTA: Well, again, we're not exactly sure which agent we're talking about here. With, you know, nerve agents you could develop some very sort of vague symptoms over time, as Dean mentioned memory loss. You might have some problems with runny nose, itchiness of the skin, some chest tightness. Again most of that should have developed if there had been any exposure.
If we're talking about biological agents, you know, such as anthrax, botulism that sort of stuff, you could develop skin rashes. You could develop difficulties with breathing. It could be all sorts of different symptoms with these. But, you know, the agents themselves, you know, there's a wide variety in terms of the symptoms depending on the type of agent that it is.
KING: Mike Brooks, security analyst for CNN, joins us on the phone. Will they make after -- well let's assume everything goes well the rest of the night, will they make afterward tests on why this rang off?
BROOKS: Absolutely, Larry. They'll go back and they'll take a look at the monitoring system there in the Russell Senate Office Building and see why if, in fact, this was a false positive.
You know there could be cleaning materials, other things that could set this off to be a false positive but as we're seeing on the air we see people in different, in Level B suits with self-contained breathing apparatus. These are all precautionary measures. They have decontamination tents set up.
If, in fact, the tests do come back positive, which my sources are telling me right now, Larry, that it's just basically a conclusion that it will not and it just looks like a false positive at the Russell Senate Office Building.
KING: How big, Mike, a security fear is gas?
BROOKS: Gas is one of the most severe things that could happen. You know, we look back at the (INAUDIBLE) back in Japan and when they used sarin and it was instantaneous. That's why we're not hearing anybody having fallen with any instantaneous symptoms of a nerve agent.
We've heard Sanjay talk about nerve agents, biological agents but that is one of the most severe threats if it does happen that law enforcement and first responders could encounter.
KING: Can you protect a building from having it put in?
BROOKS: Well, Larry, there are a number of different secure things there at the U.S. Capitol Building that are in place. I don't want to give away any secrets but they are -- they have a system that is -- that has different redundancies and, you know, this is one the sensors that is in the attic of the Russell Building. You know if it's a false positive, they're taking the right thing. They're doing the right precautions.
A number of years ago, as you know, Larry, I was with the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force for six years and during that time during one of the (INAUDIBLE) back a number of years ago everything was shut down and then they stopped everybody because we had a false positive for a nerve agent at the U.S. Capitol. So, this is not the first time this has happened and my sources up there tell me that it does happen on a regular basis.
KING: But you can't take any of it lightly.
BROOKS: No, you can't, Larry. You can't take anything at all lightly, you know, especially after the anthrax incident, you know, there on Capitol Hill. They are not taking anything lightly.
They are taking the people to put them in the garage just basically, if you will, a shelter in place just until they find out what the results are from the samples they've taken from the sensors that they are sending to a lab.
So, after that they'll come back. Hopefully it will be within the hour. They'll be able to say this is a false positive and everyone will be free to go about their business.
KING: Thanks, Mike. We'll check back with you.
On the phone is Terrence Gainer, police chief of the Capitol Police. Terrence, what can you tell -- I know there's going to be some sort of press conference in about seven minutes. What can you tell us now? Are you there? Chief Gainer are you there? Apparently he is not there.
Ed Henry, do you expect a positive -- do you expect a conclusion at 9:30?
HENRY: We don't know for certain. That's what we're all waiting on. Again, there had been that one test basically saying that it was positive for a nerve agent, a second one saying that it was not and they're waiting for that third one. We're expecting it to be soon but we just don't know for certain. I know Kelli Arena has also been pursing that angle so you might want to ask her.
ARENA: Larry, I have one source, one law enforcement official from the field saying that the plan at least was to try to make sure that they had a definitive answer on that, those test results, before they held their press conference. At least that was the strategy about five minutes ago, so we'll see if that's doable.
The lab, as I'm told, right here in Washington, very close. There are several Capitol Hill police labs and FBI labs scattered throughout the Washington area, so they were able to get those samples, those air samples from the filters there very quickly and at least the plan was to be able to tell us something for sure when they had their press conference, so we'll see.
KING: Ed Henry, do you think people might be nervous about going to work tomorrow?
HENRY: No, I think as you heard from Mike Buttry with Senator Hagel, unfortunately it's become a fact of life on Capitol Hill and this is -- these types of incidents frankly come up far too often. As has been reported though, this one has gone on much longer. It's certainly going to alarm people that it went on this long.
But since we're getting some encouraging reports about the fact that there's an expectation at least from this one Senate leadership source that we just spoke to saying that they think people will be released very shortly, that it's going to turn out to be negative, I think obviously that will reassure people.
There will be some people obviously who will always be a bit frightened about the situation. Let's face it the U.S. Capitol is one of the top targets in the world. That is never going to change from here on out. And, in the war on terror, that's just something that people who go to work every day under that dome it's a fact of life that they have to face -- Larry.
KING: Sanjay Gupta, what would happen just hypothetically if someone shows some reaction tomorrow? GUPTA: Well, you know, there are some good antidotes available so if the test comes back and there was a nerve agent present and someone starts to develop some symptoms, which again could be blurriness of vision, could be chest tightness, they'd have to be treated as if they'd had an exposure, delayed exposure to nerve agent, delayed reaction I should say to the nerve agent.
They'd probably be given a medication known as Atropine, an appropriate dose of that basically to try and restore those nerve impulses, Larry that we were talking about earlier. If they -- if the breathing became labored and they had trouble with that they might need to be on a breathing machine to sustain their breathing.
But in today's day and age, Larry, with quick treatment, with quick triage, people don't necessarily die from nerve agent exposures anymore if they can get to a hospital quickly and be given these medications.
My guess is, Larry, looking at those ambulances and those tents they probably have those medications and that equipment on standby just in case someone does develop any symptoms.
KING: Kelli Arena, are you out and about?
ARENA: No, Larry, I'm here at the bureau but I have my trusty Blackberry here and I have contacts in the field who are updating me as information comes in.
KING: And what are they telling you about the mood of the folks?
ARENA: You know, at least on the law enforcement side, Larry, this is something that they're very used to here in Washington and some of the concern actually is that, you know, sometimes you get too used to things that you automatically downplay it from the very beginning.
And, you know, when we first made our phone calls out to our sources everyone said, "Ah, you know, well hold your horses, you know, this is probably nothing." But, you know, there will be the day that, you know, God forbid there is something and several supervisors in the field just worry that that sort of malaise kicks in after a while because there are so many false alarms here.
Our viewers don't know that but there are many times at the end of the day I'll talk to a source and they'll say, "Oh, yes, you know, we had three white powder events here in Washington" and, you know, those are, you know, people open up letters or packages come in with suspicious substances and it turns out to be, you know, baking soda or something. So, there sort of is that danger of, you know, expecting that everything will be nothing.
KING: Ed Henry, you're there every day. Is there a secure feeling there?
HENRY: Yes, I think there is. As you heard from Mike Buttry earlier, one of the Senate staffers you've been speaking to, there really is a lot of confidence in the U.S. Capitol Police and a feeling that this is such a big target. You can't protect it 1,000 percent. There are always going to be vulnerabilities and it's a fact of life to deal with those potential threats.
And to give you a sense of the mood of the people there that you asked about I've been getting e-mails from staffers, one Kyle Downey (ph) with Senator John Thune of South Dakota.
Senator Thune is one of the people there who's been stuck. He's been trying to get to the same press dinner I was supposed to go to and Kyle Downey jokingly asked me whether CNN could send some pizza over there because they're just getting hungry and they got some bottled water from the Capitol Police.
But people are almost joking about, you know, dealing with this because it's a fact of life for them. It's where they work. They work in one of the top terror targets in the world.
That's not to say they're not taking it seriously. I can tell you the initial phone calls I got from some of these same people were great alarm, even though they deal with this all the time. They had not quite heard the kind of announcement they heard about the police saying get out of the building immediately. Get to that garage.
And, frankly, they've never been told to get to, you know, a so-called safe zone like this even though they're told to evacuate the building that there was a sort of safe zone set up to go to this parking garage. It was something that alarmed a lot of people -- Larry.
KING: By the way, can we send pizza over? Is that allowed?
HENRY: You know I've been kind of tied up but I think, you know, probably there are so many new ethics rules they're talking about, Larry, we probably should be careful.
KING: With us on the phone is Sergeant Kimberly Schneider, Public Information Officer for the Capitol Police. Is there going to be a press conference, sergeant?
SGT. KIMBERLY SCHNEIDER, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE SPOKESWOMAN (by telephone): Absolutely, Larry. There's going to be a press conference in about ten to 15 minutes.
KING: OK, so instead of 9:30 it will be about a quarter to 10:00?
KING: Can you give us a little advance of what we're going to hear?
SCHNEIDER: Well, everything is looking really good for us right now. We're pretty optimistic about the outcome. Our third test result we're still waiting on but test results so far have proved that this is a negative for nerve agents so we're feeling very good about this right now.
KING: What's the role of the Capitol Police in this? SCHNEIDER: The Capitol Police is actually the primary law enforcement agency in charge of this event right now. It happened in our grounds, in our building and we have the primary responsibility of protecting the congressional community and the visitors.
KING: So the public should understand, the Washington Police Force is not in charge of something that occurs on the Senate or Capitol grounds, right?
SCHNEIDER: That's correct, Larry. I think that would be an accurate statement. This occurred exactly in the Capitol campus, in the Russell Building on Capitol grounds. Capitol police, we're the first agency to respond. Clearly, this is clearly our home and this is what we do.
KING: But the FBI could come in, couldn't it?
SCHNEIDER: They could certainly assist us. They can come in if they wish, absolutely.
KING: And the press conference, you say, will take place in about 15 minutes?
SCHNEIDER: Exactly, Larry, about 9:45.
KING: Thank you very much, sergeant.
SCHNEIDER: You're welcome, Larry.
KING: All right. If you just joined us, all of this happened just about three hours ago at 6:30 Eastern time. And we've been on top of it ever since starting with the end of Wolf Blitzer tonight and through Paula Zahn and now with LARRY KING LIVE.
And I want to check in now with Ed Henry.
If Ed would get us up-to-date on the story for late tuners in, people who have been out.
What happened, Ed?
HENRY: Larry, about 6:30 Eastern standard time tonight in the Senate Russell Office Building, that's the oldest office building on the Senate side of the Capitol, a hazardous material alarm went off. An enunciator went off as well telling all senators, staffers as well as U.S. Capitol Police personnel to evacuate the Russell Building immediately.
We are told that an initial test suggested that it was a positive test for a nerve agent in the Russell Building. So, all of these senators, staffers and others were sent to a parking garage.
You can see that live picture there. That's some of the glass garage doors leading to the parking garage adjacent to the Russell Building on Capitol Hill. That's where a lot of senators, staffers park their cars every day. It's an underground parking garage. They were told to go there. It would be a so-called safe zone in case they had been contaminated by this nerve agent.
Then we're told a second test was conducted and that came up negative. But unfortunately, it's been inclusive. And that's why this has been going on for at least three hours now.
They've sent out for a third test. We've been expecting those results for well over an hour now. And we're still waiting.
And in terms of recapping what's going on in that parking garage, we've had all kinds of eyewitness accounts suggesting it's very calm in there. We've been told there are eight U.S. senators in there, as well as over 200 U.S. Senate staffers.
Among the Senate names we've heard, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, John Thune of South Dakota, Gordon Smith of Oregon, Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Jeff Sessions of Alabama and Chris Dodd of Connecticut.
But the big news, I think, is that so far none of those senators, none of those staffers that have been in that safe zone have shown any signs suggesting they've gotten sick, suggesting they actually have been contaminated or exposed to a nerve agent--Larry.
KING: And Sanjay Gupta wants to add something to that, as we bring you up-to-date on this story--Sanjay.
GUPTA: Yes, the sequence of events as I heard them as well, listening to Ed as well as that presser before was that so far my understanding is there has been two different things have happened.
A sensor went off and then there was a test as opposed to a sensor going off, then a first test, then a second test. That's the way I understand things listening to the earlier press conference. So the only thing that's been positive so far is that sensor is my understanding. There hasn't been a confirmed test, again, my understanding, that's been positive.
So I think that's a point of clarification certainly arguing more for a possible faulty sensor or false positive sensor--Larry.
KING: Now, Eileen McMenamin of Senator McCain's office is still with us.
Are you still in the garage?
MCMENAMIN: Yes, we're still here Larry.
KING: Any word as to when they are going to let you out?
MCMENAMIN: No word. We're hoping that we will get some sort of an update within the hour. People are sort of getting restless here and really want to go home.
KING: How about hunger? MCMENAMIN: Oh, yes. We're hungry too. They brought in bottles of water for us, but no food yet. So we're still waiting on those pizzas.
KING: Can you ask why people can't bring in pizzas?
MCMENAMIN: I think they're probably just trying to deal with the security situation right now and hoping to get us out of here as soon as possible so that everyone can get home to their families.
One of the medical staffers here or a member of the Capitol Police was telling me earlier that if it had been anthrax, we might not exhibit any symptoms until about, you know, up to three days from now, but that they're thinking now -- the thinking is that it's more a nerve agent problem, at least that's what the first test confirmed and the second test, as you've been reporting, was negative.
So, you know, it's falling on what Dr. Sanjay Gupta said. It sounds like, you know--if it really was a nerve agent here, we would be seeing people exhibiting some sort of symptoms. And I can tell you, I have not seen that at all.
KING: Obviously, the cell phones work well, huh?
MCMENAMIN: Yes. Cell phones and Blackberries have been our saving grace down here.
KING: What, Kelli Arena, would you add to this story tonight? What has puzzled you the most?
ARENA: Well, I actually have not been puzzled, Larry. I have been through enough of these false positive situations to almost expect it.
But I can tell you that the federal law enforcement officials that I have been able to communicate with are cautiously optimistic that there really is not a problem.
And Jeanne Meserve, our homeland security correspondent, earlier had spoken to some fire department officials who say that they went in with handheld detectors and did not pick up any trace of anything.
So, they at least were very optimistic that this was going to turn out to be negative, that the tests will come back negative and that everyone would be safe to go home.
But, again, I mean, this is just protocol. And this is different, Larry, because there was a nerve agent sensor that went off. And that's why people were shuffled over into an area. It wasn't a package. It wasn't powder.
This was something that was in the air that, you know, possibly was causing a problem. And that's why the reaction has been so different than we've seen most of the time here in Washington.
KING: Was CNN correct in staying with it, in your journalistic position?
ARENA: I think that everything CNN does is correct, Larry. No, I mean, I think sure. I mean, look. You have a Senate office building with senators and staffers, over 200 people locked in a garage for hours trying to figure out, you know, whether or not you've got a nerve agent at work.
I think, sure. I mean, I think that's something that people care about and I think that it shows that, A. Washington remains one of the top targets, according to all of the counter terrorism officials that we speak to.
Two, it does show you that the concern about chemical and biological agents is very real, Larry. That's the one thing that you continually hear from counterterrorism officials, that they are extremely concerned about al Qaeda or other terrorist groups using chemical or biological agents to attack.
And also, I owe you an accurate answer on a question you asked me before. You asked me about the sarin gas attacks in Tokyo back in 1995. And I can tell you that 12 people were killed in that attack, Larry.
KING: Ed Henry, we understand they're leaving the garage.
HENRY: That's right.
KING: Can you spot this?
HENRY: Yes, we can see that from our live cameras also. E-mails I'm getting from people there saying they were just told by the U.S. Capitol Police all clear. So good news there.
But, as we've been reporting, they are obviously going to want to make sure over the next few days medically that everyone is OK as a final precaution.
But you can see right there, the all clear drama of some three hours or so now. A lot of relief. People leaving that parking garage. U.S. Senators among them who were in sort of a confusing situation for at least three hours--Larry.
KING: Chief Terrance Gainer of the Capitol Police is with us on the phone.
Are you going to do that press conference in six minutes, Chief?
CHIEF TERRANCE GAINER, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: Yes, Terry Gainer.
KING: Are you going to do the press conference?
GAINER: Oh, I hadn't thought that far ahead, Larry.
KING: Of course they are telling me they're doing it in six minutes.
GAINER: I won't be doing it. I'm still finishing up getting control.
KING: OK. Do you think we're going to be all clear?
GAINER: We are all clear. We just gave the all clear about six minutes ago, and the building will be emptied -- be allowed to reenter at 9:40.
KING: 9:40 tonight?
What we did, Larry, is we completed the last of the tests. We had sent our response people in and took some samples. We were getting negative samples, negative readings, from our sensors, but we wanted to take samples from inside the building. We've done that. And it's been cleared.
So, we just notified the people in the legislative garage with the pending position that it's all negative. If anybody were to have any symptoms, they would contact the doctor tonight or in the morning.
But the good news about this is, notwithstanding that some of the senators or some of the sensors were initially positive, they've all come negative now. And I've got to jump off of this sir.
KING: Oh, I understand.
So there you have it. I guess we don't even need the press conference because Chief Terrance Gainer has already informed us that it is all clear.
Ed Henry, good news.
HENRY: Right. And, in fact, one of our many producers has been fantastic work tonight, Ted Barrett (ph), one of my congressional producers on the hill, just spoke to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist saying much the same that the police chief said about the good news, Senator Frist adding that they're expecting the test to officially come in negative in the next few minutes. That might be when we finally get that press conference we've been waiting for.
KING: There's the presser. Let's take it.
KIMBERLY SCHNEIDER, SPOKESWOMAN FOR U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: Probably shouldn't look directly into that, huh?
KING: You're looking at Kimberly Schneider who just spoke with us about ten minutes ago. Obviously, she's waiting for the OK for all the TV channels and newspaper men to be clicked in. Here she goes, I think. Someone just said hold on. As you know, the press controls things.
SCHNEIDER: The life of a Schneider.
KING: The life of a Schneider. Kimberly, whenever you're ready, CNN is ready. My name is Kimberly Schneider, public spokeswoman for the United States Capitol police.
QUESTION: What's your name again?
SCHNEIDER: Sergeant Kimberly Schneider. The first name is K-I- M-B-E-R-L-Y the last name is S-C-H-N-E-I-D-E-R. Sergeant Kimberly Schneider.
I do have some good news to report tonight. We are preparing for re-entry into the Russell Building. Test results have been cleared. All the test results are actually negative. That's very good news. We're preparing for reentry right now. Everyone who is in the garage will be allowed to go back into the building shortly.
Are there any questions? We have a good outcome tonight. We're all very happy about this.
QUESTION: How many tests did you wind up running?
SCHNEIDER: Several tests we did run tonight, at least two. We ran at least two tests this evening to make sure we got the correct test results.
QUESTION: In the past with suspicious substances happening, the tents, the decon tents are quite abnormal. What accounts for setting them up this time?
SCHNEIDER: We will set the decon tents up once we know we are testing for something out of the ordinary. For example, if we have an alert for a nerve agent, which is what we had this evening. We want to make sure that everyone who has entered the building and who comes out of the building is protected and decontaminated in the proper fashion.
QUESTION: What was behind sequestering the senators and staffers in the garage?
SCHNEIDER: In the event it was a nerve agent, we want to make sure that anyone who was present in the building can be accounted for. It's a routine security measure when you have something of this magnitude.
QUESTION: Can you tell us what nerve agent you were testing for, Sergeant?
SCHNEIDER: The test that we run will tell us what type of nerve agent it is. We are not testing for a specific nerve agent.
QUESTION: What was the indication it was a nerve agent? There was some sort of alarm?
SCHNEIDER: We had an initial alarm in the Russell Attic Building that indicated we may have a possible nerve agent. After that, we did several tests to determine what the nerve agent was and the tests came up with negative results. The end result, as I said, is that we don't have a nerve agent. And right now, people are preparing for reentry into the Russell building.
QUESTION: Do you have any idea what it is?
SCHNEIDER: Don't have that information at this time.
QUESTION: Are there any safety measures that anyone needs to take?
SCHNEIDER: Right now, we have also worked with the office of the attending physician. No reported symptoms. And if there are any reported symptoms, people would be treated as if they have been exposed to a nerve agent.
We don't have any indication of that at this time. We have very good news all around.
QUESTION: You say the alarms were going off in the whole attic area or --
SCHNEIDER: The alarm indicated that we had a suspicious substance in the attic area of the Russell Building.
QUESTION: Does that tell you at all if there's a higher concentration in one area as opposed to another?
SCHNEIDER: It simply indicated for the attic. So, we are directed to a certain area of the building. This is where we know we can find if there is a concentration this is where the concentration would be, in the Russell attic. That's where it initially indicated.
QUESTION: You're talking about a single monitor in this case?
QUESTION: So, at this point, you believe there was no nerve agent at all?
SCHNEIDER: That's correct.
QUESTION: This single alarm, does it indicate it would be a nerve agent, give you some information specifically or do you have to go and test, go physically to the attic and test and say we think it might be a nerve agent?
SCHNEIDER: We have our experts who physically have gone into the attic, which is why you'll see the decon tents, which is why you'll see level b protection suits. We have our experts who have actually gone to the area where the initial alarm indicated to determine what the alarm was indicating on.
QUESTION: How many people were evacuated to the garage?
SCHNEIDER: It was roughly 200 people were evacuated from the Russell Building and sent to the garage.
QUESTION: Do you know how many senators are included in that? SCHNEIDER: Roughly a dozen members of Congress, roughly a dozen senators.
QUESTION: Do you know how many people suited up?
SCHNEIDER: I don't have that number at this time.
QUESTION: You are saying the results were negative. What sort of harmless substances would set these alarms off?
SCHNEIDER: Sometimes you might have a cleaning solvent which may set off a false alarm. It may not necessarily be a nerve agent. It may just be a suspicious substance that, for whatever reason, the signature of whatever the solvent may be may set off a nerve alarm. It maybe a false alarm. That may have been what happened tonight. We're still investigating that.
QUESTION: Are there people in the attic routinely? Sorry, ma'am?
SCHNEIDER: The attic is actually -- much of it is consisting of storage spaces. We do have a small offices up there. They're not routinely staffed or routinely manned. There are no offices that belong to any members in the attic. It's rather a storage area.
QUESTION: The testing facility, is that what we're seeing first over there?
SCHNEIDER: The testing facility is in the Washington, D.C. area. That's where we'll take additional samples to.
QUESTION: So, samples are gathered here and brought to a lab?
SCHNEIDER: Correct. That's right.
QUESTION: Do you know what senators were involved?
SCHNEIDER: That information is not available at this time.
QUESTION: Were they senators and members of The House of Representatives?
SCHNEIDER: The number I was given was roughly about a dozen members. That would include some senators and I don't know if there were congressmen there as well from The House of Representatives.
QUESTION: Does the attic get cleaned daily?
SCHNEIDER: I'm sure it does. They have a quite large cleaning staff and it does get cleaned on a regular basis. It's not an area that's off limits to staffers. It's not an area that's off limit to officers. In fact, we do perform routine security checks of the attic. So, we do visit the attic on a regular basis.
QUESTION: Was there any maintenance work being done up there?
SCHNEIDER: I don't have that information at this time.
QUESTION: From your point of view, was everything done by protocol, everything done right, all the proper steps taken?
SCHNEIDER: Absolutely. We had a wonderful outcome this evening. We're very happy that right now we're actually able to go back into a building that a few hours ago we weren't sure what the outcome would be tonight. We're pretty happy about that.
QUESTION: Can you describe the scene for us of the evacuation, 200 people leaving the scene. Can you give us a sense of how they were all notified?
SCHNEIDER: The folks in the building were initially notified through an enunciator, which is an indoor paging system used throughout the Capitol campus. Very orderly evacuation. Haven't heard anything to the contrary. Initially, I'm sure that people may have been alarmed at hearing that they had to evacuate the building immediately. But understanding that we work on Capitol Hill, it is for our security. And it's only in our best interest that we are given the instructions that we are by the Capitol Police.
QUESTION: Do you know if the evacuation notice told them that there was a gas suspected or just leave the building?
SCHNEIDER: I don't know at this time.
KING: That was Sergeant Kimberly Schneider the public information office for the Capitol Police giving a press conference, going over what we knew before she went on because earlier, Captain Gainer of that same police department told us that it was all clear and everything was fine.
Let's check in with Senator Judd Gregg, Republican of New Hampshire, one of those gentlemen who was in the garage all night. Senator Gregg, what was it like? Hold on. I'm hearing Sergeant Schneider. What was it like, Senator Greg?
SEN. JUDD GREGG (R-NH) WAS IN SENATE PARKING GARAGE: It was interesting. It was sort of a bonding experience. A number of my colleagues were there, a lot of staff. We had a few hours to talk about things and we got a few things done and it was a very -- everybody handled themselves very professionally, especially the Capitol Hill Police, who are doing a superb job.
KING: What was it like in the office at 6:30?
GREGG: Well, we got the notice, there was an alarm that went off around 7:00. I was actually headed out, I was in my car. The officer said we should go to this gathering area in the garage. It was sort of interesting to end up in the garage. I started off the morning on Air Force One and I ended up in the garage this evening as the president was headed up to New Hampshire. It's been an interesting day.
KING: You began the day with the president and ended the day at the garage?
GREGG: That's right. It's a great job.
KING: Were you ever nervous?
GREGG: Not really. We've been through a lot of these here in the Capitol. It's unfortunate. It's a sign of the times. Obviously, a very serious problem we had was the Anthrax, was real. But in most instances, they have been false alarms. But, you know you should err on the side of caution. We respect the professionalism of the police here. And they're there to protect us. They make these decisions and we do what they say.
KING: Do you feel, as a senator, well protected in your own office? Do you feel well-protected in the Russell Building?
GREGG: Well, yes, as well as could be. You know, the important thing is to keep the government as an open government so that people who want to come and see you can. And that's critical. And obviously, that's -- that makes the type of protection that you might get somewhere else a little more difficult.
But anybody who's in public life understands that. And, really, the police do a superb job here, as do the various law enforcement communicates that basically support them, like the FBI. So, yes, I do feel fairly confident that we've got good protection.
KING: Did you bond with your fellow senators?
GREGG: Oh, yes, very closely. We got to talk about a lot of good things. We talked about biannual budgeting and a lot of very important subjects.
KING: Now, did you really talk business?
GREGG: A little bit. But mostly we just kidded each other and had a good time. And most of the time was spent actually talking with folks on our staff or other staffs. And actually there were some interns here from Australia and they came over, we talked with them and sort of -- that's the ultimate intern experience, to be stuck in a garage with three or four members of the Senate.
KING: Were you concerned that no food was delivered?
GREGG: You know, that's something we've got to fix next time we do this, no question about it. There were actually a couple of kids there. And fortunately somebody found some crackers in their car, so they were able to get something to eat. But if we're going to have a gathering place like this, I think I'm sure the police are going to take a look at what they have there for resources to support 200 people sitting in a room for three or four hours.
KING: While I've got you, a couple of quick things. What were you doing in New Hampshire with the president?
GREGG: Well the president came out to talk about the budget and the need to discipline federal spending, something I very much support. He gave an excellent speech, a very substantive speech to a group of folks in the state.
And we very much appreciate him picking New Hampshire as the place to talk about fiscal responsibility because that's very high on the agenda of most people from New Hampshire.
KING: And then you flew back and went back to the -- were you in the Senate today or were you in the office all day?
GREGG: Well, back and forth. We had a lot of different meetings going on. So, I've been on the floor and back and forth. We're doing the asbestos bill, which is a fairly significant piece of legislation, about $140 billion. Obviously, a very big piece of legislation. And so I'm involved in that as budget chairman.
KING: One other thing, Senator. Back at work tomorrow right on the dot?
GREGG: Absolutely. That's our job and we enjoy doing it. You know, you've got to respect the staff here for doing it and especially the law enforcement people who protect us.
KING: Thanks, Senator Gregg, always good talking to you.
GREGG: Thank you, Larry.
KING: Senator Judd Gregg, Republican of New Hampshire, begins the day on Air Force One with the president in New Hampshire, ends the day in the garage of the Senate office building with a threat. So Ed Henry, was it much ado about nothing or did we learn something?
HENRY: Well there certainly was something in the sense that there was a scare and obviously they had to go through all of this and make sure that it was a false alarm. I think maybe we learned that the Capitol Police obviously has a lot of procedures in place, post 9/11, especially, to deal with just this type of situation.
The fact that there was such a scare, the potential that so many people were -- had been exposed to nerve agents, the fact that everyone stayed calm, as you heard from the senator, they were joking. Various reports we heard from people in that parking garage suggested that everybody was treating it fairly well and taking it in stride and that the U.S. Capitol Police did it in a professional manner might suggest that -- God forbid, something actually real happened and God forbid there was a nerve agent, that maybe they would be prepared to actually deal with it, because it seems like the procedures were in place and that actually people followed it.
There was no panic. People were not trying to run out of that garage. They listened to authority and they stayed well. And that's -- everyone is better for that, obviously, Larry.
KING: Kelli Arena, are you surprised that there was no panic at all? ARENA: We are battle hardened, Larry. We live here at the nation's capital for crying out loud. No, I'm not, I'm not. I mean, these are very professional people and as you heard, lots of false alarms that take place in the Capitol and around the Capitol in those various buildings.
So these are people that are used to situations like this. I think the one important lesson that we all learned is that they need to be fed. There you go.
KING: Senator Gregg said it. Put down pizza stands, something in the garage.
KING: Sanjay Gupta, now what should the people, in and around those who are in the garage, look for, just as a precaution in the next few days?
GUPTA: Well it sounds like probably nothing really to look for. If this had come back positive in any way, a nerve agent exposure. The things that we had been talking about, runny nose, coughing, chest tightness, blurry vision, but it just sounds like none of that is going to happen. So, probably nothing. I think everyone can just really breathe a sigh of relief, Larry.
KING: Ed Henry, are you going to get to go to that dinner or not?
HENRY: Well I'm trying to find out, Larry. I haven't been able to get out of this chair. Maybe you'll give me an answer. No.
But I assume the dinner is already over, and there were a lot of senators who were planning to attend. And life goes on. There are more important stories going on, obviously. And I think that people realize, as Kelli made the point, Washington is one of the targets, one of the top targets, the Capitol in particular.
You heard it from Senator Gregg. You sometimes take for granted the fact that there are so many thousands, over 20,000 staffers in the Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives who go to work every day with the possibility that something like this or something much worse, catastrophic like a 9/11 could happen, not just on the Capitol, not to focus too much.
That's where we are tonight, but all over Washington, all over some of the major cities and smaller cities across the United States. It's just something that people have grown to deal with and they take it in stride post 9/11, Larry.
KING: Kelli Arena, anything they might do, starting tomorrow that might be a little different?
ARENA: Well, I think that first they're going to want to find out what caused that sensor to go off. And, as you know, we've heard from several officials that our greatest strength is our greatest weakness in that they are very sensitive and that they will pick up anything that is in the air.
But of course, what ends up happening is that you get a lot of false positives. So I think that that's No. 1, find out why this happened. Second, they always do an after-action report to find out what worked, what didn't.
You know, did people arrive where they need to in time? Was equipment where it needed to be? So, that is something that happens after every episode, whether it's a false alarm or not. And so there will be a lot of people busy with that tomorrow as well, Larry.
KING: By the way, I might add that guests who were booked for tonight have been rebooked for Monday night because tomorrow night we have a very special show dealing with the United 93 crash on 9/11. And we urge you to watch that. It will really be a very, very, very special hour. And Sanjay, any precautions they can take with regard to getting this stuff in the building?
GUPTA: That's a difficult one. I mean, this sort of agent that we're talking about here can be transported in very small vials, and that can be concerning. Obviously you see that with nerve agents, possibly with biological agents as well.
The good news, Larry -- and we talked about this earlier, is that these are not effective weapons of mass destruction, like Kelli Arena mentioned, the Aum Shinrikyo attacks, 12 people died, 6,000 people I believe were injured by it.
Ultimately, they wanted to knock out the whole subway system. That didn't happen and that probably wouldn't happen in a building like this as well. So, it's not a very effective weapon of mass destruction, but it's hard to detect, Larry. I mean, you've probably walked into that Capitol building. You go through the metal detectors and things like that. But if you have a little non-metallic vial in your pocket or something, I think it's incredibly hard to detect.
KING: Ed Henry, I thank you for noble service tonight. I don't know if they're going to keep you or let you go, but I must say this, you sure looked the part.
HENRY: Well glad to do it, Larry.
KING: You've changed the role of all congressional correspondents in the future.
HENRY: I might have to start this, this is a new trend. I might go with it.
KING: Breaking news will be covered by black tie. And Kelli Arena, you were superb as usual, it's always great having you with us. And Sanjay Gupta, what can we say? You are at the top of your game in the area of medical coverage on this network.
GUPTA: Can I just say Larry, despite the fact that Ed Henry's wearing a tuxedo, you with your shiny suspenders, still able to outdress him. KING: No, not the way Henry looked tonight. I'm so glad this threat all ended well. Thank you all and thanks to all the other people that checked in with us, too.
And we as you noticed, did not have any commercials during this hour, nor did Paula Zahn before us, so that we give you total coverage here on CNN.
Tomorrow night, we'll look at the crash of United Airlines flight 93 on 9/11 in the fields of Pennsylvania. Right now, it's time to go to New York and "A.C. 360" with Anderson Cooper. And I guess you're on the same story, Anderson.
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