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Anthrax Scare: Strain Sent to Daschle Said to Be Pure and Strong

Aired October 17, 2001 - 06:10   ET

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


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Investigators are trying to find the source of the anthrax sent in a letter to Senator Tom Daschle. That particular strain of anthrax, as we have said, has proven to be very strong.

And our Congressional Correspondent, Jon Karl, now with the details from Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Investigators immediately noticed striking similarities between the letter sent to NBC's Tom Brokaw and the one sent to Tom Daschle. In addition to sharing a Trenton, New Jersey postmark, the two letters have nearly identical handwriting, but there are differences, too. Daschle's letter includes a return address. Brokaw's does not. And Daschle's letter is postmarked October 9, Brokaw's September 18. Lab tests show the anthrax in Daschle's letter is especially pure and dangerous.

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MAJORITY LEADER: There is a greater degree of concentration in some samples than there is in others. And this particular sample had a fairly significant degree of concentration of spores.

KARL: The form of the anthrax according to sources familiar with the investigation suggests a sophisticated source highly skilled in the production of biological agents.

SEN. EVAN BAYH (D), INDIANA: There are ways to look at the DNA of these sorts of samples to try and narrow down the field even further and obviously if we were to identify a state that had been involved in the giving of this kind of capability to a terrorist organization, that would have very serious consequences.

KARL: But if the source of the anthrax was sophisticated, the delivery was not. Preliminary tests on the staffer who opened the letter proved negative for anthrax exposure. But on Capitol Hill, a dozen senators with offices near Tom Daschle's were locked out. Their work places closed off until they can be thoroughly tested. Senator Richard Shelby, who also faced possible anthrax exposure during an earlier visit to NBC Studios in New York, found himself tested a second time. SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ALABAMA: My first test I came back negative. I believe that it will come back negative again. Of course at least I hope so.

KARL: A hope shared by more a thousand others, who had lined up to get checked, because they had been in the vicinity of Daschle's office Monday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To be on the safe side, to put people fears to rest, I think that's the main thing here.

KARL: All of those tested were given the antibiotic Cipro to take while they await results.

(on camera): Yet, through it all, there was a remarkable feeling of business as usual on Capitol Hill, as members of Congress held dueling press conferences on issues ranging from aviation security to energy policy, and vowed that the work of Congress will go on.

Jonathan Karl, CNN, Capitol Hill.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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