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Patrick Leahy Holds Press Conference

Aired November 17, 2001 - 11:42   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.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: We've got to go to Capitol Hill, the news conference taking place on behalf of Senator Patrick Leahy -- you can see him there in the picture -- talking about this letter that was sent to him with traces of anthrax.

Let's listen in.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

LT. DAN NICHOLS, CAPITOL POLICE SPOKESMAN: ... result of this finding, the U.S. Capitol Police decided to close down the Russell and Dirksen Senate Office Buildings today at 4:00 so we can conduct some extensive environmental sampling in every office of this building in order to determine if any of the offices have been contaminated by either this or the Daschle letter.

I'll have more information on that as we progress with that environmental sampling effort.

Right now I'd like to introduce Senator Leahy, who has some words about this investigation.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: Thank you very much, Lieutenant. I want to thank you and, of course, Capitol Police and Director Mueller and you, sir.

I appreciated very much the director's call yesterday afternoon to tell me what they had discovered. I did tell him I'm always happy to talk with him, although I wished there was a little bit happier news when these things come through. But it meant a great deal to me that he and the FBI were on this case.

The president's staff called my chief of staff, Luke Albee, and I certainly appreciate their concern too.

I think this demonstrates that the decision made last month by the Senate leadership to sequester the Senate mail was the right one. It probably has protected the lives of a number of people by doing that, and I think that the leadership deserves a great deal of credit.

I also want to thank my own staff for the courage they've shown throughout this.

We have a lot of very, very good men and women in that office, many who come from some very small towns in Vermont. This was not the sort of thing they signed on for, and every one of them has been working extremely diligently, and we will continue to.

So they're -- I admire them, I admire them for that. I've always admired the people who work for me, but never more than this.

Now, everybody will take whatever precautions are necessary. I'm hoping that the one bright light in all of this might be that this letter will give us further evidence to find out who is doing this.

I, you know, without any specialized knowledge, I tend to agree with the estimation that the FBI and the police have made, that this is the actions of somebody within this country who is acting out.

I hope that -- I hope that we can find our way through this.

I might say, on a personal note, that there is no greater honor than I could have than to be the senator from Vermont. I love the Senate. I admire the men and women in both parties who work in this capital, and I admire the men and women who make it possible for us to work here. And we will continue to. I think the American people have to know we'll take whatever steps necessary, but the government will continue, and the government will continue to serve them.

And why don't I turn it over to -- do you want to give the further details?

VAN HARP, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, D.C. FBI OFFICE: OK. Thank you, Senator.

Before I get into the details of the letter -- first of all, I'm very limited on the details that I can get into with respect to the investigation. But I would like to say thanks and compliment several groups of people.

First, I would like to thank the Senate and the House for their patience. I know it's been interruptive. We have had that mail. But we have, in an abundance of caution because of the public safety concerns and the health concerns, we have been very, very deliberate in sorting through that.

I would also like to thank the Capitol Police, USAMRIID, the Army laboratory up at Fort Detrick. I'd also like to thank EPA, particularly their CID, for the effort that they have put into this in working collaboratively with us to ensure their agents' and our agents' safety, but also to be able to go through this very deliberately and pick this letter out.

I have a photograph of this letter that was taken last night, shortly after it was discovered. After we discovered it, it was bagged and then overbagged. And we took it up to USAMRIID, up to Fort Detrick last night for a three-step process and examination to determine if in fact there is anthrax in the letter.

This is the letter. It's very close to the Senator Daschle letter with respect to the printing, the slant, the way it's addressed, the return address. And it has a postmark of October 9, Trenton, New Jersey. I have examples of the Senator Daschle letter as well, and you can see the resemblance.

What I would like to say is, everyone's aware of this reward. It's a million and a quarter, $1,250,000. We believe there's someone out in the country somewhere that may have information, that may have monitored, may be aware of what this person is doing, may have a little piece of information that would help complete the puzzle for us. We are asking for the public's help.

This is going to be solved in one of three ways: good police work -- and it's America's investigation. We're working collaboratively around the country with all law enforcement from A to Z. It's going to be a result of a tip, or the scientific and medical community, who are working very closely with law enforcement and us to, through the process of elimination, try to identify this person.

But we have this reward. We need the public's help. And if someone feels they have some information, no matter how small or how remote they think it may be, we are very interested in that.

It's 1-800-CRIME-TV, or go through our web site. It's www.fbi.gov. And we are looking for your information. Please, we have a reward of $1,250,000.

This is a cold-blooded murderer. There are four individuals dead as a result of this, none of them the intended targets.

And we are working aggressively and furiously around the clock trying resolve this. We need your help. Thank you.

LEAHY: That's a good point.

I can't emphasize enough what you just heard. My former career was in law enforcement. I have never seen law enforcement, the FBI, state and local work closer together, harder together, with more cooperation than I've seen in this investigation. But there is only so much, no matter how many investigators you have, that you can do.

Somebody has to know something who hasn't come forward. I wish they would, because the people who died in this are not the people the letters were addressed to. They were good, hardworking, solid people who were just doing their job and came in contact with the letters that were directed to myself, to Senator Daschle, to Mr. Brokaw, to others.

You know, come forward if you know something about it, come forward before more innocent people die.

QUESTION: Senator, can you address why you believe perhaps you were targeted? You're the ranking -- or the chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

LEAHY: My name could just as well have been picked out randomly. I think you're dealing with somebody who wants to strike out, who wants to -- I have no idea why my name was on there. It could have been any one of the other 99 senators whose name was on there. I'm far more concerned about the people who died handling this mail.

QUESTION: Do you think it shows anything about who are responsible, though, in terms of your...

LEAHY: I'll leave this to the law enforcement people. Director Mueller called me yesterday about this. He had met with me earlier anyway and had discussed what was going on, actually hours before we -- before this was discovered.

I am completely satisfied with the work that the FBI and the local and state police are doing to try to track this down. You're looking for a needle in the haystack, but we found those needles before and I hope we're able to find this person.

I mean, totally innocent have died. And this is the thing we can't emphasizes enough: Senator Daschle and I are perfectly safe. People go to work at the post office and elsewhere, they died. The police officers here at the Capitol and elsewhere are the ones that put their lives on the line every day to make sure the rest of us are safe. This puts them at harm.

I'm more concerned about those people. I'm more concerned about the good men and women who work in my office or Senator Daschle's office or anybody else. These are...

PHILLIPS: Senator Patrick Leahy, side-by-side with Van Harp, the assistant director in charge of the FBI's Washington field office, talking about the discovery of a suspicious envelope that had been addressed to Leahy. It has been bagged up; it's been taken for further inspection by the FBI.

Once again, all the men there, including Lieutenant Dan Nichols of the U.S. Capitol Police, encouraging the public that their tips will bring about justice in this matter, and hopefully that $1.2 million will make an impact on anyone who may have information.

Once again, Van Harp, the assistant director in charge of the FBI's Washington field office saying this is America's investigation, and it is tips from civilians that will bring about justice in this matter.

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