CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Are Postal Workers Being Treated Fairly in Anthrax Scare?; What Can U.S. do to Prevent Bioterrorism?; How Far Will America go to Prevent Terror at Home?
Aired October 27, 2001 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because obviously people are getting sick, and people are dying. And we can't afford to continue to have this happen. And so, whatever happened to Brentwood, we just can't afford to let happen anywhere else.
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JEANNE MESERVE, HOST: The fight against anthrax terrorism: Are Washington and government scientists racing to catch up? Did Capitol Hill get first-class attention, while postal workers were ignored with deadly consequences? Our guests will answer your phone and e-mail questions.
And we're joined again by bioterrorism and emergency medicine expert Dr. Joseph Waeckerle.
From the medical to the legal front, CNN analyst Roger Cossack and his special guest discuss what remedies postal workers may have.
Plus, how far will U.S. go to fight terrorism at home? Will hundreds more suspects be locked up? Will the rules change to pressure them to talk? All ahead, as we continue CNN's coverage of "America Strikes Back."
I'm Jeanne Meserve in Washington. We'll spend the next two hours grappling with both the legal and the medical issues of this week's fight against terrorism. Joining me will be CNN medical correspondent Rea Blakey.
And a reminder that throughout the program we'd like to hear from you. You can call us or send e-mails to email@example.com.
But first, a check of the latest developments.
More anthrax has been found on Capitol Hill. Officials say trace amounts of anthrax were discovered yesterday in three offices in the Longworth House Office Building. The bacteria were found in the sixth- and seventh-floor offices. In a news conference last hour, officials said those who may have been in or near those offices will be given antibiotics. Work continues at the site of the World Trade Center collapse, unhindered by a small earthquake. The 2.6-magnitude quake was felt in Manhattan earlier this morning, but recovery crews didn't stop. Workers will pause tonight at 7:00 for 24 hours so the city can set up for tomorrow's planned family memorial service.
U.S. warplanes pounded more sites in and around the Afghan capital, Kabul, today. The attacks resumed before daybreak, as Operation Enduring Freedom prepares to enter week four.
Taliban fighters may be getting some help soon from across the border. Thousands of Pakistani tribesmen were attempting to cross into Afghanistan today, vowing to fight a holy war against the United States. Sources say the men are packing weapons and supplies.
President Bush was to meet with his national security team today. The latest from CNN White House correspondent Kelly Wallace, who was near the presidential retreat at Camp David, Maryland.
Kelly, fill us in.
KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hello there, Jeanne.
Well, it's really a weekly ritual now for President Bush, starting his Saturdays chairing a video teleconference from the presidential retreat with his National Security Council. Today, no different.
Mr. Bush headed to Camp David yesterday afternoon, and he met with his National Security Council team for about a half-hour this morning. Joining the president up at Camp David, his national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, and his chief of staff, Andrew Card.
This meeting, again, coming after the White House faced a bit of a tough week. Lots of questions from reporters at the Pentagon about the progress in this military campaign under way in Afghanistan. The White House also fielding lots and lots of questions about whether the federal government was too slow to respond about these cases of anthrax in Washington and, of course, New York, New Jersey and Florida.
Mr. Bush not making a mention of either issue in his weekly radio address today. Instead, he tried to put pressure on lawmakers in the Congress to finish up work on a bill to enhance security at the airports around the country.
Now, Democrats and Republicans agree on a number of things: strengthening cockpit doors, putting more armed federal marshals on planes. But there's lots of disagreement over whether passenger and baggage screeners should be federal employees.
Mr. Bush making it clear he is putting his backing behind a House Republican bill pushed by Congressman Don Young. The president says he prefers this over the bill which passed the Senate not too long ago. And here is why the president is supporting the House measure.
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GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is a critical difference between the Young bill and the bill the Senate passed a few weeks ago. My approach gives the government the flexibility it needs to assemble a skilled and disciplined screening work force. The Senate bill mandates that all passenger and baggage screeners be federal workers in all circumstances.
The Young bill is quickest, most effective way to increase aviation security, and time is of the essence.
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WALLACE: And Mr. Bush signing into law yesterday a bill strengthening anti-terrorism laws, giving law enforcement officials more powers when it comes to cracking down on suspected terrorists.
Jeanne, at that signing ceremony, he noted the overwhelming bipartisan support for that measure. He is hoping to have a signing ceremony very soon for this airline security bill. But a bit of an uphill climb right now getting Democrats and Republicans to agree.
Jeanne, back to you.
MESERVE: Kelly, we have seen this extraordinary display of bipartisanship since September 11. Could it unravel over this airport security bill?
WALLACE: Well, we could start seeing it unravel a little bit, because, obviously, big disagreements between Democrats and Republicans over this issue.
Also, disagreements over other issues, such as a bill to give a boost to the economy. You have House Republicans pushing a bill -- it was passed this week -- mostly comprised mainly of tax cuts. Democrats in the Senate would like to see more government spending, more help for the unemployed.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, in fact, in his weekly radio address today, or responding to President Bush's address, he's accusing some House Republicans of sort of taking advantage of the times to pass their agenda when it comes to tax cuts.
So you're likely to see more disagreement, more of what we normally see in Washington, over these issues in the weeks ahead, Jeanne.
MESERVE: Kelly, thanks.
And as we mentioned, on Capitol Hill today new concern about congressional offices contaminated with anthrax. CNN medical correspondent Rhonda Rowland has the latest on that -- Rhonda.
RHONDA ROWLAND, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jeanne, we're talking about the House Longworth Building, which is right behind me. It's just south of the Capitol. And investigators found traces -- that is, low numbers of spores -- of anthrax in three offices of congressmen. And one of those offices belongs to Representative Mike Pence of Indiana, and he held a press conference this morning with other officials.
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REP. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: Our word is to be confident. Know that my family and our staff are all well and in good health and show no signs of any infection.
We will all be tested for exposure, and we will all begin prophylactic treatment of antibiotics after I leave this press conference today.
But I want the people that I serve to know that they should not be alarmed by these revelations. They should be encouraged. This is an example of the system working, of the Capitol security and health officials on Capitol Hill doing their job with force and effectiveness.
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ROWLAND: Dr. Gregory Martin with Bethesda Naval Hospital said that those individuals who worked in these three offices would be offered preventive antibiotics, but they will not be receiving Cipro. Instead they will be receiving the antibiotic doxycycline, and this is because the CDC has changed recommendations as of yesterday. Now everyone will be getting doxycycline.
Now, on another note, this morning, funeral services were held for Joseph Curseen Jr. He is one of the two postal workers from the Brentwood facility who died of anthrax earlier this week. In attendance at the funeral was Mayor Anthony Williams and other postal officials. Yesterday funeral services were held for Thomas Morris Jr., the other individual who died of anthrax -- Jeanne.
MESERVE: Rhonda, can you tell us a little bit more about this decision not to use Cipro on these latest people to be prescribed antibiotics?
ROWLAND: Well, what we understand from the CDC's director Dr. Jeffrey Koplan, he told us from day one when the first case of anthrax was found down in Florida, when they did their laboratory tests they found that this strain of anthrax is sensitive to a range of antibiotics, including penicillin and doxycycline and Cipro.
And now they want everyone to have confidence in these other antibiotics, like doxycycline, and also they're very concerned about antibiotic resistance. They don't want that to occur with Cipro.
So that's why individuals are being offered this antibiotic, and it's also a relatively inexpensive antibiotic. And, Jeanne, also it's important for people to know that the side-effect profile for these two antibiotics are fairly similar. MESERVE: Rhonda Rowland on Capitol Hill. Thanks for the latest.
And joining us now here in Washington is Senator John Edwards, Democrat of North Carolina. He has worked to strengthen the defense of the nation's air, water and food supply against biological and chemical attack.
Thanks so much for joining us, Senator.
SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D), NORTH CAROLINA: Glad to be with you, Jeanne.
MESERVE: Before we get to that matter, let me ask you about the war. Here we are entering week four. The Taliban still very much in control. We saw a possible leader of the next government of Afghanistan executed yesterday. We see bombs going astray. We see Pakistanis going over the border to fight on behalf of the Taliban.
Is this a war in trouble?
EDWARDS: No, I don't think so. I think that what we've known from the very beginning is this was going to take a long-term, sustained effort. It's the nature of war, particularly the nature of this kind of war where we're so dependent on real-time intelligence for all of our activities in Afghanistan. And we're operating in a very hostile environment. Bad place in terms of the terrain. These people know the terrain, they know where to hide.
You know, I think we've known for a long time that this would take a long-term, sustained effort, and that there would be unevenness. And I think we're just seeing some of that unevenness. I don't think any of this is unexpected.
MESERVE: Do you detect any erosion of support on Capitol Hill or among your constituents?
EDWARDS: No, absolutely. Now, I can tell you, among the people I represent, they feel very strongly that we're doing the right thing. They support this war on terrorism. They support what we're doing in Afghanistan. And I know that my colleagues feel the same way.
MESERVE: Well, we've seen Pakistan say, we don't want this to go on for too long. We've seen many Islamic countries saying, we don't want to see bombing during Ramadan.
Is there a risk of the international coalition unraveling? And if it does, what sort of position does that put U.S. in?
EDWARDS: Well, I think, actually, the administration has done a very good job of assembling a very effective coalition. But we're the ones driving this ship, and everyone recognizes that. People are dependent on us to do the right thing. I mean, if you look at what's happened really, the world has recognized that America is a defender of freedom in this circumstance, and so we're providing a leadership role. We have to make decisions, in consultation with our coalition allies, but we need to make decisions about what needs to be done. No, I don't think there's any serious risk of it unraveling.
And just ahead, more of our conversation with Senator John Edwards. Stay with us.
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BUSH: We're changing the laws governing information sharing. And as importantly, we're changing the culture of our various agencies that fight terrorism. Countering and investigating terrorist activity is the number-one priority for both law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
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MESERVE: President Bush yesterday signing the new anti-terrorism law that he says will help the nation pursue and punish terrorists and prevent new atrocities.
With us now, Senator John Edwards, Democrat of North Carolina.
Thanks again for being here.
EDWARDS: Happy to be here.
MESERVE: You proposed legislation that would spend $1.6 billion to strengthen the nation's defenses against biological and chemical weapons. By implication, are you saying that the administration is not doing enough?
EDWARDS: No, no, I'm not saying that. I think all of us recognize there's clearly more that needs to be done, that we're not sufficiently prepared.
And if we think about it -- in fact, you can see what's happened in Washington and in New York as a result of the anthrax attacks. I mean, if a biological attack occurs, particularly if it occurs out there in the country, I mean, we have to have people on the front lines who are ready to respond.
We're talking about doctors, nurses. We're talking about people in lithe public health system, laboratories. And we have to make sure that they have system, a disease surveillance system so that they get the information to the place it needs to be as quickly as possible. And that they then have the antibiotics and the vaccines to treat it.
One of the problems we've had in the past, Jeanne, is the money we've spent on bioterrorism has tended to stay in Washington. And we're pushing very hard to get the money out of Washington to the states, to the local areas, and particularly to rural areas, where many, many physicians -- in fact, this is true pretty much around the country -- have never seen a case of anthrax, never seen a case of smallpox.
We've got to make sure these folks are ready. They're the ones who are going to have to see what's happening.
REA BLAKEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Senator, there is a subset to that whole bioterrorism issue, is there not, in agro-terrorism? The food supply obviously is very vulnerable. What are we doing to make sure that people in rural areas, who really are our first line of defense, those farmers, ranchers, that those people are well equipped? There's basically no security out there.
EDWARDS: No, that's a very good point. We have included, Senator Hagel and I, have included in our legislation, specific provisions on what we call agro-terrorism, an attack on our food supply, an attack on our crops, our agricultural supply.
And it's multifaceted, but one of the places to start, by the way, is of course we're importing food and agricultural products regularly into the country. And just as we've had problems with airport security, we have similar problems with those importations, because there is a very small percentage of those products that are in fact inspected.
And if you think about it, they could very easily -- someone who wanted to do damage to us could very easily introduce a pathogen into some food that's coming in to the United States and cause a serious problem.
BLAKEY: Well, let me follow up with that, because we talk about the possibility of pathogens. There are some 22 animal-related diseases that we don't currently vaccinate for. Isn't that a wide- open hole in a potential safety net?
EDWARDS: Oh, absolutely, absolutely. This is another example. I mean, we have meat products coming into the country. We have cattle coming in. We have to do more than we're doing right now.
And of course the natural response -- one of the things that happened as a result September 11, people immediately focused on airport security. It was the right thing to do. We needed to do that.
But Chuck and I were thinking about, "Well, what's the next attack likely to be?" And actually, it was before this anthrax stuff began. And we were concerned about a biological attack, a chemical attack.
And we also recognize what I think a number of people have recognized for a long time now, which is our food supply is vulnerable and our agricultural supply is vulnerable. We have to do more in that area.
MESERVE: $1.6 billion is a lot of money. Where does it come from? EDWARDS: Well, it's like all of the rest. We're dealing with the surpluses, or the potential surpluses, in the future.
I think what we've all decided, Jeanne, is we have to fight this war on terrorism. We have to make sure that our country is secure. We want to maintain fiscal discipline as much as we conceivably can. But those are priorities. The protection of our people is an enormous priority.
MESERVE: Does the Bush tax cut plan have to go back on the table and be reexamined?
EDWARDS: Well, we're going to -- I think, ultimately, we're going to have to make a decision about how to deal with all of these things. We have to protect Social Security. We have got to make sure the Social Security stays in place. We've got to make sure that Medicare is protected. And we want to get back to fiscal discipline.
But in the short term, we have a responsibility to the American people to make sure that they're protected. And that means offensively going out and fighting this war on terrorism and defensively being prepared here in the United States to protect people.
BLAKEY: Well, Senator, when you talk about protecting people, obviously you fly back and forth home to North Carolina every weekend.
BLAKEY: People who are in the flying public, at this point, many times don't feel as if they are as safe as they could have been. Why would it be better to have federal employees guarding these airlines, boarding, et cetera, screening, than private industry?
EDWARDS: Well, as you know, we had that bill in the United States Senate. It passed 100 to nothing. All the Democrats and Republicans and our one Independent all voted for it, so it had strong bipartisan support.
And our belief was that this is a law enforcement, national security function, much like our law enforcement officials, our police officers, our fire department people who are the people to responded to the situation in New York, our military who are helping defend the country right now both offensively and defensively. This is a law enforcement function.
It involves protecting our people. And we want to make sure that there's uniformity, remembering that we have so many flights and so many airports around the country, and this chain is no stronger than its weakest link. Couldn't be better example of that than what happened on September 11.
A couple of these hijackers, remember, drove to Portland, Maine, to get on an early morning flight out of a smaller airport, instead of going through Boston or New York, and that was clearly very calculated. This system is interdependent, it's a chain. If one link in that chain is weak, then the whole system falls apart. That's the problem. If we don't have -- if we don't federalize and we don't make sure that the chain is completely uniform, and that it's as strong everywhere as it is in the big cities, then we've got a serious problem.
People need to feel safe, and that's what this all about.
MESERVE: And you're absolutely right. People who are postal workers also need to feel safe. I want to shift gears on you here really quickly.
MESERVE: Do you sense that there was, in fact, a dichotomy in treatment between the people on Capitol Hill and those people who may be blue-class workers -- who are postal workers, in fact -- who may not receive the same intensity? You know, 10-day supply of Cipro versus a 60-day supply of Cipro.
EDWARDS: Sure, and I think those are completely fair questions.
Here's what I know. From what I know about this, the situations are fairly different, because what happened with the letter that came into Senator Daschle's office is there was an event. I mean, there was this proof. We saw the powder. It was very easy to recognize, very easy to see that there needed to be a response.
The situation in the postal areas was very different. There wasn't such an event. It was hard to know, in fact, that some of this anthrax could have gotten through the letters and contaminated it, in fact, infected postal workers. So the situations are different.
But I got to tell you, I can't -- we feel -- I speak for myself -- I feel very strongly that people who work in the postal system should be treated exactly the same way as United States senators. There should be no difference whatsoever. And we need to look and make sure that we did that.
MESERVE: Did the federal government bungle here?
EDWARDS: No. I think that what's happening, Jeanne, is we're dealing with something for the first time. And if you watch the way the -- I mean, for example, you just reported that they're changing the nature of the antibiotic. Instead of using Cipro, we're using another antibiotic...
EDWARDS: ... as of yesterday.
I mean, I think the truth of the matter is, this is a new kind of attack, a new kind of biological agent that's being used against us. And things that we thought were true, that didn't have a great deal of experience with, we're learning now weren't true. And we're having to sort of feel our way along, and I think that's a lot of what we're seeing here.
I think there's an enormous and intense and passionate feeling that everyone needs to be protected and we want to do everything possible. But the reality is, we're trying to figure out as we go along what's the best thing to do.
MESERVE: Senator John Edwards, we have to leave it there. Thank you.
EDWARDS: Glad be with you, Jeanne.
MESERVE: And coming up next, an emergency medicine expert answers your questions about anthrax and other agents of bioterrorism.
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ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It would have to be in what's been described as a well-equipped microbiology lab, and the type of knowledge would have to have been done by someone with knowledge of a Ph.D. microbiologist.
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MESERVE: White House press secretary Ari Fleischer with the latest assumption about the expertise required to send out the letters spiked with anthrax.
Joining us again this week to answer your questions about bioterrorism is Dr. Joseph Waeckerle, a professor at the University of Missouri at Kansas City. Dr. Waeckerle is also experienced in emergency medicine.
And I have to ask you, how ill-prepared are we prepared, in terms of the doctors, the hospitals, the federal government?
DR. JOSEPH WAECKERLE, ANTHRAX EXPERT: Well, I think we're prepared, but I think can be better prepared. And we have three functions that would cause us to be better prepared, that we need to address quickly.
The first is we need to educate the emergency health care professionals in America, the doctors, the nurses and the EMT paramedics, as they will be the new first responders for biologic warfare.
People go to emergency departments. Right now, for any emergency they have, it's not going to be any different for biologic event. That's our first line of defense, and they need to be updated and educated and certified.
We need to rebuild the public health infrastructure. Everybody has talked about that and appropriately so.
And the third weakness in our system that we need to build up a little more is rebuilding our hospitals in this country. Due to the health care changes of today, hospitals are in severe financial straits, and they have overcrowding and they have lack of nurses, they have lack of resources, often, that need to be corrected. So that, if a biologic event occurs and we need to have the capability of caring for many more people, they can do so for us.
BLAKEY: Dr. Waeckerle, Rea Blakey here, a medical correspondent at CNN.
Curious to know what you think we can do, in regards to increasing surge capacity at hospitals. Obviously, that could be a huge issue, should we be confronted with hundreds, maybe even thousands of people who are injured or somehow harmed with a chemical or biological threat.
WAECKERLE: Yes. That's a great question. As you know, the hospitals in America are already overcrowded. And every emergency department in America, as you know, if you've ever been there, you have to wait to be seen. And it's determined as to how sick you are, how quickly you're seen.
So, if in fact we have a biologic event and we have a hundred more patients or a thousand more patients in a community or, God forbid, 100,000 patients, what are we going to do? Where are we going to get the nurses and the doctors and the doxycycline or the Cipro or the antibiotics or the ventilators?
We need to address those issues very quickly. And while we're focused on what's going on locally right now, as we should be, in a couple of communities in certain instances, if we have a widespread event, it will change dramatically how we must respond in this country.
MESERVE: And, Dr. Waeckerle, we have some e-mail questions for you already. This one comes from Tim. He says, "What is the likelihood of paper money being used as a means of spreading anthrax or other diseases?"
You may not know the likelihood, but what would the effectiveness be?
WAECKERLE: Well, I certainly don't know the likelihood. But, as we've all witnessed, who knows what's going to happen next?
The thing you have to remember about most of these diseases is that the organisms are fragile, so it's not -- they are not easily spread outside of anthrax.
But the good thing about anthrax, if there is a good thing, is that is it requires a large dose to be inhaled to a certain area of your lungs, so that it affects you and infects you, so that the chances of using money as a source of contagion is very remote in this country.
MESERVE: OK. Another one coming in from Michael. Michael's in Missouri and asks, "How are the people who are placing the anthrax- tainted mail avoiding becoming infected themselves?" Any ideas?
WAECKERLE: Well, you would just use the same precautions that the people investigating these incidents are using right now. You wear masks and gloves; you don't disturb the particles. You use the common sense approach and the standard precautions -- we used to call universal precautions -- in this country for any infectious disease, and I'm sure they're doing that.
BLAKEY: Dr. Waeckerle, at this point, the CDC has indicated that those who are handling these materials, whether they be investigators or decontamination crews, lab crews, should in fact be taking the anthrax vaccine. This is new information. Do you agree with that?
WAECKERLE: Well, this is just, to me, common sense. And I heard about this announced yesterday afternoon, and there was some controversy.
We have for a long time vaccinated high-risk personnel for various infectious diseases. We have an effective vaccine. We have a high-risk group of people that, in fact, we know will be in contact with this disease. Why wouldn't we vaccinate them and protect them? It's just common sense.
BLAKEY: But doesn't it take 18 months or 16 months for that immunity to develop?
WAECKERLE: No. Actually, the recent studies have shown that the vaccinations occur, as you know, at zero, two and four weeks, then six months, 12 months and 18 months.
Within those first vaccinations that you are given, you develop cellular and antibody immunities, neutralizing antibodies, that protect you. And it's a very, very high percentage, almost complete at 100 percent at four weeks. So they're very effective vaccines with very low side profiles of risks.
MESERVE: And we have to take a break. Your phone calls and e- mails about bioterrorism for Dr. Joseph Waeckerle, when we return.
MESERVE: There you see the numbers. One out of three Americans worry they or a family member will be exposed to anthrax, according to the latest CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup Poll.
Welcome back. We're taking your e-mails and phone calls about anthrax and bioterrorism, with Joseph Waeckerle. Among his many accomplishments, he's a domestic preparedness expert with the American College of Emergency Physicians.
Dr. Waeckerle, if I could ask you, the flu season is about to be upon us. Isn't this going to tremendously complicate this situation for physicians and emergency rooms?
WAECKERLE: I think it's going to tremendously complicate the situations for each of us as individuals, as well as health care professionals and the news media. How do we distinguish between the truth, the two events, because, as you know, anthrax initially can present non-specifically like the flu.
The difference is, with anthrax you have to be exposed to a sufficient number of organisms that have to enter your body and infect you. So we have knowledge of what events have occurred in this country, where the sources are, where the sources of contamination are contained, and those people need to be addressed.
Until a time when we have a concern about another source of spread, where further episodes have spread, if you feel like you have the flu, you probably have the flu.
MESERVE: And we have a phone call for you, this one coming in from Mobile, Alabama.
Go right ahead, please.
CALLER: Yes, thank you for taking my call.
Dr. Waeckerle, I just want to know, how do you know that the anthrax is domestic and not terrorism linked to the September 11 attacks?
And also I want to know, in case the smallpox epidemic arises, what do we do for people like my daughter and I, who are very allergic to the smallpox vaccination, do in this case? And is there an alternative method that can be used?
WAECKERLE: With regard to your first question, regarding anthrax, I couldn't hear you very well, so if you could repeat it, I'd appreciate it.
MESERVE: I think it had to do, Dr. Waeckerle, with whether this was domestic or international terrorism. And I think that's a matter that federal investigators are still uncertain about.
So why don't you take a crack at the second part, this question about the smallpox vaccine?
WAECKERLE: Yes, that's a good question because smallpox vaccinations, when we need them and when we receive them, have a complication profile of maybe one in a million. So it's a very effective and safe vaccine.
There are certain people that might have allergies to the vaccination during the manufacturing process. And there are other strategies available, such as an immunoglobulin, and there are other areas of investigation that we're currently looking at in the medical sciences as to treatment modalities, if you cannot be vaccinated, such as anti-viral drugs.
And I don't want to mislead you. We have not identified anti- viral drugs that are effective as of yet, but certainly there's a great deal of impetus for research in that area going on. BLAKEY: Dr. Waeckerle, public health officials know that Cipro is in fact an effective drug against anthrax. We know that there are some 20,000 people who are currently taking that medication, and yet we have the CDC shifting over to doxycycline for some of the latest people to be put on medication to prevent anthrax infection.
Do you think that's a wise move? And do you think it might cause a run on doxycycline?
WAECKERLE: Well, I think it's an extremely wise move. And your medical correspondent earlier spoke to it exactly right.
And let me just repeat that. The first thing is we have a lot of experience with doxycycline. It's a good drug. It's been around a long time.
Somebody would logically say, "Joe, why did we go to Cipro first?" Well, we went to Cipro first because we didn't know the organism that we were dealing with. And we wanted to make sure that we used the strongest drug we had until we discovered that this organism was sensitive to the other drugs that we traditionally used in the past.
Immediately we should shift to those drugs we're more familiar with, we have better experience with, and are less powerful, with less side effects.
The other advantage is, should we ever encounter an anthrax disease that is resistant to these organisms, we have not used our big gun, Cipro, and we have it available to us.
So I think this is a very wise decision that will really help everybody in America because of those reasons.
MESERVE: Dr. Waeckerle, Paul has sent us an e-mail. He asks, "I've read that using a hot iron on mail before opening it can help neutralize the anthrax spores. Is there any truth to this?"
WAECKERLE: I am not aware that using a hot iron will neutralize all of the spores that you potentially could be infected with.
There are a number of mechanisms whereby we can neutralize it. Most are not available to you and me. We've talked about microwaves and formaldehyde and heating.
But the fact is, the risk of any of us receiving these in the mail is so remote I don't think we really need to do that.
MESERVE: The best advice still just to wash our hands?
WAECKERLE: I've lost my earpiece. I apologize to you, just one moment please. I apologize. There we go.
MESERVE: OK, we're reconnected. Is the best advice then for people just to wash their hands after they open the mail?
WAECKERLE: Yes, soap and water has been proven to be very effective.
As you guys know, you've reported this, we've recommended soap and water for anybody with any type of exposure since day one. It's very effective, and it protects every individual. And the funny part is, you can use soap and water to protect you from anthrax and from the flu at the same time. It's just good hygiene.
MESERVE: Dr. Waeckerle, when we look at the national pharmaceutical stockpile, do you get the impression that the U.S. government is doing everything it can to make certain that we have enough medications on hand? I mean, obviously, none of us know when the next attack, what form, what shape. Are we being aggressive enough there?
WAECKERLE: Oh, we've been aggressive in that area through the CDC's leadership for a couple of years. And the Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Group at the CDC has done a remarkably good job with regard to that area and the development of the national pharmaceutical stockpiles and the vendor-managed inventory that allow us as the citizens to receive needed drugs and vaccines and medications in a very critical time frame. So that's one thing that I think we've addressed very well.
And that just points out that the one leader on all of this, as a private health care provider I have been impressed with, is the CDC. They're that nice bridge between the federal government that we sort of see in Washington and those of us who are private practitioners of health care in the real world. And they have a great deal of integrity, and we trust them very well with regard to infectious diseases.
MESERVE: The phones are ringing, and we have a question from California.
Go right ahead.
CALLER: Yes, hello, Doctor. My question is the mail that was sent to the White House and the Senate offices, are those spores or whatever was in -- can you see them at all?
WAECKERLE: No, what you see is a powdery substance as everyone has described to you. And just to give you an analogy, just take some flour or some talcum powder that you normally have around your house, and that's sort of what it looks like.
The thing that you have to remember is that these weapons that are being used against us have to be very carefully manufactured and mixed together so that they can be inhaled in the right amounts to the right area.
And it requires some sophistication, as someone earlier said. It requires a level of sophistication that we need to be concerned if it's at a Ph.D. or a lab that this is occurring, whether it be in the United States or overseas.
MESERVE: Dr. Waeckerle, we all know that we can go to the drug store and buy a mask to put on our faces. Would that be an effective way of preventing an infection?
WAECKERLE: It certainly would for certain organisms. And anthrax requires a large number of spores of the right size to be inhaled, again, to the right area of the lung. And a mask would protect you. But remember -- and I'm not taking about a gas mask. I'm just talking about these masks that you see the doctors wearing every day.
But the challenge with that is, one, we don't need to do that because none of us really should be exposed to these, given the fact that these are very isolated events. And two is, the masks have to fit so well that no air gets around it. So I think that's a bit of overreacting.
BLAKEY: Dr. Waeckerle, I talked to a number of postal workers in Washington who are concerned that they might be carrying home some spores on their clothing. Is that a valid concern?
WAECKERLE: Well, I think that we have demonstrated over the last 100 years in workers that have worked in the manufacturing plants where we had harvested livestock and we have used the wool, for example, from sheep, that people have had anthrax cultured from their noses and have never had a problem with it.
And again, the reason is that anthrax is an interesting bug because you have to absorb it through a cut or you have to breathe in a critical number of particles that are of a critical size that, again, get down to the lowest part of the lung to be infected.
If you don't do that, it's like having a little bit on your skin. It's not going to affect you. And we have bacteria on our skins every day that potentially harm us. But our skin is a great barrier to infection.
MESERVE: Dr. Waeckerle, thanks a lot for helping us out, and helping us and our viewers understand better the risks they face.
WAECKERLE: Thank you.
MESERVE: And when we return, former CDC official Dr. Philip Brachman on how the feds performed in the opening rounds of the anthrax crisis. CNN continues with "America Strikes Back."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MAX CLELAND (D), GEORGIA: It's obvious that our government has to be better organized, better coordinated, to deal with something like this. There's no question about that. Secondly, we have to communicate to the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MESERVE: Georgia Senator Max Cleland expressing concern about the government's initial handling of the anthrax terrorism. And joining us now in Atlanta is Dr. Philip Brachman, a former official with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He now teaches at Emory University's School of Public Health.
Thanks so much for joining us here today.
Let me ask you, first, Dr. Brachman, do you expect more cases of inhalation anthrax?
DR. PHILIP BRACHMAN, EMORY UNIVERSITY: Well, I think that's a very hard question. I do not -- I think there certainly could be more cases. We don't really know what the perpetrators are doing, but it's quite possible that there are more envelopes out there or will be out there. I think we have to remain on alert because I think it's certainly possible.
BLAKEY: Dr. Brachman, you're certainly familiar with the investigatory efforts of the CDC. I'm curious to know, if some of the postal workers are not being tested but are being treated instead, is there the possibility to miss an epidemiological opportunity to gather more science?
BRACHMAN: I think they have adequate data. I'm sure that the laboratories are quite -- working very, very hard. They have quite an adequate number of environmental specimens to define the environmental aspects of this.
And I think, in fairness to the postal employees, when they have a feeling that -- or some evidence that contamination of a particular environmental area in a postal facility has occurred, I think it is appropriate to provide prophylactic medication.
I don't think culturing the employees themselves -- even if they're negative, does not mean they might not have been infected, since the culturing is of the snares and they might miss an organism, or the spores might not be contaminated. But it's quite possible the employee would still be -- could be infected.
So I think it's quite appropriate to provide prophylactic medication, even though they've not all been cultured.
BLAKEY: Well, sir, explain for us why some people are given a 10-day supply and others are given a 60-day supply. Seems like a dichotomy.
BRACHMAN: Well, I'm not sure that I can answer that, not being involved in it. I will assume that the 60-day supply, it is felt that these people might have more of a risk of having been infected and infected possibly with the small airborne particles, containing bacillus anthraces, so that they might develop -- they might be in the process of potentially developing inhalational anthrax.
A shorter supply might be just a prophylax against potential cutaneous anthrax or a colonization within the spores.
So I'm sure there's very good reasons for having different dosages, and I think that would have to be answered by those people who are prescribing the medications.
MESERVE: Dr. Brachman, we have a related e-mail question from Donal (ph), asking, "Wouldn't it be reasonable to consider our postal workers high risk and give them vaccinations across the board?" What do you think?
BRACHMAN: I think that's a consideration that should be discussed and possibly implemented. Since we do not know the extent of this problem and how long it will go on, if there could be adequate vaccine supplies available and it's a perfectly safe and effective vaccine, which it is, I think that is a very excellent thought that has to be considered.
If we thought that all of the exposures were done, that there's no more risk involved, then there'd be no reason to vaccinate. But if there is still the risk of further mail being sent with contamination within envelopes and etcetera, I think vaccination will be quite appropriate.
MESERVE: As you know, Dr. Brachman, two people are dead, and some people are saying the CDC and the rest of the federal government did not respond appropriately to this threat. Do you agree?
BRACHMAN: No, I do not. I think that it's very dangerous to look through the retrospective scope to judge what has happened. I think it's important to look at how decisions are made at the time.
I'm well aware that some of the postal workers in Washington are concerned that other facilities in Washington were closed and they remained open for several additional days. But I think, in looking at the evidence as it came in, when the congressional facilities were closed, it was not really considered that a mail facility could be contaminated just because a letter went through it. There was no such evidence at the time.
So what I think, until there was such evidence, I think it was quite -- what CDC and the other federal agencies, how they were working I think was quite appropriate.
BLAKEY: Sir, does one develop a natural immunity to anthrax? And I'm curious, once they're off the prophylactic medication, can a person be re-exposed and perhaps reinfected?
BRACHMAN: The first question as to whether somebody can have a subclinical infection and develop antibodies, at least in the mills that we studied back in the '50s and '60s, we did find that some employees did have antibodies when we tested their blood. But they had no history at all of ever having had anthrax.
So we did assume from that that it was possible for individuals to have a subclinical infection -- that is, infected, no clinical disease, but the body reacts to that infection by preparing antibodies. We think that those antibodies are protected.
Now, somebody who once develops clinical anthrax we think now has immunity. So we have no evidence that somebody could develop anthrax a second time.
A person who is on Cipro or on doxycillin or some other antibiotic as a prophylactic, there is no evidence that that person is infected, so that person would not have antibodies. And if not infected, they would therefore have a chance to develop antibodies.
MESERVE: Dr. Brachman, stay with us.
Our viewers, stay with us too. We're going to take a break. But when we return, your phone calls and e-mails for Dr. Brachman.
MESERVE: An important source of information about the news of the day, the terrorism investigation and how public health authorities are responding can be found online at CNN.com, AOL keyword CNN.
Welcome back. We're talking your phone calls and e-mails about the government's handling of the anthrax threat.
Joining us from Detroit, former surgeon general, Dr. Jocelyn Elders, now with the University of Arkansas Medical School.
Also, still with us, Dr. Philip Brachman of the Emory University School of Public Health.
Dr. Elders, let me start with you. Do you think that the federal health infrastructure is up to handling this anthrax challenge?
JOCELYN ELDERS, FORMER U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: Well, I feel that the public health infrastructure could handle the anthrax scandal. But, you know, I think that, you know, this is something that happened rather suddenly. I think that they're working very hard.
I think that there are some things that's happened that we didn't expect, you know. I think we didn't know that anthrax could be, you know, come through paper out of sealed envelopes. You know, that was kind of new for us.
So I feel that they are working hard to try and make sure there are plenty of antibiotics, to make sure we immunize -- have vaccine for all the postal officials that need it.
I think we've admitted -- they've admitted that they, perhaps, erred, that we, as a nation, would have erred, because we didn't know that we needed to treat the postal workers if they had not been directly exposed.
BLAKEY: As a former surgeon general, ma'am, do you feel that the current surgeon general is playing a strong enough role in keeping the public educated, despite all the twists and turns in this science?
ELDERS: You know, I think the public -- the surgeon general is doing the very best that he can based on the available scientific data. I think there have been people out there speaking and talking. You know, I would personally, now, like the head of whoever is the best we've got in the country on anthrax to be out there speaking and talking with us.
But, you know, I think the surgeon general is saying what he needs to say.
MESERVE: Dr. Brachman, let me ask you if you think years of neglect of the public health system are coming home to roost here?
BRACHMAN: Well, I don't think there's been years of neglect. I think that, as Dr. Elders indicated, that this is an extremely unusual event.
I don't think -- I think it's important to recognize that we're not going to be able to prevent the first case in a bioterroristic happening. That's the basis of bioterrorism: Something unusual will be done; something will happen. I think the response is what's important. And I think the CDC and the other federal agencies responded very adequately when the first information came through on anthrax.
Recall that in Florida, when the first gentleman developed anthrax and died rather rapidly, CDC immediately put epidemiologists into the state of Florida and into North Carolina, because that's where the gentleman had been traveling prior to becoming ill.
Subsequently, they have responded to the additional problems in New York and in New Jersey and in Washington, D.C., by putting literally hundreds of epidemiologists out into the field. So I think they've responded very rapidly and very appropriately.
I would indicate -- I would suggest, though, too, that as Congress has been looking into this recently, they have come up with the thought and the suggestion that maybe we should have more epidemiologists in each of the states, in order to be more readily prepared for a bioterroristic event. I think that's a superb idea.
I think, if possible, it would be very appropriate to increase the financial support of CDC, so they could put epidemiologists into each and every state who then would be at the ready to approach any bioterroristic even that will happen.
MESERVE: And, Dr. Philip Brachman, thank you so much for your assistance.
Dr. Elders, you're going to stay with us. We'll get your thoughts in a minute.
In our next hour, we'll also be talking to the man at the center of the storm here in Washington, Dr. Ivan Walks, director of the D.C. Health Department.
And we'll turn to the legal issues raised by the new war on terrorism. I'll be joined by CNN legal analyst Roger Cossack, and our guests will take your phone calls and e-mails. It's all ahead, when our coverage of "America Fights Back" continues.
MESERVE: Welcome back to CNN, "America Strikes Back."
We're exploring the medical drama being played out hour by hour around anthrax terrorism, and we will look at the legal side of the story, the new anti-terrorism law, and new questions about how much the U.S. is wiling to give up to uproot terrorists.
We'll also be taking more of your phone calls and e-mails, but first, a check of the hour's top stories. Here are the latest developments.
U.S. fighter jets hit military targets over a big area of Afghanistan today. The U.N. says bombs fell on one of its land mine clearing centers in Kabul, killing two dogs that were trained to sniff out mines.
Meanwhile, witnesses tell CNN that thousands of armed men are trying to cross from Pakistan into Afghanistan to join the Taliban in the war.
The Czech interior minister confirms reports that Mohammad Atta, suspected ringleader of the suicide hijackers, met with an Iraqi intelligence agent. The Czech official says the meeting occurred in April in Prague. That meeting was reported by CNN on September 19, but this is the first official Czech confirmation.
Workers who were in or near the offices of three congressman will be treated with antibiotics for possible exposure to anthrax. Traces of anthrax have been found on the sixth- and seventh-floor offices of the Longworth House Office Building. The offices are those of Congressmen John Baldacci of Maine, Rush Holt of New Jersey and Mike Pence of Indiana.
The funeral for the second postal worker to die of inhalation anthrax was held today in Washington. Forty-seven-year-old Joseph Curseen had been a mail processor for 15 years. Funeral services were held yesterday for Thomas Morris, Jr., who worked Curseen at Washington's Brentwood mail facility.
Jocelyn Elders is still with us from Detroit. Also here with me, Rea Blakey, our medical correspondent -- Rea.
BLAKEY: Dr. Elders, wanted to ask a question about children. Are public health officials doing enough to try to protect children against anthrax, smallpox and any other potential biohazardous threats that we face?
ELDERS: Well, you know, I think that children really have very little exposure, as far as we know. Of course we did have a child with cutaneous anthrax. And that's only if they come in direct contact with the bacteria.
So we don't have a human vaccine that we use routinely. We use it for very high-risk populations like our postal workers and of course our military. We have never used it for our postal workers, but now it appears that our postal workers may be at risk.
As far as smallpox vaccine, you know, the last child we vaccinated was probably in the '70s. And we've not vaccinated children since then because smallpox was eradicated from the world. There are only two sources of smallpox in laboratories, and that was one in the United States and one in Russia. And we did not consider that a risk.
But I think that because of the bioterrorism with anthrax, it makes us get ready and be prepared. We must be prepared for the possibility of something like smallpox, you know, because smallpox would be so much more devastating than anthrax. Anthrax is not contagious. You can't pass it from one person to another. But of course, smallpox you can.
And we have a very large population that would be risk, and obviously all of our children and young people and maybe most of us old folk. We don't know, because our immunizations were 30, 40, 50 years ago.
MESERVE: Dr. Elders, we have an e-mail question coming in for you. This one comes from Elliot (ph). He asks, "Is the government giving the drugs away free to suspected exposed and infected people with anthrax? Also, if I were diagnosed with anthrax, would I be able to get the necessary drugs free?"
Do you know the answer to that one?
ELDERS: I don't know the answer to that one, but I am sure the public health departments all over the country is providing medication for all people that would be diagnosed or that would have been exposed -- not exposed, been exposed and diagnosed with anthrax.
So I feel that there would be no one in America that needed the drugs that couldn't get it, regardless of ability to pay.
MESERVE: Dr. Elders, we've heard a lot about the dangers of over-prescribing antibiotics. And now we hear 10,000 people or more are on Cipro or some other antibiotic. Are we possibly creating another public health problem in addressing this one?
ELDERS: Well, you know, we hope not. But because anthrax is such devastating disease and we've had people die and, you know, when we talk about 10,000 people, you know -- we have 284 million people in this country, so 10,000 people being treated is not necessarily that large a number.
But I think that we should make sure that we only treat people that we know have had a definite exposure and that we culture the disease. You know, it's really almost too late when they get really sick. You know, when they have early symptoms, it's good treat.
And, you know, 20 percent of people that have cutaneous anthrax, a skin anthrax, many of them would get well, even if you didn't treat them at all. But I think that we should treat them because it certainly could spread, you know, into the other tissues.
BLAKEY: Dr. Elders, you're watching from sidelines for this particular event. Do you think the media is doing a good job to help disseminate important information that will help the public understand what's going on during this anthrax threat?
ELDERS: You know, I've been very pleased with what the public has done or in regards to this anthrax scare. And I hope it's helped this country realize the importance of public health and the value of preventing disease.
That's what we have to be about. That's what we have done. You know, we've eradicated smallpox, eradicated polio, measles. A lot of things that we use to worry about, we don't even think about anymore.
And I think that we've got to continue our ability, and people ought to continue to work hard. We all have to be involved in keeping our country healthy.
MESERVE: Dr. Elders, a few minutes ago, when I was talking with Dr. Brachman about the CDC and the overall federal government response, you wanted to chime in with something to say. Do you recollect what it was you wanted to say?
ELDERS: Well, the only thing I wanted to say is I wanted to really agree with Dr. Brachman, and to say that we have to continue to train good public health personnel and have to make sure that they are out and available. And the CDC is our best agency, and we must continue to support it.
And, you know, we can't go, you know, just having lots of people out running around on everything. It's the ability to respond when you have an emergency. And we had a emergency, and I think the CDC responded. And I think that we must continue to respond, but we must train more public health personnel so that we can respond better.
MESERVE: And our cast of players continues to expand here. One man who's at the center of events here in the nation's capitol is Dr. Ivan Walks, chief health officer for the District of Columbia and director of the D.C. Health Department. And still, of course with us, Dr. Elders in Detroit.
Thanks a lot for joining us, Dr. Walks.
IVAN WALKS, DIRECTOR, D.C. HEALTH DEPARTMENT: You're welcome, Jeanne.
MESERVE: First of all, tell us what's new. Have you got any new test results that tell us anything more about the situation here in Washington?
WALKS: There's nothing -- there are no new results since yesterday afternoon. We actually have, this morning, passed the 10,000 mark in terms of numbers of people that have come into the D.C. General site here in Washington, D.C., and I think that's sort of an interesting number. This is the largest Cipro trial, I think, in history. And I think we all need to be a little bit concerned about inappropriate antibiotic use.
MESERVE: Is it possible that that number is going to get even larger?
WALKS: It will get profoundly larger. We expanded the call yesterday to people who were in those first-line mail-handling recipient categories from Brentwood. We had already established that category, but we got more information yesterday from the postal service that it's not, in fact, a few hundred places; it's actually few thousand places.
BLAKEY: With that in mind, sir -- I mean, obviously, this scope continues to broaden. Is it possible that, within number of days, we might actually be talking about vaccinating members -- or actually medicating, treating people who are members of the public who maybe have simply received mail? I mean, we don't really know where the cross-contamination or the source of this anthrax is.
WALKS: I think a lot of things are on the table.
Right now, as of literally 10 minutes ago, talking with the CDC lead here in Washington, D.C., who is the lead for the entire region -- D.C., Maryland and Virginia -- the CDC is quite clear that there is no appreciable risk to the public who are receiving mail.
WALKS: If in fact there is, excuse me, any risk at all, it is to the cutaneous form of anthrax, which is not something you would prophylax against. It is something that you would treat when you see it, and doing that is a very safe approach medically.
MESERVE: Let me ask you, Doctor, are you on antibiotics? Are you contemplating taking the vaccine?
WALKS: No, I've actually been so busy I haven't been anyplace where we would take it. I felt sort of bad for my mayor in that he was in the back room and is taking the medication and doing quite well. But I have not been in anyplace where I would.
And let me be very clear on that. I don't have any at home. I'm not storing it anywhere. My family is not taking any. I think that we need to be very careful to do what we say the public should do.
BLAKEY: And following up on that, we talked about doxycycline now being the medication that is being required. At this point, do you suspect -- because I know earlier in the week you were concerned that maybe people might be stockpiling Cipro, that they might be going to individual doctors who maybe were not reporting to the public health safety net. Is it possible that something similar could happen with doxycycline?
WALKS: I think it's always possible, and that's why I really appreciate what you all do here. You really do a good job of getting someone to sit and give a clear message, and that clear message has consistently has been, "You don't need to stockpile antibiotics."
There was something in one of the papers today about, "Well, doxy is cheaper, that's why they're going to it." The medicine doesn't cost us a thing. It is in the national stockpile. We get it from the federal government free. The Cipro came to us free. The doxy comes to us free.
We are looking at the best treatment for the people who need to be treated. Doxy has a better side-effect profile. And that's the one that the Supreme Court judges, they announced yesterday, were being started on. They're being started on a 10-day supply.
There is no difference in treatment between people who are in D.C. and people who are running the Supreme Court.
MESERVE: I believe I read this morning that new sites are being opened in northern Virginia to dispense antibiotics. Is that just one indication of how overwhelmed the system is?
WALKS: No, actually, it's an indication of how regional our approach is. Maryland opened some sites a couple of days ago; Virginia is now.
As we are working closely with the CDC, centralizing their operations -- they are in the same floor I am in the D.C. Health Department, and we fan out from there. So we have centralized information gathering, dissemination. And now we're seeing with the Sterling, Virginia, case that we do need to make sure those folks have local access.
BLAKEY: Do you, as a public health servant, have a concerns about people potentially overwhelming emergency rooms? I mean, obviously, we are going into flu season.
WALKS: Well, that's my job, is to be worried. And if I worry appropriately, other folks don't have to worry. The flu season item is one we talked about today.
And maybe we can clarify a little bit. When we talk about flu- like symptoms, with respect to inhalation anthrax, we're not talking about the same thing you get with the flu or a cold. And a cold and the flu tends to give you the runny nose, the upper-respiratory kinds of things, the watery eyes. That's now what you see with inhalation anthrax. You get the aches and the cough and the fever you get with the flu, but you don't get the upper-respiratory stuff.
So we're going to focus on flu shots for people, and we're also going to focus on education for the ER folks.
One last thing about the docs. We've had doctors and nurses in the D.C. area coming, volunteering, supporting this effort. The medical community really is doing a tremendous job.
MESERVE: You have so many people right now taking antibiotics. Are you concerned that some number of them will not finish the full course of antibiotics and then lead to a real problem?
WALKS: That is a huge concern, because we know that if you are in fact at risk, if you have been exposed to anthrax, you may do well. Those spores may not open up, those seeds may not break open and let the actual bacteria into your system for weeks. That's why we use a 60-day course. That's also why we talk about the nasal swab, not being useful for an individual person.
If someone is taking an antibiotic -- and most of us probably have -- you tend to get an upset stomach. You don't like it. Women have other kinds of problems with other kinds of infections related to antibiotic use.
All of those things make us say, don't go get your individual swab, because if its negative, it has no diagnostic value for you. A negative swab does not mean you should stop taking your medication unless the public health people tell you that the environmental swabs and the investigation says you're in a group that can stop.
BLAKEY: Is there an immediate test for individuals to determine whether or not they've been infected with anthrax, as opposed to laboratory tests that may take 24 hours, 72 hours?
WALKS: One of the things that we've been talking about, which is pretty exciting, is looking at drawing blood from some of the folks who are coming back. Their 10 days of Cipro or doxy, whatever they were started on, are running out. They're coming back now for the rest of their 50 days to make the full 60. Drawing some blood and looking for antibody tests to see if they've been exposed, they are actually doing well, the antibiotics are working, they are not sick, but they have been exposed.
But aside from that, in a healthy person, there is no test that will tell you for sure that you do not have to take your antibiotics. If you are prescribed them as part of a public health cohort, take them until you get that same instruction to stop.
BLAKEY: And I just want make sure, are people being notified through the public health service, that they should, in fact, come back if they're on a 10-day? How would they know that they should come back for the other 50 pills?
WALKS: Well, people were instructed when they got the first 10 that this was the 10 and you would come back to get more, based on the science. And this has worked very well. The science tells us now, we can go to doxy, not because it's cheaper but because it's the right medication.
But we also have a list of those people and we will call them and say, "Hello, you haven't come back. You're on day nine. Get in here right now." And that sort of contact and that working with the public and the public health is something the CDC has helped us do regionally.
MESERVE: Dr. Elders is still with us.
And I want to ask you, Doctor, if in your time in the federal government, you found there was adequate information sharing among the different agencies and, from what you've seen of this situation, has the situation improved at all? ELDERS: Well, you know, I think that there was always adequate sharing if you would go and push for it, ask for it. I don't ever remember going -- trying to get information from an agency and they would deny me or anyone that information. You know, I may not have been asking for high-classified information.
But, you know, I think that, you know, we started out, you know -- I think we were all thinking this may be a terroristic attack. We were ending up getting the FBI and the CIA and everyone else involved. And we may have not looked at all the public health issues that we should have right in the beginning.
But, you know, I really think that they were as cooperative as they could be under the circumstances. And I still feel that that unsung hero is that physician in Florida, that internist, who made the -- looked at that slide and made the first diagnosis, because we doctors have not been going around thinking anthrax.
MESERVE: To that point, Dr. Walks, there was an individual, one of the people who died and who checked into a hospital here and was discharged; he later died. What does that say about doctors' preparedness, hospitals' preparedness? Were they adequately informed that they should be on the lookout for these symptoms?
WALKS: One of the things we discovered here in Washington, D.C., on September 26 we sent out a sort of instructive memo to doctors, ERs, clinics, to tell them, we'd like you to look for these signs and symptoms. The challenge that we discovered was that it didn't go out far enough. And we've actually corrected that. We now have a much broader reach with that network that we use.
But back to something Dr. Elders said in terms of sharing information, this is different ground for everyone. The federal government is working closely with us. The CDC is in our building working closely.
However, when you look at agencies like CDC, like FBI, when they come into a community to do the work, I think it's appropriate to identify the local health people, the local health officer, and see if that person can withstand a security check. Get a security clearance for that person, bring them into all of those meetings and trust them to bring the local angle. These are folks coming into our communities. And though, in D.C., it's working very well, I think we can build this model. We're all on new ground.
BLAKEY: You're also a psychiatrist by training.
BLAKEY: Do you find that one of the most different aspects of handling this is to help people from panicking, to keep sort of the emotional ebb and flow under control?
WALKS: Well, we've taken another step again here regionally in that, when we go out to investigate an epidemiological case, we take mental health with us. This is a change that we've made. If we're going to come into your workplace, into your neighborhood and begin to ask these very scary questions, we want people there that can support us in a way that I think is going to become a public health norm.
This is stuff you can't see, you can't smell, you can't taste. You don't know you're sick for a couple of days. People worry about that. And I think a comprehensive health approach must include mental health.
MESERVE: OK, Dr. Ivan Walks...
ELDERS: And, you know...
MESERVE: Go ahead, Dr. Elders.
ELDERS: One last thing. You know, CDC has work with local health departments forever. That's their job. That is what the CDC is all about. It's not that building down in Atlanta. It's all of the health departments all across country, with the headquarters and the focus being in Atlanta and maybe the experts being in Atlanta. But you know, they've worked with local -- they know how to work with local health departments.
MESERVE: And we have to leave it there. Dr. Elders and Dr. Ivan Walks, thank you both for being with us here today.
ELDERS: A pleasure. Thank you.
MESERVE: And when we return, is the postal service legally liable for its initial handling of the anthrax scare? We'll hear from both sides of the debate when we return.
MESERVE: And we continue our coverage of the legal and medical issues in the war on terrorism.
But first, we want to check in with CNN's Kamal Hyder, who has just arrived in Kandahar a few hours ago. He joins us now by video phone.
Kamal, what can you tell us?
KAMAL HYDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jeanne, it's a very quiet night here in Kandahar. Quiet night, which is very unusual because every night and every day Kandahar has received extensive bombing. And people are wondering why it is so quiet today.
As we drove into the city, we could see that on the edge of the city where a lot of internally displaced people used to live, and that area, being close to a military camp, obviously are vacated. People have left that area, and there was not a soul out there. So that was quite a sight.
These are poor people, nomads, who left town, and basically -- also interesting to note that the city doesn't have adequate water supplies anymore. And because the electricity pylons were hit, most of the city is dark. Only a few people who can afford to buy generators are running electric power -- Jeanne.
MESERVE: Kamal, what restrictions, if any, has the Taliban placed on what you're able to report or videotape?
HYDER: Well, Jeanne, interestingly, the Taliban have put no restrictions on us. Of course they have told us that at certain times emotions are running high and that we should be a little discrete and careful. But we are allowed to go anywhere we want and, of course, say whatever we want. So we don't have any minders (ph) or anybody sitting around listening to us -- Jeanne.
MESERVE: Kamal Hyder, thank you for joining us on the phone from Kandahar.
And having been thrust on to the front lines of the anthrax scare, local postal workers unions are taking matters into their own hands. Workers in New York are threatening to sue the Postal Service if it doesn't shut down a mail processing center where anthrax was found.
CNN's Jason Carroll is in New York with the latest on that story.
Jason, fill us in.
JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, Jeanne, that message came yesterday from the Postal Union, as you said. They said that they want this postal facility shut down while environmental tests are being conducted here.
This is the Morgan Processing Center, Jeanne. It is the largest mail distribution center here in Manhattan.
Health officials found anthrax, traces of anthrax, on four of the mail sorting machines up on the third floor of this facility. Those machines are being cleaned. They're being sterilized. And they will be retested before they are put back into service.
At least two anthrax-laced letters, one sent to NBC and one sent to the New York Post, passed through New York City's mail system. As a precaution, Cipro has been offered to thousands of postal workers here in New York City.
This morning we had the chance to talk to several postal workers, and they say that they do have some concerns, but that's not going to keep them from going to work.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You take precautions, you know. To me, it's as safe as I feel in the subways, touching the poles, you know, whatever. Or you see somebody, you shake their hand -- you don't know. I mean, you feel just as safe as anywhere else, and just take precautions. Life has got to go on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You just can't shut the mail down and let them win. It's as simple as that. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why would they give us the medication before we are tested? What, to cover their tracks? When, so when they do get around to testing us, we have taken the medication, they're not going to find a trace of anything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARROLL: And, Jeanne, the Postal Union says that they are encouraging their workers not to come to this facility. At least they were doing that yesterday.
The Postal Service says that any postal worker that has some concerns about showing about and working here at this facility can always show up for work at one of the other five facilities here in the city of Manhattan. In terms of the workers, there are 60 of the workers at this facility have been tested, and we are still waiting for those test results -- Jeanne.
MESERVE: Jason Carroll, thanks for the update from New York.
And I'm joined now by CNN legal analyst Roger Cossack. Also joining us from Miami is Neil Flaxman. He is the attorney for the Miami Local of the American Postal Workers Union, which is suing the Postal Service. And here in Washington, Mary Elcano, former senior vice president and general counsel for the U.S. Postal Service.
Thanks a lot for joining us here today.
Mr. Flaxman, let me start with you. What's the basis of your suit?
NEIL FLAXMAN, ATTORNEY, AMERICAN POSTAL WORKERS UNION: Well, we have problems which are unique to the four states, including Florida, of course New Jersey, New York and Washington, D.C., and that is the fact that anthrax has been found in at least four facilities of the seven or six that were tested. We have about 50 or 60 facilities under our jurisdiction.
And accordingly, we have to compel arbitration. We are going to court on an expedited basis to have the court order binding arbitration on the local level to address the issue of sweeping the various facilities and of course other safety issues, including equipment and matters that relate to the welfare of the postal workers who are on the front lines.
And this terrible chemical -- the ordnance which distributes it is the U.S. mail. So they are on the front line, and really the Postal Service is not doing enough for them.
ROGER COSSACK, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Mr. Flaxman, what exactly is it you think the Postal Service is not doing? You say you want to go in for some kind of binding arbitration. What do you expect to get from that arbitration?
FLAXMAN: Well, we expect to get a commitment, a proactive protocol. We do not have a proactive protocol. We have a reactive protocol.
FLAXMAN: In other words, if somebody is sick, something's done about it. If anthrax is found, something is done about it.
We have, for example, a letter that came into the Miami main postal office. It went to Venezuela. It showed that it had anthrax on the envelope itself, and that facility still has not been tested, and that was under a bulk mailing.
So we want proactive protocol. We do not want ad hoc reactive protocol.
MESERVE: Ms. Elcano, does he have a case?
MARY ELCANO, FORMER GENERAL COUNSEL, U.S. POSTAL SERVICE: My first reaction to that is this is not the time to go to a federal court for an adversarial process. I believe that the mailing that the Postal Service issued yesterday, which came to our homes -- which I brought mine. It says on here, "United we stand."
And I think that this is -- we are in state of war. And I believe that it's more important that the Postal Service and its management and its labor unions work together in a united approach.
To go after arbitration is within their collective bargaining agreement. They have grievance arbitration process. They do not need federal court to tell them that they can do that. Management can agree to that.
COSSACK: Ms. Elcano, I recognize that you say that "united we stand," but, you know, there are some of us who are on front lines and others of us who aren't. The postal workers are clearly on front lines. Two of their -- three of their people have died already from this.
If they feel that they need to go to court to protect themselves, what better avenue and what better venue do they have? And why should they stop now, I mean, if they feel they have a legitimate complaint? After all, they can look around and see three people who are dead.
ELCANO: They can talk to postal management. They can get an arbitration process without going to court. They can get that within a day or two. They could have a binding arbitration set up.
The fact that they are on the front lines, I very much appreciate that. My law firm, Sidley Austin Brown & Wood, had five floors in the New York -- in the World Trade Center. And the terrorism doesn't recognize elitism. I mean, it takes out mail handlers, letter carriers and senior partners of a law firm.
And I appreciate what the labor unions are saying, and I believe that they can very much work this out.
MESERVE: Mr. Flaxman, I have to ask you for response to this. Is this the time to stand shoulder to shoulder? FLAXMAN: I hate to use the word "baloney," but it's baloney. We can't even get the local management to agree on whether they will permit our workers to use masks and gloves. Some postal facility supervisors say yes, others say no. We can't get management to agree on anything.
I agree that this is war. We have a postmaster general, but he's not taking care of the troops. It's the troops that are dying. We've had three deaths. And they're going to continue to die, unless there is a protocol.
If we can get binding arbitration tomorrow or tonight, let's do it. We can't get binding arbitration. They will not meet with us on a local level for binding arbitration, and we've had no binding arbitration on national level.
MESERVE: And we have to take a break right now. When we return, our guests are going to take your phone calls and e-mails on legal redress for postal workers in the wake of the anthrax threat.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN POTTER, POSTMASTER GENERAL: I don't believe that there is a need to shut down the Postal Service. You know, life is filled with risk. And you know, you could die crossing a street, you can die driving a car. And that's not to minimize what's going on here, because we did lose two of our own.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MESERVE: That's the Postmaster General John Potter.
We're talking about possible legal remedies for postal workers on the front lines of the anthrax outbreak with Neil Flaxman, attorney for the Miami Local of the American Postal Workers Union, and Mary Elcano, former senior vice president and general counsel for the U.S. Postal Service.
Ms. Elcano, let me ask you a question. I've talked to several postal workers this week who had a feeling that the post office had minimized the risk they were at in order to keep the mail moving and to avoid any financial losses. Your response to that?
ELCANO: The Postal Service is following the direction of the CDC, the Health and Human Services Department and the other, Homeland Security. And that's where they're getting their advice. They were informed, in terms of what they should do with the facilities, by the same people who told the Senate and the House to close theirs. They were told it was OK to keep theirs open. So they are reacting and being instructed by the experts in the area who are learning as this evolves. COSSACK: Ms. Elcano, I want to go back to one thing that Mr. Flaxman said. You indicted that, look, in the collective bargaining agreement, they don't have to go to federal court. They can just take advantage of the collective bargaining agreement and get this arbitration.
But Mr. Flaxman says, "We've tried to do that, and the reason we are going to federal court is because no one will meet with us."
You are the former head of -- counsel for the Postal Service. What about that?
ELCANO: What they might consider is considering this a national arbitration and taking it out of the local areas and trying to do it on a national basis. If there is Washington, D.C., Florida and New York, and elevate it, and those arbitrations can be scheduled within hours, days, whatever it takes.
COSSACK: OK. And I don't mean to be picking on you, but under the circumstances that they face themselves -- and here is a man who represents the post office, the postal workers -- and they see more and more members of their service getting sicker and people dying, don't you think their real avenue is to get to federal court and to get scheduled an immediate hearing if in fact they've had frustration getting arbitration?
ELCANO: No, I don't. I absolutely don't think they should go to federal court. I believe what they should do is work with the Postal Service and work with management to contain the environmental and horrible medical problems that are going on.
And there are two issues. There's the mail, and there's the people, and those are the two things that both the letter carriers, the mail handlers and the postal clerks worry about.
I mean, they're the most dedicated group of employees I ever had the pleasure to work with, the postal employees. And the labor unions in Florida are excellent. They do a good job for their employees. And if the employees and management can work on containing the site- by- site kind of reaction, you do not a federal judge intervening in that.
MESERVE: Mr. Flaxman, let me ask you about the steps the Postal Service has taken. They have closed some facilities. They're testing others. They're distributing masks and gloves to employees. They've changed the way they clean the machines. Is that enough?
FLAXMAN: No, it's not enough.
And I disagree again. Our president, Judy Johnson, has been to Washington. She's attempted to get this matter on the bargaining table. It won't go on the bargaining table because of the fact that it does seem that there's a "let's wait and see what happens," attitude. And that's reactive.
It's not enough. We need the Miami facility swept. We need some facilities closed for a day or two. Our people are willing to work in tents. The union has agreed to pay for testing, and we cannot even get management to agree to the testing or the time off for testing.
The other day, management wrote a letter to a woman who was a -- her white blood count was done; we're not sure what she has. She was upset. She's sick; she's not feeling well. And they said, if you don't return to work, you'll be fired.
We have people on worker's comp claims. We have people that are petrified. We had three people at the Miami Beach facilities who HAZMAT officials took their clothes off, washed them down and sent them to work. And they're confused, waiting for their tests. That facility has not been tested.
This is ridiculous. We can't wait any longer. As of two weeks ago, we heard the same thing, everything is -- there's going to be a protocol. We have not had a protocol. All we've had is reaction -- reaction to people that are sick and reaction after anthrax is found. We want a proactive protocol so that people will not die. It's as simple as that.
COSSACK: Mr. Flaxman, in terms of how the government has reacted to the postal workers compared to how it has reacted to other people upon Capitol Hill, congressmen, senators, do you feel that the postal workers have received the same kind of treatment from the CDC or from the public health treatment as others have?
FLAXMAN: They haven't. They tested in the dogs in Washington first. I mean, they're not getting the same respect that the congressmen are getting. They're not getting the same respect that the Supreme Court judges are getting. There is mail from the AMI facility at the Boca Raton Post Office that's in a wire cage, has not yet been removed.
It's just that there just seems to be a laissez faire attitude from the postmaster general. It's a general who is not giving any direction to his troops, not supporting his troops.
I don't know where the problem lies, but I want to go to federal court, which we are doing on Monday. And I want to compel the management to sit down with us. And I want a proactive protocol.
MESERVE: Ms. Elcano, what's at stake here is the health of postal workers.
MESERVE: And when you're dealing with their health, perhaps even their lives, isn't it best for the Postal Service to be overly cautious, to go too far rather than not far enough?
ELCANO: The Postal Service has to follow what they're told to do, in the sense of what the best state-of-the-art information is. I believe that they can't know more than CDC or HHS or the doctors or the health care professionals in this area.
And I watched the show earlier, and you had some of those individual on, who were saying, you know, a week ago there wasn't the state of the knowledge regarding anthrax and, you know, some tragic horror of the deaths that occurred. But the Postal Service -- the postmaster general, you will not find a more dedicated postal employee. His father was a postal employee, a labor union person. I mean, this man is very dedicated.
The Postal Service is like a family, and when something happens to their employees, it reverberates up and down the ranks across the country like the network of the mail, and they are very dedicated to this.
This lawsuit does not need to be filed to get their attention. The postal management is right in this, right away.
MESERVE: Well, the family's having a little squabble right now.
Well, we have a phone call on the line, this one coming in from Dallas.
Go right ahead.
CALLER: Yes. I work the Dallas Postal Service. My concern is, we have a lot of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) who work at the Postal Service. I feel like the Postal Service should investigate every application of every employee that work there, go over their application, see what's going on. I feel like it could be done within the Postal Service.
MESERVE: What do you have to stay to that?
ELCANO: To make sure I understand the question entirely, was that she wants the investigation to be done within the postal service.
COSSACK: Of postal workers.
ELCANO: Of postal workers. And I agree with her. That's exactly how it should be done. The Postal Service has an investigative law enforcement agency, called the Postal Inspection Service. And to extent that any investigation needs to be done in the mail, regarding postal employees, they are the best.
And let me say a word about Postal Inspection Service. They will get whoever is putting this anthrax in the mail. They are the oldest law enforcement agency in the country. And if there is any sense of confidence about what will happen with this anthrax, they will get the man, or the people who are doing this.
COSSACK: It would be impossible, would it not, for the postal workers to bring a lawsuit against the government, claiming that the government was neglect in the way that they went about handling the anthrax scare or the anthrax of the postal workers. In other words, what I saying is, they're covered by workmen's compensation, aren't they?
ELCANO: That's right. The employees would be covered by workers' compensation, and that would be how the injury or the disease in the workplace would be addressed.
COSSACK: Now, Mr. Flaxman, do you agree that it's only workmen's compensation that would cover the postal workers? Or do you think, in a case like this, the postal workers would have the ability to go to court and say, the actions -- or at least claim, that the actions of the post office were of a degree of negligence that it should be without the workmen's compensation claim?
FLAXMAN: No. I agree that it would be an employee-employer relationship, covered by workers' compensation. Although there are some really inventive attorneys out there, and some of them will be bringing lawsuits against the -- you know, under the Hazardous Materials Act and Hazardous Substance Acts.
There are numerous federal acts out there which may -- and at this point, I agree with counsel that it is a workers' comp case -- but which may, through an inventive attorney, take it out of the workers' comp arena.
Of course, there's another problem -- there is nothing to prevent a citizen who walks into a post office and contracts anthrax from bringing a suit against the government. And that's going to be an exposure element which will be, I'm quite sure, explored.
MESERVE: And with that, our thanks to Neil Flaxman, attorney for the Postal Workers Unions, and former U.S. Postal Service general counsel Mary Elcano.
Will the battle to topple Osama bin Laden undermine liberties here at home? We'll get two perspectives on that, when we return.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN ASHCROFT, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Some will ask whether a civilized nation, a nation of law and not of men, can use the law to defend itself from barbarians and remain civilized. Our answer, unequivocally, is yes. Yes, we will defend civilization, and yes, we will preserve the rule of law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MESERVE: Attorney General John Ashcroft this week, echoing public concern over how to take the fight to the terrorists, while at the same time upholding the freedoms Americans cherish.
Joining us now to talk about that is Sol Wisenberg, a former federal prosecutor, and Stephanie Foster, director of public policy for People for the American Way.
Ms. Foster, let me start with you. The anti-terrorism legislation is now law. Does it go too far, in your estimation?
STEPHANIE FOSTER, PEOPLE FOR THE AMERICAN WAY: Well, I think that we all agree during -- we always have to balance national security and civil liberties. And there's always a point at which those two balance.
MESERVE: It is out of whack here?
FOSTER: Well, I think what we know is that when we are in a situation like this, a war, a difficult situation, that that balance shifts somewhat. And I think we understand that it shifts a little bit more towards national security.
What I think is important, though, is that we understand that, as we're talking about this and as we're looking at how this law is implemented, that we don't lose the civil liberties part of it, and that we understand that when this situation is over, that point of balance will shift back. So I think that's a very important thing to talk about in this context.
MESERVE: Are we at the right point of balance right now?
FOSTER: Well, I don't know. Certainly, I think that groups like mine and other groups concerned with civil liberties across the political spectrum, from the right to the left, are concerned that perhaps that this bill goes too far.
There are certainly portions of the bill that we agree with in terms of more money for border enforcement and those kinds of things. There are also areas where I think there is some concern.
And I'm not saying flat out that there are problems that are going to be happening tomorrow. But I think certainly there now are less needs for subpoenas, less regard for court orders and court oversight here. And so those things are very big concerns.
MESERVE: Mr. Wisenberg, does it go too far?
SOL WISENBERG, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: For the most part, I don't believe so.
Look, every time the federal government wants to expand its law enforcement powers, people should be suspicious. There is nothing wrong with that. I have a right to have the government protect my life, liberty and property. Liberty is important, but if my life is gone because of a terrorist attack, what good are my liberties?
And it seems to me that the federal government is uniquely allowed and uniquely qualified to deal with the threat of international terrorism in the nuclear age.
COSSACK: Sol, you know there is an old phrase about who watches the watchman. And in this situation, I think one of the things that perhaps Stephanie is referring to is this notion of who is going to watch the implementation of these far-reaching and highly unusual and highly different kinds of criminal procedures than you and I are used to.
For example, the sharing of grand jury information -- you know, that was sacred, that it was never shared. Now, law enforcement authorities can share it. The notion of wiretapping or the notion of being able to tap into our e-mail. Those are things that, you know, make us uncomfortable. Who watches this? WISENBERG: Well, to begin with, the courts are going to watch it, for the most part. And it will be interesting to see -- I think some of these provisions may well butt up against constitutional precedent, and we will see what the court does when they get those cases.
Remember every federal judge is aware of the Korematsu from World War II involving the Japanese relocation and how the court failed there. And I think Judiciary will be very cautious about erosion of civil liberties.
Also, we have a coalition of liberal and conservative groups that have said, we're going to continue to monitor this. And I think that's very important.
MESERVE: Can you be specific about where you see it bumping up against the Constitution?
WISENBERG: Well, the sneak-and-peek provisions, which, if I understand them, allow the government, even in cases that don't relate to terrorism, under a fairly low threshold, to search your house and not let you know about it. And there is definitely going to be some litigation there.
Now, that's obviously important in some instances. There are going to be investigations where we don't want a suspected terrorist to know that we've searched his or her house, just like we don't want them to know they're being wiretapped. So it certainly is a legitimate concern. The question is, does the particular provision go too far?
COSSACK: Stephanie, are you concerned with the definition of terrorism in this bill? Many civil libertarians are. And the notion that people who are just involved in the traditional notion of American dissent, or are doing nothing more than perhaps know people who turn out to be terrorists, can be swept up in this conundrum of terrorism and then have their civil rights affected.
FOSTER: Well, I think that's certainly a concern. One of the issues, as you point out, is that the definition of terrorism is somewhat broad.
And there's a lot of concern in the civil liberties community, and again spanning from the right to the left of the spectrum, that that definition of terrorism will indeed sweep up people who are engaging in their First Amendment rights, engaging in non-violent protest. And I think that's certainly a concern that many people have.
We want to ensure that, as the government does try protect all of us, and I think we all want that to happen, that we're not giving the government overly broad powers that in fact sweep in people who are not involved with terrorism.
And I think that's one reason that probably we agree here, all of us, that there's a really strong need for meaningful oversight, whether it's judicial oversight -- I think the bill could do more. But I think now the bill is law, and it's up to all of us and to Congress to really look at what's going on here and find out how this bill is being implemented and whether or not it's actually doing what we ask it to do.
COSSACK: And I guess, Sol, that goes back to what you initially said. If we're looking to judicial oversight to protect us, judicial oversight sometimes can be rather weak, and also, in times like this, judges have tendency to perhaps, the benefit of the doubt, give it to the government, government says they need it.
WISENBERG: Well, you have to distinguish between two situations also. Cases involving foreign intelligence, where the government really isn't interested in the criminal prosecution, and cases where they are interested primarily or somewhat in a criminal prosecution. It's in the latter class of cases that you're going to get more judicial oversight.
There are instances in this bill where the government comes in as an initial matter to get, for instance, a wire tap under what's known as FISA, Foreign Intelligence Security Act, I believe, that do have a very low threshold. And we're probably not going to see those litigated quite as much.
But desperate times do require desperate measures, with appropriate safeguards. You have to remember that Attorney General Ashcroft, who I have great respect for, who's a very honorable person, comes from the national-greatness conservative wing of the Republican Party. He's a big believe in federalizing a lot of elements of law enforcement. And that's something that everybody should watch very carefully.
However, from what I've been able to tell from the overwhelming majority of the provisions of the bill, it strikes the right balance.
MESERVE: Ms. Foster, let me ask you about the detainees, supposedly 1,000 people now swept up by a dragnet, being held.
Are you concerned about the circumstances under which they are being held, and about the talk that's going on about what measures might be taken to get them to give up information?
FOSTER: Certainly. I think we're very concerned about the fact that there are apparently 1,000 detainees now.
Obviously I'm not in law enforcement and not privy to all of the specific information. But what I read and what I hear is that it appears that a very small number of those people actually have material information, that actually a very few number of them are probably material witnesses. So we're concerned that there are lot of people being held who are being held after the government has determined...
COSSACK: Or even have had any kind of charges filed against them. FOSTER: Correct. May not have had any kind of charges filed against them, or even there's no sense that they have material information.
And so, we think that, to the extent that those people either have not had charges filed against them or have material information, they should certainly be released.
I think the bill also -- there are some concerns in the bill regarding the detention provisions. As you know, I think one safeguard that was added is that people have to be either charged or released after seven days.
But there is problem with that in that the bill also only allows for a review of those cases every six months through a habeus corpus review. And I think that's certainly a concern. I think we're haunted by what happened in World War II, and I think people across the political spectrum don't want that to happen again.
MESERVE: And some viewers have some questions for us. We have caller on the line from Utah.
Go right ahead, please.
CALLER: Hi. My question is (UNINTELLIGIBLE) what is to protect the citizens from a rogue cop using the law that they can search your home without giving you notification?
And I want to say thank you to People for the American Way. You guys are awesome.
MESERVE: I'm sure you like to hear that.
Mr. Wisenberg, can you respond to the question?
COSSACK: And you're awesome, too.
WISENBERG: I haven't looked at all of the provisions. I understand that with respect to some parts of the law you can bring lawsuits against the rogue cops. But for the most part, you're going to rely on what you traditionally rely on in federal law enforcement, which is internal oversight.
Federal law enforcement officers, for the most part, have limited forms of sovereign immunity.
WISENBERG: For the most part, when they're caught overstepping their bounds, they are successfully -- they are sued and it's brought to light. And they're either successfully sued or they're drummed out off the service.
MESERVE: I want ask you about detainees and we're hearing about possible torture, about truth-telling drugs and so forth. Is any of that going happen?
WISENBERG: Well, I would be shocked if there was any torture by the FBI. They are a pretty hand-wringing group right now.
Truth serum I don't think should be necessarily ruled out when you're talking about somebody who does not have the full protections of citizenship.
Remember, the key difference here between World War II is that we're talking about people who are not American citizens. And that doesn't mean you can ignore their rights, but the executive has a phenomenal amount of constitutional authority in this area.
MESERVE: Would the information gotten from a suspect with the use of truth serum, would that be usable in court?
WISENBERG: I don't believe they would even try to use it in court. There's virtually no -- I don't know of any case law on it.
The idea is to aid them in the investigation. They have got a guy who we believe was the twentieth hijacker. He's partially responsible for the deaths of thousands of Americans. And I believe we ought to do everything we can to get information from him.
COSSACK: In terms People for the American Way, this must present a very serious problem. You know, there was a Supreme Court case years ago about someone who pumped -- the California police authorities had pumped someone's stomach, and the Supreme Court said, this shocks the conscience of the court.
Does it shock the conscience of America to think that we're going to perhaps use truth serum or perhaps impose on people or perhaps extradite them to countries which would torture them even though we can't torture them?
FOSTER: Well, I think all of those things are extremely problematic. I think the thing we have to focus on right now, though, is the fact that Congress just passed a bill and the president signed it into law, and even in that debate, we didn't have discussions of putting provisions in the law that would allow this kind of thing to happen.
So I think, to some extent, those discussions are outside of the purview of the talking about the law that just passed. But I think we are extremely concerned about them.
I think those kinds of issues, as well as all of the other issues that have been raised by you on this show and people around country, are reasons we all need monitor this legislation. And we really are going to call strongly on Congress to be very, very mindful of its congressional oversight responsibilities.
MESERVE: And with that, our thanks to Sol Wisenberg and Stephanie Foster both.
And thank you for joining us. I'm Jeanne Meserve, along with CNN legal analyst Roger Cossack and medical correspondent Rea Blakey.
Coming up next, "CNN Presents: Investigating Terror."
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