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Suspicious Letter Found in Sen. Daschle's Office

Aired January 3, 2002 - 12:35   ET


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: We are going to go to our Kate Snow, our congressional correspondent, for some information about perhaps another suspicious letter in the office of Tom Daschle -- Kate.

KATE SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Judy, that' right. We expect to learn more in just about 10 minutes from now from Lieutenant Dan Nichols of the U.S. Capital Police, but I did just speak with him very briefly on the telephone. He tells me they have found what he calls a suspicious letter in one of the offices in the suite of offices of Senator Tom Daschle, the Senate majority leader, however not in the Hart office budding. where that other letter that was anthrax-laced was found back in October.

Instead, this suspicious letter now being found in the office of Senator Daschle inside the actual Capitol building itself, in the offices that the senator has inside the Capitol building. That office has been cordoned off. It's being quarantined. The people who found the letter were staff of Senator Dashcle, I'm told, and being told it's being analyzed are told they he will be analyzed on site.

Judy, I am told that it contained a threatening note and also a powdery substance, but of course, we don't know anything more about that substance yet. We are told it's being analyzed, and we will find out more now about 10 minutes from now -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Kate, I realize I may be asking you more than you may have time to find out at this point, but is it know whether this is a letter that's been around for a while. Could it have come in in October with the other letter when the other suspicious letter, not suspicious -- the letter that had anthrax in it? Or could it have come in more recently?

SNOW: Well, frankly, I don't know anymore about the date on the letter or when it came in, when they actually found it, but I can tell you that all of the mail was stopped at that time that the first letter, the letter that contained anthrax was found in mid-October, and the mail only resumed I recall very recently. I think it was in December, maybe late November. So most of the mail that had been collected from mid-October to a good month and a half beyond that was sent to a facility with the FBI, and screened, and was checked over thoroughly.

You'll remember they found a second letter addressed to Senator Patrick Leahy that was in that bin of mail, in those barrels of mail that they collected from the Hill, so I would think it would be unlikely that this letter would date back to that period, but again, we will await for more word on when this letter arrived and when it was found -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: OK, Kate, also joining us on the telephone is John Bisney, CNN Radio reporter.

John, you are at the Capitol. I don't know if you've been able to hear what Kate's been reporting. Are you able to add anything to this?

JOHN BISNEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Judy, we have just been told by the Capitol Police that the very first test conducted on the substance, a preliminary test, did come back negative for anthrax. So obviously, they will be doing more news -- more tests, but that is very good news. They have advised as a precautionary note, however, that all Senate pages, the teenagers here who work as floor aides, return to their dorms, and they've shut down the subways leading to the Senate side of the building, as well as the to main doors to the building. This suspicious substance in the letter are on the second floor of the building in Senator Daschle's leadership offices.

But again, the word we are getting here is that the first test is negative for anthrax -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: John, again, just to give us a sense -- I know you and Kate have pointed this out -- this is a letter that turned up in the Capitol building itself, and not in the hart Senate office building. Of course, though, all of the senators have offices in one of three offices there across the street from the Capitol, but some of the senators, including certainly the leadership, which Senator Daschle is -- he's the Democratic leader of the Senate -- would also have office space in the Capitol building itself. Tell us a little bit about where this office is. You said the second floor of the Capitol. Can you be a little more precise?

BISNEY: As you will leave the Senate chamber, you would come out of the central doors and turn to right, and go down a very short corridor there, and then you would come to Senator Daschle's leadership offices. He has a conference room there, some support offices. He has quite a nice suite there himself. It's very handy to the floor, very convenient.

The Republican leader, Senator Lott, also has offices on the second floor, not too far away. This is an area of the Capitol that is restricted to the public. It's even been restricted a little bit more tightly to some staff members and others in the face of the recent security upgrades here.

But, again, we have early news here, that there is no anthrax, but more tests will go on -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: And, John, just give us a sense of what the security situation there is at the Capitol. How much activity is there today first of all, and then what did they actually shut down? BISNEY: It started out to be a very quiet day here. They did have a few public tours go through. Those were started a few weeks ago, but otherwise, Congress is in recess. So it's quiet in the building, and everyone was expecting a slow day here. But they have now obviously sealed off all of the access to the suite of offices, and you know, have rushed a number of officers, hazardous detail unit, into this area to check for everything, so they are taking great precautions here.

WOODRUFF: All right. John Bisney, CNN Radio reporter joining us. He is inside the Capitol building itself.

And, Kate, just to wrap up with you, we've just been told that Dan Nichols, who is, what, the spokesman for the Capitol security, is going to be talking at 1:00?

BISNEY: Yes, he's bumped it up a little there, bumped it back I guess. They are going to be speaking about 20 minutes from now, right outside of the Senate side of the U.S. Capitol, what we call the Senate swamp, which is an area right outside, a wet area right outside of the Senate. That's where he will be speaking.

WOODRUFF: And, Kate, you want to wrap up again when what we know at this point?

SNOW: Yes, again, I spoke to Dan Nichols just a few moments ago. He was very rushed. Obviously, he has a lot going on right now. He could only tell me a very little bit of information, Judy, but that information was that there was a suspicious letter found, again, in one of the offices of Senator Tom Daschle, the Senate majority leader, the Democratic leader of the Senate, inside the U.S. Capitol. As you look at the picture there, it would be to the right side of your screen inside -- actually to the left side of your screen inside that wing of the U.S. Capitol.

The letter contained a threatening note, according to Nichols, and also a powdery substance. Lieutenant Nichols telling me that that substance is being tested. You just heard John Bisney, who is actually at the he Capitol, saying initial, very preliminary results of a field test seem to indicate that it came back negative, that there was no anthrax found in that powdery substance. We will, of course, look for more information to come on further tests on that. I am told by Dan Nichols it is being analyzed on site. It was found by Daschle's staff inside the office in that area, as John Bisney just noted, is being quarantined, is being sealed off from the rest of the building -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Kate Snow here in the studio, reporting, as she does practically everyday, on what's going on at the Capitol.

Thank you, Kate.




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