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Letters Containing Powder Sent to Hotels, Former Mayor; Rocky Week on Wall Street; Tour of Former U.S. Embassy in Iran.

Aired January 31, 2014 - 13:30   ET


TOM FUENTES, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR & CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: So that will involve interviewing employees at the hotel, people that work at the door and the front counters and at the concierge desk, as well as then reviewing all of the security cameras to see who entered and how the material entered. It would be the same thing for the post office, if they can be doing a review of the mail handling, of videotapes, of security cameras showing, if possible, when that latter arrived or where it arrived from, how it was post marked, and turn that over for examination. Not just powder but you would have examination of the envelopes for fingerprints or fibers or other forensic material on the envelopes themselves.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And they would clearly look to see if there was some sort of letter that may have contained, some sort of threat, that would be very significant as well.

FUENTES: Yes, it would. They would want to see if there's some written message or threat or some other indicator of the person and the motive for sending the material in the first place. So all of that is extremely important.

BLITZER: Susan Candiotti is making her way over to the hotels not far from the Super Bowl.

Susan, we know that local, state, federal authorities, they've been spending a lot of time gearing up for the Super Bowl, and security precautions not only around the site of the Super Bowl and New York and the whole area of northern New Jersey and New York City, the security cautions have been intense, haven't they?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They've been enormous. This is what happens really at every Super Bowl. I've seen them. I've covered many of them. Of course, however, this is the largest metropolitan area, you can imagine with really so many wide-ranging venues. You've gotten a venue 12, 15 miles away from Times Square in New York where so many activities are going on and you have a well- ordained team of federal, state, and local agencies who have gone through this drill before, but now on a much broader scale, so they are well equipped. They have said repeatedly to respond to this kind of thing. And at this moment, Wolf, no one is raising any alarms. They're doing what they're supposed to do as things come up.

At this point, they're calling it, in their words, a routine matter as they respond to this. It doesn't mean they another concerned about it. It doesn't mean they're throwing all their effort into it. But they're obviously responding as they would to any kind of scare like this, as Tom Fuentes pointed out. Is this someone drawing attention to these or the real thing? They are calmly pursuing this and checking to see exactly what the substance is. Is it someone just trying to scare everyone? Well, you know, they're being cautious. They're approaching this cautiously.

BLITZER: As they should.

Six letters discovered at these hotels not far from the Super Bowl. We're showing our viewers some live pictures from East Rutherford, New Jersey. That's the site of the Super Bowl. And a separate letter discovered in New York City, addressed to the former mayor, Rudy Giuliani. He never got close to the letter. It was intercepted in the mail room but it did contain some sort of suspicious white powder.

And, Tom Fuentes, our law enforcement analyst and former FBI assistant director, to determine that it's actually a dangerous substance like anthrax or ricin or something like that, you say it could take a few days, but could they determine immediately whether it's something other than just some normal powder?

FUENTES: I think no. The answer's probable no, Wolf, and I'm not an expert in all these materials. Most of the white powder class, other than explosives to anthrax or ricin or any of the other materials that have been mailed in the past or threatened to have been mailed, are probably going to require a laboratory to verify what exactly the material is and how dangerous it my be.

BLITZER: All right. Tom, hold on.

Susan, hold on.

Lou Palumbo is joining us, a former police officer in New York, who's an expert on these kinds of matters.

Lou, what do you make of what's going on outside New York City, these six separate letters sent to these three hotels not far from the Super Bowl and a seventh letter sent to the former mayor, Rudy Giuliani, all apparently containing some sort of white powder.

LOU PALUMBO, FORMER NEW YORK POLICE OFFICER (voice-over): I think we can say it's a sign of the times. And Tom Fuentes spoke to this very well. There's going to be a very comprehensive examination of the material, the delivery system.

Let me tell you, Wolf. I literally just came back from my third visit at the stadium. The security there conservative is intense. Even to the extent of having Blackhawk helicopters surveying the skies. It's going to be an ongoing investigation. The FBI will be involved. There's no better investigative organization to take the point on this and they're going to be able to develop some information on this as to who was responsibility. I'm confident of that.

I think the one thing they're going to establish immediately is whether or not this commonality between of all these substances as well as the one to the former mayor. BLITZER: You've been doing with this, Lou, your entire career. How marriage superior an event like this and it doesn't get any more major than the Super Bowl to have this kind of incident occur only a couple of days before?

PALUMBO: It's too commonplace, to be very candid with you, Wolf. I think it's happening more and more frequently. But what's brought this to such attention is the fact that it's around the Super Bowl. I mean this is far more commonplace than the general public or the media realize. I mean this is a fairly common occurrence. Substances are frequently sent to business establishments, sent to individuals at times, and they go through the process they're going through right now -- hazmat teams, four ENIC investigations, it goes on and on from there.

BLITZER: Those of us who covered the anthrax letter threat more than a decade ago, in Washington and New York, we remember that very, very vividly.

Stand by.

Evan Perez is joining us right now. He's our justice reporter -- Justice Department reporter.

What are you picking up about Super Bowl security in general? I know you've been covering that? You've been gearing up for the big event Sunday night.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf. Right now the FBI and all the federal agencies assigned to look at security issues around the Super Bowl have a huge presence in New York and northern New Jersey. One of the things that we know of is that the FBI has brought up additional analysts and WMD specialists, people who are experts is at being able to analyze things like this, and so those people are now probably being put to work to try to figure everything out. They're stationed up there in northern New Jersey and just outside of New York City.

New York already has a lot of the capabilities on this, but, you know, with a big event like this, the FBI was -- made sure they brought in some extra support just to be able to handle something like this.

And as Lou mention, these things happen here in D.C. Just hanging out with the FBI, you hear how often they respond to these types of threatening letters and suspicious packages that come in. It's all too common. They have a procedure they go through. They don't freak out in the beginning. They make sure they know exactly what it is they're dealing with before trying to decide whether or not it's of imminent danger. Obviously they had to evacuate the hotels. You never know if it's something that gets into the air system of the hotel, that could make people sick, if, in deed, it is something bad. But it is something they have a procedure to go through. And right now, you can't -- you can't imagine a place that has more feds, more local authorities that are experts in handling these types of scenes than the New York/northern New Jersey area -- Wolf? BLITZER: You're looking at live pictures of the site of the Super Bowl there in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Once again, three hotels receiving -- apparently receiving letter, six letters, with some suspicious white powder. A seventh letter sent to the former New York City mayor, Rudy Giuliani. It was intercepted, opened in the mail room near his office. He was not near there. We're watching this story very, very carefully.

We're going to take a quick break and resume the coverage of this when we come back.


BLITZER: We're following the breaking news out of northern New Jersey right outside of New York City. There have been several incidents of a suspicious powder being found at three separate hotels not far from the site of the Super Bowl Sunday night, the stadium of the Super Bowl in East Rutherford, New Jersey. A seventh letter was discovered in the mail room at the office of the former New York City mayor, Rudy Giuliani. You're looking at a live pictures courtesy of our affiliate, News 12, New Jersey. Hazmat units around the scene of these three separate hotels, as well as the office of former mayor, Rudy Giuliani, in midtown Manhattan.

We just received a statement from the New Jersey police, saying, quote, "The Joint Terrorism Task Force and hazardous materials unit have responded to several locations that have received a suspicious letter and substance." There statement goes on to say, "There are no reported injuries at this time. The locations are being secured. This situation is being thoroughly investigated. More information will be provided when it becomes available."

Susan Candiotti has been reporting on this story for us.

What's the latest, Susan? What else are you hearing?

CANDIOTTI (voice-over): Well, of course, as you indicated, they'd be doing field tests right now. That's normally what would be happening at this time once they have the letters in hand. And as you said, we're talking about six letters that were sent to various locations in New Jersey, including three hotels near the Super Bowl, and as you said, an additional letter sent to the office of former mayor, Rudy Giuliani, in midtown Manhattan. So at this time, we're talking about a suspicious white powdery substance. That's how it's being described to us. And you have the Joint Terrorism Task Force responding, of course, to the scene at this time. They're calling this a routine matter that they would be looking into under any circumstance, but especially now with heightened attention, let's say, to put it mildly, surround the Super Bowl that's happening on Sunday, just days away. Therefore, they're going to be testing the substance to see what it is, try to determine whether there's anything to be worried about, whether this is actually a hoax, and, of course, track down the source of the letters, who sent them. That is a part of what they're looking at -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Susan, hold on a minute. Tom Fuentes is with us as well, our law enforcement analyst, former assistant FBI director.

If someone thinks this is cute idea, have some fun and does this, sends some sort of a powder, let's say, not a dangerous powder, in these kinds of letters to the hotels near the site of the Super Bowl and to Rudy Giuliani, that's a major crime, isn't it?

FUENTES: Yes, it is, Wolf. No matter whether it's dangerous or not dangerous, it's still a federal crime and they will be prosecuted. Authorities do not take it lightly just because of what you're seeing, the tremendous response that has to go into effect, the fear that it raises with the public, and with the individuals that have handled the material, the postal workers, the hotel workers, the mail room workers at Mr. Giuliani's office. All of these people will be in fear.

And the field tests are highly -- you know, they're speculative at best oftentimes, so you really need a laboratory to verify the content and whether it's harmless or not, and that may take some time. In the interim, if you've been exposed to this, you're going to be very fearful in the meantime.

BLITZER: And when you say it could take some time, it could take a few days to determine if it is something dangerous like anthrax or ricin or something like that or if it's something like a non-harmful powder.

FUENTES: Right. You remember when ricin or supposed ricin was mailed to the capitol about a year or so ago, it took about a week for the laboratory at Ft. Dietrich to verify what it was. It may take a while to have the definitive tests that are necessary to determine that. Again, as Susan mentioned, they'll be doing field testing at each of these sites, but that's often not reliable.

BLITZER: Fran Townsend is joining us, our national security contributor.

You were a former Homeland Security adviser to former president Bush. There's always, after 9/11 enormous, security surrounding a major sporting event, especially around the Super Bowl, right?

FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: That's right, Wolf. In fact, an event like this will be designated what we call a National Security Special Event, an NSSE. There'll be a designated lead agency. And, you know, we know because we've been inside it, that there's a command center where all these agencies coordinate threat information, coordinate lead information, and follow up on any threat.

You know, we've talked -- you know, Tom and Susan have talked about the field testing. There's a whole protocol now because we've got all this experience with the white powder incidents. They'll do the field test, and while it's true we don't want to rely on them, you're going to get the definitive test. If the field test is triggered, there's a whole protocol for treating people early on, as soon as you get that, depending on what the agent is, whether it's anthrax or ricin. So you won't wait for the definitive test. People who could have been exposed should know there's a protocol to get them very quickly evaluated, treated, and make sure they're observed for any sign of exposure, regardless of the outcome of the field test.

BLITZER: But if you are exposed, correct me if I'm wrong, Fran, it could take days to see if there's any reaction to that kind of dangerous powder.

TOWNSEND: That's right. You won't manifest the signs right away if it's anthrax. It depends on -- we should be careful, Wolf, because it depends on what the agent you're exposed to is, how quickly you're likely to manifest any of indication of that. My point here is you'll be observed, and if the field test tests positive, they're likely to begin treatment as a prophylactic. They'll then know later on, when they get the definitive lab results, but they won't wait for the definitive lab results if there's a positive hit on the field test.

BLITZER: Stand by.

Everyone stand by.

We're going to continue our special coverage of what's going on. Once again, six letters sent to these hotels. Three hotels near the Super Bowl. At least six. Another letter sent to the former New York City mayor, Rudy Giuliani. All contained an unknown white powdery substance. Our coverage of the breaking news resumes right after this.


BLITZER: Following breaking news out of northern New Jersey, not far from the site of Sunday night's Super Bowl, East Rutherford, New Jersey. At least six letters containing some suspicious white powder have been found at three hotels near the stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, the site of the Super Bowl Sunday night. A seventh letter with suspicious white powder was found in the mailroom at the office in mid-town, Manhattan, of Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor. Hazmat units and FBI units there on the scenes of the Renaissance Hotel in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Other hotels in the area are watching what's going on. They are trying to determine if the powder is dangerous and a hoax. We're all over this. The New Jersey State Police have issued a statement saying, among other things, the Joint Terrorism Task Force and hazardous materials units have responded to several locations after receiving the suspicious letter and substance. We will continue to monitor that story.

But there's another important story we are watching right now, including a rocky week on Wall Street with lots of ups and downs.

Zain Asher is joining us from the New York Stock Exchange right now.

Give us where the stock stands, Zain.

ZAIN ASHER, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Earlier today, the Dow was down about 200 points and now it's down about 76 points. We had a rocky week on Wall Street. And the investors are saying, if it weren't for the fact that you had long-term investors buying in, the swings this week, they would have been wilder. This is the perfect storm. We have a lot of money running for cover out of emerging markets. The idea is that, as the Fed continues to taper, you'll see the rise here and investors won't need to chase yields in developing nations. You had a slow down in China for quite sometime. Manufacturing certainly contracting over there. And the Fed this week deciding to take another $10 billion off the table as well. In terms of today, you are seeing investors begin their rebalance the portfolio at the end of the month -- Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Zain, thanks very much.

We will continue the breaking news coverage right after this.


BLITZER: We'll get back to the latest developments on the scare not far from the site of the Super Bowl Sunday night in a moment, but another story I want to turn to right now. Iran and the former U.S. embassy in Tehran has become what the Iranians call a museum.

Not many Westerners get a chance to see it, but we our own Jim Sciutto was given an exclusive tour and brings us a fascinating look inside.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For years, this is as close as the reporters could come to the embassy in Tehran, but now a rare glimpse inside.

(on camera): Was this is where the Marine guards were?

SCIUTTO (voice-over): For 444 days, this was a prison to some 50 American hostages, the 1979 take over dramatized in the Oscar-winning film, "Argo."


SCIUTTO: They took us to what was the secure part of the embassy.

(on camera): Is it a secure combination that it was?


SCIUTTO (voice-over): "It's the same," he said.

Now it's an anti-U.S. propaganda museum run by the Iranian government. While many have become disillusioned with the Islamic Revolution, here, the anger against America survives.

(on camera): Do you still believe it was justified to hold the Americans as hostages?


SCIUTTO (voice-over): "Yes," he said, "definitely."

Every room and every piece of equipment is an exhibit.

(on camera): This is a walk back inside.

SCIUTTO (voice-over): A sound-proof meeting room with dusty mannequins and telex machine marked as belonging to the NSA. And the shredder staff used to destroy secret documents as students took over. A panic moment captured in "Argo."


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Burn it all. Burn everything.


SCIUTTO (on camera): This is where the embassy, including the CIA, would do it's most sensitive communications. There's a pressure sensor here. Inside, all the ways they would communicate back home. There's a teletype machine and ancient fax machine. This looks like coding equipment. All the prized possessions of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

(voice-over): Equally prized is more modern propaganda, our guide tells a familiar Middle East conspiracy theory, claiming the U.S. was actually behind 9/11.

(on camera): Why would we do that to our own people?


SCIUTTO (voice-over): "They wanted to make their people believe they were in danger," he said, "to attack other countries."

What has yet to penetrate these walls is any optimism about the new diplomacy between Iran and the U.S.

(on camera): Could you imagine American diplomats would return to this embassy and open the embassy again?


SCIUTTO (voice-over): "You cannot trust America," he said. "America is the Great Satan."

Jim Sciutto, CNN, Tehran.


BLITZER: All right, that's it for me this hour. Our breaking news coverage continues right now with Brooke Baldwin.