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CNN BREAKING NEWS
Capitol Police Hold News Conference on Reports of Gunfire
Aired May 26, 2006 - 12:57 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, CNN SR. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And we'll continue our coverage here two-and-a-half hours now we have been covering this unfolding developing story on Capitol Hill. Reports of gunfire in the garage of a major House office building.
For two-and-a-half hours, Capitol Hill Police, assisted by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies, have been conducting a methodical search, still no information of any gunman, any gunshots at all, any injuries related to this, but a massive search underway in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill, for two-and-a-half hours now after a report came in at 10:35 Eastern here this morning to the Capitol Police, one phone call to the Capitol Police reporting the sounds of gunfire at the Rayburn House Office Building.
Our Capitol Hill team has been fanned out covering this for two- and-a-half hours now -- conflicting information, a surge in security at the Capitol, a bit of a lull at times when it looked like this might soon be over, then the intensity going up again.
Our Dana Bash is standing by in the Capitol with the latest -- Dana.
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, the way things stand right now, the Capitol building is open to tourists, to senators, to House member, to all their staff who have ID can come into the Capitol building, which you're looking at right now.
The Rayburn building remains under lockdown. The Rayburn building, for our viewers who may be just tuning in, it is the garage of the Rayburn building where Capitol Hill Police say somebody reported that they heard what sounded like gunfire, so that building is still closed.
The Capitol Police are investigating. Senators and their staffers just received the latest of many notices they've gotten today about the situation, which said that this could take several hours. The investigation could take several hours.
Meanwhile, in that Rayburn building, we know that the police are going office to office, essentially, door to door searching to see what, if anything, is going on in the offices, looking for, you know, if there's a report of gunfire, obviously, they're looking to see if there is a gunman.
So they're going office to office, searching each office to try to figure out if they can give an all clear or not. That's where things stand at this point, John. KING: And Dana, a Friday morning, heading into a holiday weekend, help our viewers understand, normal level of activity, reduced level of activity, more lawmakers around, more tourists around? What's it like in the Capitol this morning.
BASH: Fewer lawmakers, a lot more tourists. That is sort of typical for this -- not only for this time of year, but typical for a Friday, any Friday, but especially this Friday is -- starts the beginning of a week-long recess, the Memorial Day recess. The House of Representatives is already out of session. The Senate was in this morning. They're actually temporarily out of session, but they're going to formally go out later today.
So that means that senators and their staff, but particularly the senators and House members, many of them are not in town. They've already gone home. They're -- we had -- as we've been reporting, there have been some hearings going on.
There was one in particular in the House of Representatives. The House Intelligence Committee was having a hearing. They sealed the doors during that hearing, and the people who were in there, the members and the witness and their staff, they're all still in that room. So that's -- so they are still there.
I just got an e-mail from somebody who's over in the Longworth Building, which is another one of the office buildings, on the House side of the complex, who says she's in the cafeteria and it's teeming with tourists. So that is typical for this time of year, to have a lot of tourists around the Capitol. And that is still going on as we speak.
KING: Dana Bash tracking for us on this dramatic day on Capitol Hill. Dana, continue your reporting, and we'll get back to you in just a bit.
Again, to our viewers, reports of gunfire two and a half hours ago now at the Rayburn House Office Building. Capitol Hill police investigating, with the help of the FBI, D.C. police and other law enforcement agencies. As yet, no confirmation any shots were fired. No confirmation of any injuries. Some conflicting information, as always, in a situation like this as it continues to unfold.
Let's bring into our coverage Kyra Phillips, who's in Atlanta -- Kyra.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
KYRA PHILLIPS, HOST: Thanks, John. We'll talk to you more in a minute.
Hello, everyone. I'm Kyra Phillips at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.
Chaos on Capitol Hill, reports of shots fired in the garage of the Rayburn Office Building, where some members of Congress have their own offices. We're expecting another live briefing by Capitol police. It's breaking news right here on CNN.
We've been talking, of course, throughout the hour with our Dana Bash there on the Hill. We're also waiting for a presser about 1:30 Eastern Time. We'll take that live.
But first, let's go to Washington and talk more about this gun scare on the Hill. Dana Bash has been working it all morning.
Dana, anything else since we last talked a few minutes ago?
BASH: You know, Kyra, at this point, it's status quo, at least from my perspective. I can tell you, as we've heard all morning, we have -- our producers, Ted Barrett, Deirdre Walsh and others scattered around the Capitol complex. And they're talking to -- talking to and witnessing the activity around.
The -- the status right now is that this investigation, this search to find out if there was anything behind the -- what a witness says was the sound of gunfire, that is going on and will go on, we're told officially from the Capitol police, for the next several hours.
PHILLIPS: Dana, stories like this are all about sources, and you've been working yours. John's been working his. Everybody there on the Hill. I was able to get in touch with some of my sources within the CAOC, the Capitol police operations center. Also, the NCR, the National Capitol Region.
And they're telling me it's pretty quiet right now. Obviously, not quiet in the sense that we would imagine it, but in that the good news is they have not had to deal with the evacuation of any dead bodies or injured bodies and that this is pretty much standard operating procedure in that they've got to clear every office and every part of those buildings where the calls came through. And like you said, it could take hours, but in no means, I think, do they want anyone to get the impression that everybody should be afraid of some sort of gunman on the loose.
Are you getting the same sense from your sources?
BASH: Exactly. Exactly. And Kyra, that's a really important point to make. There is definitely a sense of calm. There is a sense that, and we've heard from several congressmen and members and who have been on our air this morning, that this is -- this is definitely being taken very seriously, but it's standard operating procedure. And it's procedure that they are following that has really been stepped up since September 11.
And there is intense communication going on between the Capitol police and the senators and their staffers, everybody on the complex. And it's actually remarkable to see how many times they put out statements. And sometimes the statements say exactly what the one they sent out 20 minutes ago said.
Kyra, I just want to interrupt myself here and just read something to you and I'm just getting it. I'm reading as I'm looking at it. This is a statement from Congressman Jack Kingston's office. Congressman Jack Kingston's office, who says that a member his staff was taken to the hospital during the Rayburn lockdown this morning. The headline is that this person was not injured, was not shot but was taken there as part of standard operating procedure. That's the headline and let me read to you the quote here from this statement, OK?
"This morning a member of Congressman Kingston's staff was in the House staff gym when the Rayburn House Office Building was put under lockdown due to the alleged gunshots. Under guidance of law enforcement officials, the staffer was taken via ambulance to a hospital. She was not injured or shot, just a little shaken up under the circumstances. We have been in contact with our colleague, and she's doing well. Congressman Kingston is aware of this situation and he has encouraged his staff to remain, of course, cooperative with the Capitol police.
So we have seen reports, heard reports from our Brian Todd and Ted Barrett about -- about people being taken out, an ambulance coming. Perhaps this is what they were talking about. This is a woman who was under advisement of the Capitol police taken to the hospital. But critical to say, she was not injured. She was not shot. She was just shaken up under the circumstances. And she was in the House staff gym.
Kyra, we had been reporting that -- we had heard that there were two women in the House gym who may have -- the report, and again it was a preliminary report, may have seen somebody. And maybe seen a gunman and were shaken up. So this is an official statement from a woman who works for Congressman Jack Kingston who was in the House gym, who was not shot, was not injured, but was taken to the hospital just as a precaution.
PHILLIPS: Dana Bash, that's great information. We were wondering who was that in the videotape that we had. We're going to let you to continue to work your sources, possibly call your contact there in Kingston's office. Dana, thank you so much. We'll talk to you again in a few minutes.
John King, back in Washington, of course constantly making phone calls as this is unraveling -- John.
KING: Kyra, that is good information, the woman taken to the hospital, just shaken up. We will continue, of course, to track that and other developments.
And Dana Bash inside the Capitol, among our correspondents and producers. Outside the Capitol in the area where this investigation is unfolding, is CNN's Brian Todd. He joins me now from just outside the Rayburn Building if I'm correct. Is that right, Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. We're on Washington Avenue, just outside the Rayburn building. You can see just a tight shot there of the entrance to the garage. That's one of the entrances to the Rayburn garage. We've got emergency response vehicles swarming the place. We're told that that is protocol. But again to reiterate a lot of what Dana has been reporting and what Ted and others here at CNN have been reporting, no reports of injuries right now. They are still casing the building. They're doing extensive searches of Rayburn and the grounds around Rayburn.
Here's what we know right now. The call came in apparently -- this is according to Capitol Hill police spokeswoman, Sergeant Kimberly Schneider. The call came in at 10:30 a.m. Reports of gunshots being fired in the garage of Rayburn.
They're still checking those reports out. But we have no reports of any injuries. They have no suspects. No reports even of tangible evidence of shots being fired. No shell casings being found.
We're going to hear from the Capitol Hill police probably in about 20 minutes. We initially as Dana just reported, we got one account from two women who were near the Rayburn gymnasium of what they believed to have been a suspect with a gun. But we have called around several sources. My top law enforcement source tells me, be careful about that account, because they're checking into those reports. They think it might have been, might have been a plain- clothed police officer, John.
KING: Brian, stand-by just for a minute. I want to ask you a question in a second. But I also want to show our viewers, due to the availability of this remarkable technology here in THE SITUATION ROOM. But I want to show you, see a live picture here in the top left is where Brian -- near Brian is standing. That is the Rayburn Office Building. That is the building is question.
Obviously, you see the Capitol dome here. Activity continuing in the Capitol, as lawmakers were going home for this holiday weekend. You see below Brian here, on the wall is the House Intelligence Committee hearing. It's now broken up, but that is in the Rayburn building, the building on question. Those on hand for the meeting have been told they must stay because they cannot leave the building in lockdown.
And just to Brian's left on the far, to my right of THE SITUATION ROOM wall here you see the building in question, the Rayburn Office Building. Imagine two giant city blocks in Manhattan. That is the expanse of the Rayburn House Office Building that they are searching.
Brian, as you stand outside during this methodical search, what is your sense just from the level of activity? You know in a situation like this, you can often tell simply from the spring in the step, the urgency in the movements of the police officers on the scene, whether they think they have a routine search or whether they think they have an emergency. What's your sense?
TODD: John, my sense is that things have settled here a little bit. You don't see that urgency in the step. There's no rushing around. They're being very professional about how they're going about this, but you don't see anyone rushing around. We get a sense that things have settled here a little bit. They are conducting a very extensive search. You've been all through these buildings up here on Capitol Hill. They are huge. They've got to go room to room. They've got to check every little nook and cranny. That's what they're doing. And we're just being told that it is very methodical at this point.
KING: Brian Todd for us outside the Rayburn Building.
To reinforce Brian's point, it is a 50-acre building, 169 three- suite offices, committee rooms as well. Four stories above ground. Two basements and a three-level garage underneath, 1,600 parking spaces in that.
Police now going, we are told, door-to-door in the offices. We've had accounts from congressional staffers in those offices. Police officers coming in, searching the offices and telling them they must stay until that search is completed.
Again, a methodical search underway in the Rayburn Office Building. You see the Capitol dome behind me. Business as usual in there but certainly a heightened sense of alert.
Now let's bring back our Kyra Phillips in Atlanta.
PHILLIPS: All right, John, thank you so much. And as you mentioned, John, as we were looking at that live picture of the House Intelligence Committee hearing, where members of the press and members of the committee are still not able to leave that room.
When that came down, when the alarms went off and the BlackBerries had all the alerts coming to all the various leaders, this is what the head of that committee hearing got from his BlackBerry, and this is how he wrapped up the meeting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PETER HOEKSTRA (R-MI), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Excuse me, Mr. Schoenfeld. I'd ask all members please to stay in the room. There are -- there are reports of gunfire in the building. That there's been gunfire in the building. The request is that everyone stay in the room. So -- close...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Close this door here.
HOEKSTRA: Yes, please close the doors. Oh, I'm sorry. There's a wire under the door. Close the door as far as you can and then just please -- please stay in the room. All right.
I'm sorry, Mr. Schoenfeld.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That interruption is quite understandable.
HOEKSTRA: I think -- I think you saw there was a little bit of going-on here on the panel, and it was not at all any disrespect to your testimony. It's a little unsettling to get a BlackBerry message put in front of you that says there's gunfire in the building.
The hearing will be adjourned. But we're not going anywhere.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: And they still aren't going anywhere, including the members of the media that were inside that intelligence committee hearing, including Walter Isaacson. You may remember him. He used to be the president of CNN. He now heads the Aspen Institute.
Walter, you just can't keep away from CNN can you?
WALTER ISAACSON, THE ASPEN INSTITUTE: I know. And I'm actually talking about the media and classified information, but it's good to be back with you. We are also locked down, but I heard you just quoting the chairman of the committee. He's standing here with me and if you have any questions for him, he may know a little bit more about what's going on here.
PHILLIPS: Well, I'll ask him in just a second. Let me start with you. Tell me what you were doing there in the House Intelligence Committee hearing and...
ISAACSON: We were having an intelligence committee hearing on the notion of classified information, on the notion of compromising national security and how we're going to get it right. And right in the middle, as you just showed on your air, it came through about this incident. However we continued. There was not much else we could do. We couldn't really help with the incident. So we continued with this hearing on how to deal with classified information. And now we've finished the hearing, but I think we're still in the hearing room, with the chairman and everybody else.
PHILLIPS: Well, despite all the chaos and the excitement, did you achieve anything in the hearing?
ISAACSON: I think the hearings were very good. They were very bipartisan. It was -- Chairman Hoekstra and ranking minority member Harman, and they really wanted to do the balance right between the needs of the press and the needs of keeping information classified.
It was one of those hearings that may be, because of somebody said, you know, this reminds us of why what we're doing is so important and perhaps that reminder is what helped us in this hearing strike an interesting balance instead of people posturing.
PHILLIPS: All right, we would love to talk to the chairman, if you don't mind.
ISAACSON: I'm on my BlackBerry. I'm going to give it to the chairman.
ISAACSON: And I'm going to pretend like I'm a CNN person. And anyway, here's the chairman. PHILLIPS: You're playing reporter for us. We appreciate it.
ISAACSON: Here he is and you put that in, sir and I'll just -- I think you're on with Kyra on CNN.
PHILLIPS: Can you hear me OK, chairman?
HOEKSTRA: I sure can, hi, how are you?
PHILLIPS: I sure appreciate this. Can you believe the former president of our company is now acting as a reporter for us? Thank you so much for coming to the cameras.
We actually just played a little bit from the hearing when you got the word on your BlackBerry that there were some problems there in the building. Why don't you just kind of take me back to that moment? I can't imagine what was going through your mind as you were reading your BlackBerry.
HOEKSTRA: Well, no. That's exactly right. We're in the middle of a hearing, a very interesting hearing. And all a sudden, you see quite a bit of commotion going on around alongside of you and with your staff in the back. And you're thinking, man, this is kind of rude for the witnesses. These folks are here. We're trying to get a hearing done, and what's going on?
And all of a sudden they slide a BlackBerry in front of you. And the message is that it's suspected that there may be -- or that there were gunshots that were heard in the Rayburn Office Building. And the building has been put in lockdown and it's like, whoa, OK. This has not happened before, and it's not happened to me.
And so, it's like, you apologize to the witness, saying, "Excuse me. Let me just interpret and explain why we haven't been paying as much attention to you as what we really should have been doing. But there's a potential incident in the building. Let's make sure that this room is in good shape, that the people know that they've got to stay in the room. And since we're going to be here, let's move forward with the hearing. We're in a secure place. The Capitol Hill police were at the door and we could move forward with our business."
PHILLIPS: Now chairman, when something like that does happen, and you get something across your BlackBerry or someone lets you know that there may be a potential problem like a gunman possibly in the building, what your security procedures? Are you supposed to immediately lock all the doors, shut all the doors? Because I know you had an issue with one door that had a wire that was blocking it. I mean, what are you told as the chairman of this committee that, if you get word about a security threat, what you are supposed to do?
HOEKSTRA: Well, what we're supposed to do is we're supposed to follow the instructions from the Capitol Hill police, which may vary from situation to situation.
The last time, I think we had -- one of the times we had an open hearing scheduled for this building. Just as the hearing was beginning was when there was an unidentified aircraft coming into Washington, D.C. And at that point in time, the instructions were to evacuate the building.
Today again, the instructions were very different: lockdown -- lockdown the rooms that you're in. So that's exactly what we did. So when something like this happens, instructions come very, very quickly from the Capitol Hill police on exactly what they want you to do.
PHILLIPS: What's the latest word that you've received from Capitol police? Are they just doing their routine checks now of the building? Do they feel that everything is OK, that they're going through the procedure of just checking every room?
HOEKSTRA: That's exactly right. You may actually have more information than what we may have at this time. But our understanding is that they're going through an office by office check of the Rayburn Office Building, starting from the fourth floor. Obviously, we are -- not obviously, but we're on the first floor. So we'll be perhaps one of the later offices or hearing rooms that will be cleared this afternoon.
PHILLIPS: Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Peter Hoekstra. Thank you, sir, so much for your time. We really appreciate it. Also Walter Isaacson there. We'll talk more about the outcome of that hearing once things settle down. Is that all right, sir?
All right, we lost the audio there. Apologize for that, but we'll stay in touch, of course, on what happened within that hearing, as well, talking about issues regarding security and freedom the press.
Meanwhile, we want to go back to Dana Bash, there on Capitol Hill. She's been working her sources. She brought us the latest information about that woman that we saw, possibly the woman that we saw on that stretcher being wheeled out and taken to the hospital. Possibly a staffer for Congressman Jack Kingston.
Dana, were you able to secure that information?
BASH: Yes. She definitely was a staffer for Congressman Kingston. In fact, it was Congressman Kingston who put out a formal statement, the statement that I read, describing the incident and describing the situation right now, that it is a staffer for Congressman Kingston who was taken to the hospital. Again, not shot, not wounded, nothing of the sort. Just taken to the hospital as a precaution because she was a bit shaken up. She was inside the gym, the gymnasium inside the Rayburn building, and that's why she was taken.
And I just wanted to sort of add to what you were just talking about with the chairman, Kyra. About the fact that what we're waiting for right now is -- is the investigation to go on. And the investigation includes an office by office search of the Rayburn Office Building. And I just -- we just got an e-mail with a first person account of somebody talking about what that experience was like. This person requested anonymity, and we'll grant this person that. But I'll read it to you.
The person says, "I opened the door to have a gun -- a huge gun pointed at me. I asked if there was anyone in the office that shouldn't be here. I said, no. Then five police officers with vests and handguns went through our office, told us to lock the door and stay put until we were told to leave."
So that's first person account, Kyra, of somebody who was in one of the hundred-plus offices in the sprawling Rayburn Office Building, talking about what's going on there as we speak, as they try to go through and find out if there is anything behind what we -- was reported at 10:30 this morning, which is the sound of gunfire from the garage, the G-3 level of the garage inside of that building, inside the Rayburn building.
This is -- this is in keeping with what we heard from another staffer on our air just a short while ago from Curt Weldon's office, simply talking about the methodical way the Capitol police are going about their procedure. And there's a process of trying to investigate, trying to go through and make sure that everybody is OK and of course try to find out if there is anyone who -- who has a gun because gunfire was heard. So this is something that is going on as we speak.
But again, this is a procedure that clearly -- and we won't go into the details of this security procedure because it's not appropriate to do so -- but it's a procedure that the Capitol police have very well in place. And they're stepped up security procedures in general that are going on, minute by minute, as we speak here. Really all changed, Kyra, as you can imagine since September 11.
PHILLIPS: No doubt. No one takes any risks. Dana Bash there on the Hill, thanks so much.
As Dana mentioned, two things, while that search is going on in the Rayburn building -- Rayburn building, rather, and also the garage, both those remain closed while that search takes place.
We are expecting another news conference from the Capitol police. That should be happening about 1:30 Eastern Time. We'll take that live as soon as it happens.
Meanwhile, Mike Brooks was a law enforcement officer there in Washington, D.C.-area. He also used to work for us here at CNN.
Mike, when you have to do a search like this, I mean you remember the SWAT team as well, you've got to completely clear the building and the office and talk to everyone, to make sure there is no one hiding out anywhere in that building. And that can take hours, correct?
MIKE BROOKS, FORMER POLICE OFFICER: It could, Kyra. It could take a number of hours. It happened at 10:30. Things were kind of winding down, if you will. Until they got the report from two witnesses that they -- two women thought they saw a man with a gun in the vicinity of the gym in the Rayburn building.
So that kind of got things cranked back up again. They expanded the perimeter, and -- but they're still now going through and doing room-to-room search.
But you've got two of the best tactical teams on the scene there. You've got the U.S. Capitol Police. They have what they call the CERT team. It's a containment and emergency response team. I used to work with them on a regular basis and trained with them. They are one of the best tactical teams in the country. They are -- they are professionals. They know what they're doing.
They are working in conjunction, doing a room to room, floor floor-to-floor search with the FBI SWAT team from the Washington field office. That is, again, another fantastic, very capable tactical team that also supports the FBI hostage rescue team out of Quantico.
So you've got two of the best teams in the world in the Rayburn building right now going room to room, floor to floor. And they're going to make sure that no nook or cranny is left unsearched.
PHILLIPS: So are your sources pretty matching up with the sources with whom I've spoken and also Dana and John King, that basically they believe everything is OK? They're just trying to get through every single part of that building because they have to. But there is not necessarily a fear that someone is on the loose.
BROOKS: No, they don't believe that there is any active shooter running around in the Rayburn building or running around anywhere in the labyrinth of tunnels between the Rayburn, the U.S. Capitol building and the Senate side.
But Kyra, you know, going back, we live in a post-9/11 world. And even going back before that. I was one the people that responded to the shooting at the U.S. Capitol back on July 24, 1998, and when two Capitol police officers were killed. They want to make sure that nothing like that ever happens again anywhere on Capitol Hill. And that's the reason they're taking the abundance of caution. They're just making sure that they cross all the "T's" and dot all of the "I's" and make sure that everything is searched before they give the all-clear.
PHILLIPS: Mike Brooks, thanks so much, Mike. I know we'll continue to talk until this wraps up.
Meanwhile, there are a lot of congressmen and women that are still in the Rayburn building, holed up in their offices until that investigation finishes, hopefully very soon. Congressman Bobby Rush of Illinois in the Rayburn building in his office right now.
Congressman, how long you have been in there?
REP. BOBBY RUSH (D), ILLINOIS: Kyra, I've been in this office since about 10:30, 10:45. I was scheduled to be -- to go to leave to the airport at 11 a.m., and we've got a message that came over the emergency intercom indicating that there had been reports of gunshots firing and that we were to close our doors, lock our doors and pull the shades down and stay away from the windows. And we certainly have been here since that time.
And about 15 to 20 minutes ago, our outstanding police, Capitol Hill police officers, they came, knocked on the doors, came into the office and checked the I.D. of eight staff members who were in the offices with me. And they went to the closets and -- first the closets and the doors here to make sure that no one was here hiding out.
And I tell you, they've done such a magnificent job. In spite of all of the inconveniences that we have really, really thankful and appreciative and -- to a great extent by the activities of the Capitol Hill police.
PHILLIPS: And so when they come in and actually do a search of your office, what kind of questions do they ask you, Congressman? Because obviously, they want to make sure you're not being held at gunpoint.
RUSH: Well, they asked for I.D. cards. They asked for I.D. cards. All -- every staff member that's in this office had to show them their I.D. cards. And then it took about three or four -- three to five minutes, and then they went on to the next office.
We could hear loud voices coming from the corridor. That's because they're communicating with each other. And they're going door-to-door in the most thorough search of offices that I have ever experienced.
PHILLIPS: Well, Congressman, hopefully this will wrap up soon and you'll be able to get home for the holiday weekend.
RUSH: Well, I hope so, too. They said here for another two to three hours. But we're patient, because we know that this is a part of the environment that we live in, and it's part of the times.
PHILLIPS: That is true.
RUSH: We're prepared for it.
PHILLIPS: Congressman Bobby Rush, thank you, sir.
RUSH: Thank you.
PHILLIPS: We're going to continue to follow this story until that news conference that we're expecting about 1:30 Eastern Time from the Capitol police.
Let's get back to Washington, our John King.
John, what do you have?
KING: Well, Kyra, that news conference in about five minutes would be at the three-hour mark of this search. You were just talking with Congressman Rush there. He says he's patient but he'd like to go home at some point.
We're trying to get a little bit of an update on just how fast this search is proceeding, just how long those inside the Rayburn Office Building may be told they may have to stay in the lockdown. Our Brian Todd is standing outside that building now, perhaps with a little bit of an update -- Brian.
TODD: Incremental update, John. I just talked with a top law enforcement source who says that they are winding down the search. This source tells us that they are almost finished.
We've also just spoke with members of two congressional offices. Congressman Jim Leach from Iowa. And we also got guidance from Representative Curt Weldon's office. Both these offices were searched within the past hour.
A little bit of color from members of Representative Leach's office, saying that a short time ago, about 6 -- who they identified as FBI agents, came in, they said armed to the teeth with automatic weapons, had a look around, checked I.D.'s, told them to sit tight, lock their doors, and left.
So we're getting a sense, obviously, very methodical nature of this search. Again no evidence of injuries, no suspect. No evidence of a firing at this point. And we are told that the search is starting to wind down.
KING: And the activity level outside, Brian, consistent with that? You're seeing no additional sense of urgency from the fire apparatus? The ambulance apparatus? The police out on the street?
TODD: That's correct, John. It's very much settled at this point. Nobody running around, no urgency being felt in the area where we are. We're pretty close to the garage, also. So if something was going to happen, if there was some rush of activity, we'd probably be able to see it pretty easily.
KING: Brian Todd on the scene outside the Rayburn building. We'll be getting back to you, I'm sure. At least hope that optimistic news proves true and that this search is almost over. We'll check in with Brian shortly.
So what do you do if you are a member of Congress or congressional staffer and you're told you're in lockdown indefinitely in your office on Capitol Hill? Maybe you read a book. Maybe you read a briefing paper. Hopefully, you watch some CNN. Or in the case of one congressman, maybe you use your blog.
Let's click in with our Internet reporter, Jacki Schechner -- Jacki.
JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, Representative Jack Kingston is holed up in the Rayburn Office Building right now. And he and his staff are updating their blog. They're doing what we call live blogging, which is giving minute-by-minute reports of what's going on. They're talking about the e-mails, some of them they've received from Capitol Hill police with updates.
They've also put up there the press release you've heard about, where a staffer was taken to the hospital, reiterating that she was not shot or injured and that they have spoken to her and she's actually doing well.
So you can go to Jack Kingston's web site and check out his blog for updates from inside Rayburn, which is currently on lockdown -- John.
KING: Remarkable use of the Internet, as I've watched Jacki throughout the hours, going back, looking at the topography of Capitol Hill, looking at all these sites. And in this case, reading a blog of a congressman who's under lockdown and keeping us posted, thanks to modern technology. Thank you, Jacki.
Want to recap for our viewers. We're about three minute away, we believe, from the latest update from the Capitol Hill police force.
It was just about three hours ago, a little less than that, at 10:35 a.m. Eastern Time, when Capitol police say they received one phone call reporting shots or sounds like gunfire at the Rayburn House Office Building. That is a sprawling complex, 50-acre complex on Capitol Hill, the largest office building on the House side. You see it there in yellow or gold on the right side of your screen. There you see a picture of the Rayburn Office Building.
A hundred and sixty-nine large suites in that office pace, more than 1,600 parking spaces in the three-level garage below ground. Police now conducting a methodical, office to office, door-to-door search, trying to see if in fact there is a gunman.
Again, reports of gunshot or sounds like a gunshot. Police have been conducting a search and as yet, we have no evidence of any gunfire. No evidence of any shell casings. No evidence a gunman. No evidence of any injuries related at all to this.
As Jacki just noted, one staffer from the office of Congressman Jack Kingston was taken to the hospital because she was a little shaken up in all the commotion.
We have seen armed police officers, some with handgun, some with automatic rifles, roaming the grounds of the Capitol, especially in the area of the Rayburn Building.
Our Brian Todd just moment ago, telling us he believes, from one law enforcement source, anyway, that this search could soon be over. Let's check back with Brian for just a second if we can for the latest on his information as we await this Capitol Hill police briefing that we assume will happen in just a moment or two -- Brian.
TODD: Right, John, we're going to hear from them in just a few minutes. We've got our position set up over there. And again we are told by a senior law enforcement source that they are winding down. They hope to be finished very soon.
Rayburn building remains on lockdown. The Capitol is open, we are told, and again no respects of any injuries, no shelling casings, no evidence of a shooting at this point. We are going to get updated information in just a few minutes.
And again to reiterate what our Dana Bash and others have reported about the staffer. This was a woman in Representative Jack Kingston's office shaken up, as you just mentioned. She was apparently in the gym at the time of the lockdown and was shaken up, not shot, not injured. And the staffers at that office say that they've spoken to her and she is doing well.
So this, apparently, what we know at this point and some good news regarding that particular staffer. No reports of any other injuries right now.
KING: And, Brian, one of the difficult things for a reporter in this situation, for the police, for that matter, in this situation, is that you get these bits of information, sometimes conflicting information. Describe over the course of the past three hours how at one point you hear there is a gunman. Another point you hear there is not a gunman. You hear it's in the gym. You hear it's in the garage. How has that played over the last three hours?
TODD: It's interesting, and you've been in these situations before yourself, John. You get the initial reports. You're checking around, then there's this crescendo of activity and calls that you're hearing, rumors that you're hearing, reports that we checked out probably an hour-and-a-half ago of witnesses saying they saw a gunman near the gym here at Rayburn. We checked those out very thoroughly. My source said, careful on that report, they're checking it. They were thoroughly searching that area. They believe these witnesses might have seen, might have seen a plain-clothed police officer there.
So as you say, a lot of fluid information, a lot of conflicting accounts. We have not heard anything since that point by the way. I just made a call on that a few minutes ago, and there are no additional reports to augment that information as well.
KING: And we will continue to wait for that briefing, continue to do our reporting. Brian Todd, Dana Bash, some of the faces and names you have known here on CNN. But also several other people, producers, photojournalists on the scene as well. We are very blessed, Kyra Phillips in Atlanta, to have a remarkable team here in Washington. They're all working quite hard at the moment.
PHILLIPS: This is the glory of having good sources within all parts of Washington, right, John? We're able to sort of funnel through and figure out what is fact and what is fiction.
KING: It's remarkable in a situation like this, and it is remarkable to remember. I'm old enough to remember the days when you didn't have a cell phone. Now we have cell phone, BlackBerries and everything else. So even when you have a building in lockdown, if you know somebody's direct line, if you know your e-mail, you can get your information. So this is why we build those big address books.
PHILLIPS: That's right, how about the days of having to show up and knock on the door and roam the hallways? It's a great things when you've have the BlackBerry and the cell.
All right, John, we'll keep talking, keep checking in with you.
And as John mentioned, of course we have our reporters there on the ground and working various sources throughout this story. Just recently I was able to talk, again, to my sources within the Capitol Police Operations Center, also the national Capitol region. They are saying that things are calming down. Once again, no reports of any dead bodies or any injuries. They're still investigating.
As a matter of fact, one of my sources saying they don't even believe that shots were fired, that it was possibly someone seeing a police officer, undercover police officer that had a gun. That caused a little panic with those individuals there, not far from the gym. So as we continue to pursue all those leads, it just looks like right now, it's standard operating procedure, where the police have got to go through the Rayburn building, every nook and cranny of that building, and also the garage, to make sure and double up on that there is no threat within that building.
Meanwhile, the Capitol building remains opened. The Longworth and Cannon building and garages remain open. So right now, police still just doing a thorough search of the Rayburn building and garage.
And we are waiting for a news conference. The Capitol Police will be holding that any minute now. We can see the cameras and journalists getting closer. So it's possible that we might be seeing the sergeant any minute now to brief us on what they know. But it seems to be pretty quiet in the NCR and also the Capitol Police Operation Center, as they're trying to confirm that everything is A-OK and they can open up the Rayburn building.
Meanwhile, a lot of members of Congress still holed up in their offices. Even the House Intelligence committee hearing that was taking place. Members of that committee and journalists. As you can see, still inside, waiting for the all-clear, that they will be able to leave. You may have remembered that Chairman Peter Hoekstra got word, via his BlackBerry, from the Capitol Police, that they needed to shut their doors and stay inside because they were investigating the initial call about shots being fired.
Now, David All (ph) is a communication's director for Congressman Jack Kingston. We had gotten word about a staffer in Kingston's office that was -- that had to be taken to the hospital, what we believe might have been an anxiety attack from when this first happened.
David, is everything OK with your staffer?
DAVID ALL, REP. KINGSTON'S COMM. DIR.: yes, absolutely. She's doing well, thanks a lot. PHILLIPS: OK. Because we were able to confirm the fact that she was not shot or injured. It was an anxiety attack, right, when she had heard the news, she had to be taken to the hospital.
ALL: Well, sort of. She was actually going down to the second floor of the Rayburn garage. We're located five floors above that. And as soon as she stepped off of the elevator, the two armed police officers ushered her into the House staff gym, which is actually connected with the elevator shaft. So she went over there and stayed in the gym, and that was about 10:30, and then about an hour or so later, as part of the normal sweeps that are going on, I guess people barged in and she just had a little bit of -- she was a little shaken up under the circumstances. So they took her to the hospital.
PHILLIPS: Well, it's good to know that she's OK.
Meanwhile, you guys are still in the office there, and you're doing some live blogging, is that right?
ALL: Well, we're trying to ensure that correct information is getting out from the source. So you know, along with doing a press statement, you know, we think it's pretty important to let our blog readers know and the folks at Georgia and everyone who else reads our blog.
PHILLIPS: David, we're going to right to the Capitol Police news conference. Sergeant Schneider is starting right now.
SERGEANT KIM SCHNEIDER, CAPITOL POLICE INFORMATION OFFICER: Good afternoon, everyone. My name is Sergeant Kimberly Schneider. I'm the public information officer for the United States Capitol Police.
This is our second briefing of the day. Our first one was at about 12 noon today.
I just want to give you an update, but I'm going to start with the background first, for anyone who may not have been here earlier.
At approximately 10:30 this morning the Capitol Police received a call-in for a report of gunfire in the Rayburn garage. Since then the Capitol Police have employed several tactical teams, additional officers, to methodically the Rayburn Building, which is still in lockdown.
I'll take any questions you have at this time.
SCHNEIDER: We have no reports of injuries at this time.
QUESTION: Somebody was taken out on a gurney. Was that because of a panic attack or...
SCHNEIDER: The report that I have that an individual was taken out on a gurney as a result of a panic attack.
QUESTION: Was that because of the incident?
SCHNEIDER: This is probably because of the incident, yes. It's a stressful incident. A lot of people are still wondering what's going on. And the answer to that is that the Capitol Police are thoroughly, methodically investigating -- searching the building with all of our experts and tactical teams.
QUESTION: Did it come from a member of Congress, the original report of the gunfire? Did it come from a member of Congress?
SCHNEIDER: The original report was a call-in to the Capitol Police. I don't have any further information.
QUESTION: Was there a report beyond that report? Was that the only report?
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) that they saw a gunman.
SCHNEIDER: I don't have any information on that at this time.
What the Capitol Police are doing is ensuring that every single person who is in the Rayburn Building belongs in the Rayburn Building. That means doing it the old-fashioned way. We're going door-to-door, floor-by-floor, every inch, every square inch of the Rayburn Building is going to be cleared out today.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) inside of that parking garage?
SCHNEIDER: Can you repeat that?
QUESTION: Have you confirmed that there were actually shots fired inside the garage today?
SCHNEIDER: We're continuing to investigate at this time.
QUESTION: Basically, you're telling us that the search has come up negative.
SCHNEIDER: Our search continues. As we speak right now, our search continues. We have no apprehensions. We haven't arrested anyone. We continue to search the building.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) Anything new at all?
SCHNEIDER: The only information that I have to tell you is that we continue to investigate. We're continuing to search the Rayburn Building.
SCHNEIDER: The Capitol Building is open to official business. The Rayburn Building is the only building that's on lockdown.
SCHNEIDER: Repeat that question?
QUESTION: Is the firing range in use this morning? SCHNEIDER: I have no information about that at this time.
QUESTION: ... searching room by room? Are people, then, being escorted out if they are inside one of those rooms?
SCHNEIDER: Once we go search room by room on each of the floors, individuals who are inside are going to be escorted out once everyone's properly identified and we can ensure that they certainly belong in the Rayburn Building, then everyone will be admitted into the Rayburn Building.
At this time, we are taking every precaution. We want to make sure that life safety is preserved. And this is why we dealing with it the way we are.
SCHNEIDER: I can't hear you. I couldn't hear the question.
QUESTION: Is the search confined to inside the building or are you also looking in the park beside it? There seem to be a lot of activity (inaudible) units around? Are you looking outside the building as well?
SCHNEIDER: We have a lot of security procedures in place. Much will not be disclosed due to security reasons, of course. But our primary focus is the inside of the Rayburn Building at this time. That includes every floor, as I said, every area of the Rayburn Building.
QUESTION: ... said that the edge has come off. Things have started to calm down as well. Is that your assessment?
SCHNEIDER: Well, as time goes on and information comes out and it becomes available to us, we're able to react to it.
As I said, we've taken the measures that are necessary, which is the methodical searches.
QUESTION: Were members of Congress moved to secure locations as a precaution in this process?
SCHNEIDER: I wouldn't disclose that at this time.
QUESTION: Sergeant, did the woman on the gurney see anything?
SCHNEIDER: Can you repeat that? You're going to have to speak up. There's a lot of background noise.
QUESTION: There is a female officer who was just taken out on a gurney five minutes ago...
SCHNEIDER: I have no information about that. QUESTION: Ma'am, is there still just one single report at 10:30? One report by phone, and nothing else.
SCHNEIDER: That's what I have at this time. One call-in this morning. Which I think everyone will understand is sufficient enough to warrant the actions that the Capitol Police have taken today.
SCHNEIDER: I have no information. The woman who was taken out on the gurney as a result of the panic attack, I have no information as far as if she saw anything, but I know that people who are being taken out of the Rayburn Building are being interviewed at this time.
QUESTION: What is her current status?
SCHNEIDER: I have no information on her status at this time.
QUESTION: How far along are you on the search of the building?
QUESTION: What's the time frame?
SCHNEIDER: Well, when we got our call-in at 10:30, the Capitol Police reacted immediately. We wasted no time getting to the Rayburn Building and taking the proper precautions.
So this has been going on since 10:30 in the morning.
SCHNEIDER: It's inappropriate to try to determine how much longer this might be going on.
It's a fluid situation. As we investigate and come up with additional information, we will perform accordingly. And that's all I can tell you for that.
QUESTION: How many floors have been cleared?
QUESTION: The gym?
SCHNEIDER: I don't know how many floors of the Rayburn Building have been cleared at this time, but we're going through it at we speak right now.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) garage?
SCHNEIDER: Well, the garage is part of the Rayburn Building. So any part of the Rayburn Building is being searched at this time.
QUESTION: What is the status of the search for the person in the gym? The search in the gym? SCHNEIDER: What about the search in the gym?
QUESTION: Two women...
QUESTION: A sighting for a gunman in the gym.
SCHNEIDER: This is additional information that is being investigated at this time.
SCHNEIDER: As I said, we haven't apprehended anyone. We don't have anybody in custody. I think that's what some of your questions are kind of getting at. We are basing this on a report that came in at 10:30 this morning, which was a call-in to the Capitol Police that there were sounds of gunfire in the Rayburn Building.
QUESTION: On police radio, you put you a lookout for a white man wearing a black shirt with a gun.
SCHNEIDER: We have reports of gunfire in the building and we're investigating it accordingly.
QUESTION: Have you met anybody who shouldn't be there? You said you're checking to see if the people who are in Rayburn belong there.
SCHNEIDER: Well, part of our investigation is to properly identify folks who are in the Rayburn Building at this time. So that's being determined right now as we speak.
I don't have that information for you at this time -- if there's anybody that has been found who does not belong. But I can tell you that everyone who's in the Rayburn Building is being properly identified.
SCHNEIDER: The Rayburn Building gym and the firing range are on two different floors in the Rayburn Building; they're not on the same floor.
QUESTION: Where is the firing range in relation to the garage?
SCHNEIDER: It's not on the same floor.
QUESTION: Kim, are you denying that you put out a lookout for a gunman...
SCHNEIDER: I can't hear you. I'm sorry?
QUESTION: How many floors in the building, and how many floors in the garage?
SCHNEIDER: The garage consists of I think about three levels, and there are some sub-levels. The Rayburn Building, I believe, has five floors. So I'd have to check on the number of floors for you.
It's probably, I think, the largest building on the House side, though. So as you'd imagine, there is a lot of area to cover.
QUESTION: Kim, are you denying that you put out a lookout for a gunman? Are you denying that?
SCHNEIDER: I don't have any information that there was a lookout.
QUESTION: What about the person who made the phone call? Are you trying to find that person?
SCHNEIDER: Part of our investigation right now is trying to lead back to that initial phone call. Right now I don't have that information.
QUESTION: Are any members of Congress or their staff being questioned right now?
SCHNEIDER: If there is anybody who is in the Rayburn Building while the building is on lockdown, as it is as we speak, they are being questioned. They are being interviewed. This is part of an investigation. This is what we would routinely do.
QUESTION: Did you determine whether the phone call came from inside the building...
SCHNEIDER: I don't have that information.
SCHNEIDER: Our search entails employing tactical teams. I'm sure you've seen much activity around the Rayburn Building. We have several officers who are going floor-to-floor. We're going to every single door and we're making contact with anybody who may be inside those office buildings in our attempt to properly identify the folks who are in the building at this time.
QUESTION: The staffer who was in the garage at the time, car was surrounded by police, weapons drawn. Is that common?
SCHNEIDER: I have no information about that at this time.
I think that we've exhausted most of the questions right now. What we'll do is we'll have another press conference in about an hour.
I'll let you know what time that's going to be exactly.
Thank you for your time.
PHILLIPS: Sergeant Kim Schneider there with the Capitol Police. Nothing new from the last time she held that news conference. They're still continuing to search the Rayburn building after they received one phone call about 10:30 this morning Eastern time about shots of gunfire being heard. So far, they have not been able to confirm that nor find anybody with a gun. They are continuing to search every part of the Rayburn building.
Meanwhile, the Capitol is open. Also, the Cannon and Longworth buildings remain open. It's only the Rayburn building, where members of Congress are still in their offices as tactical teams go through and just make sure every part of that building has been checked.
There was one woman who was taken to the hospital. We didn't know if she might have been injured from possible gunshots. That was not the case. She was a staffer for Jack Kingston's office. She had a bit of a panic attack when all this went down. We're told by his office that she's doing just fine.
Let's get back to John King in Washington to wrap up our coverage. Of course, we'll continue to update you within every half hour if we get anything new.
KING: Hello to you. Quite interesting listening to Sergeant Schneider there. She was making the case that this might take some time because of expanse of the Rayburn office building. Let's again remind our viewers what we're talking about. This is a building that is larger than the Capitol itself. It has four levels of offices above ground, two basement levels, and then a three-level parking garage.
It the size of two giant city blocks. Imagine yourself walking two blocks in Manhattan. This building stretches out over an expanse that big, 50 acres of land there. You see the building behind me here on our "SITUATION ROOM" wall. Again, two giant city blocks, 50 acres of space, above ground and below ground. Sixteen hundred parking spots. So the Capitol Police involved in this methodical search.
From the questioning, it seemed many of those reporters were skeptical. If you had just one phone call saying there were reports of gunfire, why are you going to such great lengths? Well, Kyra, obviously we live in a post-9/11 world. It is the responsibility of this police force to protect and defend the Capitol. And we should also note, they lost two of their own back in July 1998 when a man came into the Capitol and shot and killed two Capitol Hill police officers. So you can understand why they would take a report of a possible gunman quite seriously.
But again, though, more than three hours after this initial report, no gunman has been found. Based on all the information coming to us from the police and from our reporters and producers on the scene, no evidence of any gunfire has been found. But search continues door-to-door again in the very large and expansive Rayburn office building. One source telling Brian Todd this search could be over soon. But we obviously are waiting for the official word -- Kyra.
PHILLIPS: All right, John, thank you very much. And right after the break, we'll continue our coverage here on CNN. Other stories to cover. We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
PHILLIPS: And if you're just tuning in to CNN, we just want to let you know that things are definitely settling down in Washington, D.C. Technical -- tactical teams are still searching the Rayburn building after a call came in this morning about 10:30 Eastern time about hearing gunshot -- hearing gunfire. Police have not been able to confirm that, nor anybody with a gun. But just to be safe, they are still going through the Rayburn building, checking every part of that. The Capitol is open. The other buildings there around the Rayburn building are open. The Cannon and Longworth buildings remain open. But that search continues in Rayburn.
The members of Congress are still in their offices. We're hoping that this will wrap up, the search, within two to three hours. That's what members of Congress have been told. But at this point, no one has been injured. No one has been shot. There have been no individuals that have been evacuated from the scene.
But as you can tell, from this post-9/11 environment, every call must be taken seriously and the Rayburn building, therefore, is being cleared right now by tactical teams.
Sergeant Kim Schneider with the Capitol Police briefed us just a few minutes ago. We'll bring you up to date.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: If there is anybody who's in the Rayburn building while the building is on lockdown as it is, as we speak, they are being questioned. They are being interviewed. We're -- this is part of an investigation, and this is what we'd routinely do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: Now, another story coming into us right now. Our Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon is working this for us. Investigators in Washington and within the Marine Corps believe that this criminal investigation into the deaths of two dozen Iraqi civilians points toward the conclusion that Marines committed unprovoked murders. This is coming from a senior defense official.
You know, our Jamie McIntyre was working this story yesterday. Those charges are so serious that the commandant of the Marines has now intervened. General Michael Hagee, we told you yesterday, was flying overseas. We know now that he has flown to Iraq to remind his troops that lethal force has to be justified, proportional and lawful. The investigation involves two troubling reports of Marines killing Iraqi civilians.
We're going to have more from our Jamie McIntyre coming up right after a quick break.
PHILLIPS: We hope to be getting closer to the all-clear at the Rayburn building there in Washington, D.C. If you have been watching CNN, we've been covering the breaking news since about 10:30 this morning when a call came into the Capitol Police that an individual believed that they had heard gunshots.
The evacuations went forward immediately. The Rayburn building and the garage that's attached to it, that's the only building that remains closed as tactical teams go through there and search every ounce of that building. Meanwhile the Capitol and the Cannon and Longworth buildings remain open.
Capitol police believe that there is not a gunman on the loose at this time. There were no reports of injuries or any bodies that were evacuated from that area. So the good news is they could be closer to wrapping up that tactical search and everybody will be able to go home after being stuck inside the Rayburn building since about 10:30 this morning. We'll keep you updated, of course, as we get more information.
More innocent victims of the fight for Iraq. Several bombs exploded today, the worst at an outdoor market in central Baghdad. Eight people killed there, 33 hurt that we know of. Roadside bombs throughout Baghdad hurt more than 20 people, all civilians. And north of the capital in Kirkuk, a roadside bomb killed a police officer and wounded four others.
Rumsfeld on Iraq, on the war on terror, on "LARRY KING LIVE." If you caught King's Q&A last night with the secretary of defense, you heard Donald Rumsfeld admit his surprise at the Iraq insurgency and decline to pin down a come home date for U.S. troops. He also said if there's a fight to be fought, it's best fight over there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: The American people are -- have a good center of gravity. They've got an inner gyroscope and they know -- they have to know the consequences, if we had to fight terrorism here in the United States as opposed to fighting it in Iraq.
We're facing a global struggle against violent extremists. It happens that the current battlefield is in Iraq and Afghanistan. But if it's not there, it's somewhere else and the closer it gets to the United States, the less advantageous it is for us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: Well, as for whether he believes the U.S. entered Iraq with the right troop level, Rumsfeld said history will decide.
Now the war in Afghanistan. If it sounds like yesterday's news, well you're dead wrong. The Taliban are trying to come back. Civilians live in fear at this time, and American troops are in the middle. And the parallels to Iraq are impossible to ignore. CNN's Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is in Kabul.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At Kabul's food market 15 pounds of potatoes cost $2.00. Food is plentiful, people gather along the river bed. This is where you can make a telephone call. Kabul's children work day and night earning small amounts of money to help their families. Many women still wear the burqa in this city of four million people.
(on camera): It seems like most of Kabul is out here in the marketplace today. But in other parts of Afghanistan, especially in the south, violence is again on the rise. The Taliban have been conducting a number of organized attacks. U.S. military officials say parts of Afghanistan are getting to be as dangerous as Iraq.
(voice-over): There are several worrying signs. U.S. military intelligence says in recent months Taliban fighters at times have been able to cross freely into southern Afghanistan. Roadside bombings and suicide attacks are on the rise. The Taliban have closely watched the insurgent success in Iraq. There's even been evidence the Taliban is conducting rudimentary training inside Afghanistan.
Kandahar, where the Taliban first rose to power, is now the center of much of the recent violence. Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the top U.S. commander, General Karl Eikenberry, have been there to try to appeal for calm.
But U.S. intelligence officials say there are parts of the region where the Taliban are in control. U.S. and coalition forces are just beginning a series of combat operations against the Taliban that are now expected to continue through much of the summer.
The Taliban really never went away, say U.S. intelligence officials. They've just been waiting it out until now, four-and-a- half years after they were chased out of power. The war here, U.S. officials say, is definitely not over.
Barbara Starr, CNN, Kabul, Afghanistan.
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