For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 18, 2001
Director Ridge, Leaders Discuss Homeland Security
Press Briefing on Homeland Security by Governor Tom Ridge; Attorney General
John Ashcroft; Surgeon General David Satcher; Postmaster General Jack
Potter; FBI Director Robert Mueller; Cdc Director Mitch Cohen; Deputy
Surgeon General Ken Moritsugu; and Assistant Secretary of Defense-Designate
Eisenhower Executive Office Building
- President's intention to provide timely
as much accurate info. as possible
- Anthrax situation, update
- Priorities of Justice/FBI: Prevent
further harm, search for bacteria source
- FBI Update
- Need for a calm, vigilant, educated
- Surgeon General, Dr. David Satcher, on the Public
- Public health infrastructure's response
- Reassurance to Americans
- Role of the Public
- Sec'y Thompson assigns Dr. Ken Moritsugu
to work with Senate on anthrax
- CDC epidemiologists' evaluation, recommendation
- Gov. Ridge daily communication with
Gen. Ashcroft, FBI Director Mueller
- Science of identifying and confirming
- Confusing message from Capitol Hill
- Smallpox, purchase of 300 million vaccines
- Ability of U.S. to combat both
anthrax and terrorism simultaneously
- Anxiety in the public over flying, anthrax
10:05 A.M. EDT
GOVERNOR RIDGE: Good morning. This
briefing will be the first of many opportunities that we will have to
discuss homeland security and our government's response efforts. The President
has made it very clear that he wants to provide the American people
as much accurate information as we can, as soon as we can. I intend
to hold regular briefings with government experts and relevant
Since September 11th, our government has worked so well together -- both
at the federal, state, and local, public and private sectors. The American
people can have confidence that their government is working around the
clock to protect them. Our government is more coordinated than ever.
We want to use today's briefing to update
Americans on the current anthrax situation. Attorney General Ashcroft
and FBI Director Mueller will update you on their investigations, and
new additional efforts on the law enforcement front. Also present is the
Surgeon General of the United States, Dr. David Satcher, and Dr. Mitch
Cohen, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who will update
you on their ongoing testing. The Deputy Surgeon General is also with
us today. He is working directly with the FBI and other key officials
on the anthrax detection at the U.S. Capitol.
The Postmaster General is here today as well and will brief the American
people on ways to ensure the safety of their mail. And finally, Major
General Gerry Parker from the U.S. Army Surgeon General's Office is here
to discuss the U.S. Army's Medical Research Institute for Infectious Disease
efforts to support the anthrax situation at the U.S. Capitol.
While the federal government is more
coordinated than ever, we are also working hand-in-hand with state
and local governments. We are in constant contact with doctors and
health care professionals, law enforcement officials, governors, mayors,
city council leaders, and many others, to determine ways to protect our
homeland and respond to potential threats. Later today, administration
officials, including myself, will be briefing representatives from state,
local, and county governments. I will report their feedback to the President
to ensure that we are serving their needs as effectively and efficiently
Later today, Secretary Thompson,
the CDC, and the Surgeon General will also conduct a conference
call with leading representatives of organizations that represent
doctors and other health care professionals. We want to make absolutely
certain we are getting important information on anthrax prevention and
detection as quickly as possible to our health care experts all across
Now, if I can, I would like to take just a few moments to bring you up
to date with the latest information on the anthrax situation. There is
a great deal of speculation out there. There is obvious concern to most
Americans -- all Americans. And instead of speculating, we would like
to focus on the facts.
First, thousands and thousands and thousands
of people have been tested for anthrax exposure, and thousands of
environmental samples have been taken as well. Yet only five people
have tested positive at this time for anthrax. I will tell you we
are in the process of confirming a sixth; we will get back to you
with details on that later.
But today, as of now, we have only five, out of those thousands that have
been tested for exposure. Only five actually have the disease. Two of
these cases have treated positive for inhalation anthrax. While one gentleman
unfortunately passed away, the other is expected to make a full recovery.
Doctors and medical professionals are receiving regular health alerts
and have timely access to the information they need, again, to respond
as quickly and as effectively as possible.
I want to take some time to review
the latest facts from the different anthrax situations.
The only death at this point, as we all know,
sadly, has happened in Florida. We continue to say prayers for
that family and everyone who has been involved in this situation there
and around the country as well.
In Palm Beach County, one man has also been diagnosed with inhalational
anthrax disease, but he is on antibiotics and he is expected to recover.
There has also been one confirmed case of exposure in Palm Beach County;
however, she has recovered and she has returned to work.
An NBC employee
-- now we're going to New York. An NBC employee has tested positive
for cutaneous anthrax. But because of the quick diagnosis by her
physician, she was placed on antibiotics and is expected to make a full
recovery. No other cases at the NBC building have been reported. In fact,
an intern who likely handled the suspicious letter has tested negative
After we learned of the NBC exposure, the federal government and the New
York state and local officials immediately took preventive action to investigate
other media outlets in New York.
As you well know, regrettably, at ABC
a seven-month-old infant has tested positive for cutaneous anthrax
disease. Our coordinated teams continue to investigate exactly how the
child came into contact with the anthrax bacteria. But the child is also
taking antibiotics, and the child is doing well.
The ABC building is the focus of a rigorous investigation, and
the New York City Health Department has reported no other individuals
with symptoms of anthrax at the ABC building.
At CBS, an employee has tested positive
for cutaneous anthrax. The assistant has been placed on antibiotics
and is expected, again, to make a full recovery. I suspect you are familiar
with the details of this individual, but she had on October 1st noticed
some swelling in her face, went to visit with her physician. The physician,
I think on October 4th, gave her penicillin. With all the other activity
with regard to anthrax, she checked herself in with the city's health
department. Mayor Giuliani reports to me that she got Cipro at that time
and she is doing very well, and they expect her to make a full recovery.
At Governor Pataki's office, out
of prudence, the employees who worked near a suspicious letter that may
have been opened have been placed on antibiotics as a precautionary measure
until testing is completed.
In all of these cases in New York, the federal government, the CDC and
the FBI continue to investigate, to test, and to treat those who may have
Now finally, Washington, D.C. Currently,
over 3,000 nasal swabs have been taken -- over 3,000. And to be prudent,
those tested have been offered antibiotics until the nasal samples are
A total of 31 individuals have tested preliminarily positive for possible
exposure and will be evaluated further. Apparently, these 31 individuals
most of the time were confined, or had their office, or did their work,
on the fifth or sixth floor of the Hart Building.
As was announced yesterday, relevant federal agencies are working hand
in hand with Congress to further examine areas in the Capitol complex
to ensure the safety of the legislative branch and those who work in it.
Finally, Nevada. The final test results
for Nevada are in from the CDC, and they are negative. However, additional
samples are going to be taken to ensure there is no threat.
Now, before my colleagues brief you further, I
want to remind all Americans that they can get the latest information
from government websites. The Center for Disease Control at
It's accessible. It's called Health Alert. And there are questions and
answers that really give every citizen an opportunity to learn for his
or her self all they need to know about anthrax and about the work that
has been going on with the CDC.
The Department of Health and Human Services has anthrax tips as
well, and that site is www.hhs.gov.
And of course, the FBI, www.fbi.gov.
All of us, beginning with the President, appreciate the extraordinary
patience of the American people during these extremely challenging times.
We will continue to hold regular briefings to ensure that the American
people have as much information as possible, as soon as possible.
Now, I would like to turn the next segment of this briefing over to Attorney
General John Ashcroft.
GENERAL ASHCROFT: Thank you, Governor. The Justice Department and the
FBI are working closely with Health and Human Services, the CDC, the Postal
inspectors, and Capitol Hill police to investigate the anthrax cases around
the country in Florida, New York, and in Washington, D.C.
We have two priorities. First,
to use the information we have about these cases to do what we can to
prevent further harm. Second, we are aggressively searching for
the source of the bacteria and for the person or people responsible
for the criminal acts of dispersing and sending these bacteria in the
Unfortunately, this week, in addition to
the continuing investigation into the September 11th attacks and the anthrax
cases, the FBI and United States Attorneys have also been investigating
numerous hoaxes. People who use this time in our country as an
opportunity to compound the concern of Americans through hoaxes will pay
a serious price, because we intend to prosecute these offenses to the
fullest extent of the law.
These acts are serious violations of the law and grotesque transgressions
of the public trust. False terrorist threats tax the resources of an already
overburdened enforcement system, and they also tax the public health system.
They create illegitimate alarm in a time of legitimate concern.
Terrorism hoaxes are not victimless crimes, but are the destructive acts
of cowards. Making a threat is a federal offense, even if the person
making the threat doesn't have the intention or the ability to carry out
The law clearly prohibits the mailing of
communications which, and I quote, "contain any threat to injure
the person of the addressee or of another." This offense carries
a penalty of up to five years in prison.
The law also prohibits the threatened
use of a biological toxin. This offense carries a penalty of up to
life in prison and a potential for very serious fines.
Individuals may also receive up to five
years in prison for lying to law enforcement officials.
This week, we have already charged four
people in connection with false anthrax threats, and we are working
with state and local officials to prosecute additional cases. Two individuals
lied to federal authorities about their knowledge of or involvement with
a hoax. Two others falsely threatened to use biological weapons of mass
Just yesterday, the United States Attorney in Rhode Island charged William
Silvia of Portsmouth with mailing a threatening communication. According
to an affidavit supporting the complaint, Silvia last week mailed a letter
to a person in Lincoln that purported to contain anthrax. It actually
contained talcum powder, but the threat caused the recipient to call 911,
triggering an emergency response and investigations by state and federal
The message is clear: anyone who participates
in or perpetrates a false threat of anthrax, or a false threat of
another kind, will be prosecuted by federal, state, and local officials.
We are working carefully with state and local officials in this respect.
Many of our states have very serious and substantial legal frameworks
to prosecute such individuals as well.
I want to thank the American people for their patience, their vigilance
and their cooperation in all of these respects. I am pleased now to introduce
the Director of the FBI, Bob Mueller, and also the Postmaster General
of the United States, Jack Potter. Together, they are working very well
to help Americans develop a sense of confidence in a system of mail and
mail delivery which merits our confidence, and I am grateful for the opportunity
to introduce them at this time.
Thank you, General. Good morning. Last week, I had the opportunity to
attend Governor Ridge's swearing in, and at that time, and later, to pledge
the FBI's full support and cooperation with the work of his office.
The task at hand is larger than any one agency. And the new office headed
by Governor Ridge, we believe, can only help we at the FBI to better meet
our critical counter-terrorism mission. And the Bureau, the FBI,
will provide whatever resources, information and assistance the Governor
needs to fulfill his mission.
Our participation in that mission will be a critical component in the
information sharing process, not only at the federal level, but also with
state and local authorities.
Now, in an average year the FBI handles
approximately 250 assessments and responses involving chemical or biological
agents, or other weapons of mass destruction. Over the past 18 days
alone, we have handled more than 3,300, including 2,500 involving suspected
anthrax threats alone.
As we have heard, one person has died from
anthrax bacteria, and a limited number of individuals have been exposed.
But our nation is quite clearly concerned. I want you to know our investigators
are hard at work -- are hard at work in New York, in Florida, in New
Jersey, in D.C., and throughout the country, responding swiftly and fully
to each and every request for assistance, but most particularly following
up on each and every lead that could disclose the identity and provide
the proof against those who are responsible for these anthrax attacks.
We are treating every instance around the country as
a serious crime. And we will not relent; we will pursue, and bring
to justice, those who are responsible for these harmful acts.
It is quite obvious and clear, however,
that this is a collective effort with many agencies, not just those
standing here today but others, both in the federal government, as well
as with the state and locals. And the process must be seamless and
And also, as the Attorney General
has previously mentioned, we are addressing anthrax hoaxes. And when we
find such a hoax, we will pursue the investigation and prosecute to
the full extent of the law.
I want to finish this segment by saying the FBI and all of its federal,
state, and local colleagues look forward to working with Governor Ridge
and his office, and to continue the close cooperation that we have seen
certainly since September 11th, and most particularly with regard to these
Let me discuss for a moment, if I might,
another matter. We in the FBI are pleased this morning to join with Postmaster
General Jack Potter to announce a reward of up to $1 million for
information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible
for terrorist acts of mailing anthrax. Now, this reward continues
the strong partnership between the FBI and the postal authorities in tracking
down criminals who use our mail system to further their illegal deeds.
And we are very pleased to contribute to this endeavor, and once again
call upon the public to assist us in this fight against terrorism.
Now, let me, if I might, turn this over to Postmaster General Jack Potter.
GENERAL POTTER: Good morning. First of all, I would like to thank Governor
Ridge for having me here today to represent the Postal Service. And I
would like to thank the FBI, the health officials from the federal government.
And I would also like to thank law enforcement officials and health officials
throughout America for their support of the Postal Service throughout
this effort, and for their quick action to respond.
We are very happy to participate in the effort, with our Inspection Service
and the FBI, with the effort to apprehend those who are responsible for
these heinous acts. We are also very anxious and thank the Attorney General
for his efforts to go after those who would use the mail to make a hoax.
have to be vigilant, and that is our message to the American public.
When it comes to the use of mail, we are asking that people use common
sense. And we are going to mail, within the next week, a postcard to
everyone in America. This postcard outlines what they should be
suspicious of in the mail, mail that does not have a return address,
and other things that are likely to occur in the mail.
The best defense that we have right
now is an educated American public, an educated work force -- both
the employees of the Postal Service and those who work in mail rooms.
And our message has been consistent, it has been very clear: if
you receive something that is suspicious, we want you to isolate it,
put it in a plastic bag, don't let other people touch it. Don't shake
it, don't taste it, don't sniff it -- I mean, these are very common sense
things that we are asking the American public to do. And then we are asking
them to call law enforcement. And law enforcement agencies and local health
officials, state and national health officials, are all ready to get involved
and respond to their needs.
In addition to that, the Postal Service is putting out a poster that will
be issued to mail rooms throughout America, so that the folks in the mail
rooms will know what to be on the lookout for. We also have information
on our website, www.usps.com.
My message to the American public is to remain calm, be vigilant,
be aware of what you get in the mail. And as the President has said, heightened
awareness right now is what we are asking all of America to do. Yes, we
believe the mail is safe. It is very safe if you are prudent, and if you
follow the simple directions that we're asking you to follow.
Again, let me close by thanking Governor Ridge for having me here today,
and for allowing the Postal Service to participate in this effort. We're
committed to homeland security. And again, I want to thank local law enforcement
officials, and federal law enforcement and health officials, for their
support of the Postal Service.
GOVERNOR RIDGE: Jack, I just want to publicly recognize the extraordinary
work that you and the Post Office have done. The card that you are sending
out to every single home and just some good, common sense practical suggestions
that we want all Americans to be aware of and to take.
I have asked our Surgeon General, Dr. David Satcher, to spend a little
time with us this morning. Doctor?
GENERAL SATCHER: Thank you very much, Governor
Ridge. We too are very pleased to join with you and with Attorney General
Ashcroft and people from the Justice Department and the Postal Service
in responding to this ongoing threat.
I think you know that Secretary Thompson has pledged the full suport of
our department, including the Public Health Service, to you in defending
the homeland security.
I want to make a few points about the Public
Health Service. We believe that from a health perspective, the best
defense against bioterrorism is a very strong public health infrastructure,
and we believe that the public health infrastructure is responding
very well to this threat.
should be reassured in knowing that we are responding quickly
and effectively to cases of anthrax exposure and presumed exposure
throughout the country. We are delivering
the appropriate medications to those who need it, and we are erring
on the side of caution in making health care available to those who may
have been exposed to anthrax spores.
Let me say that the federal, state,
and local governments are working well together in terms of public
health. The CDC is our lead agency in responding to this kind of threat,
and the CDC, in addition to providing epidemiologists to be involved in
detecting and investigating and diagnosing cases, is also supporting state
and local health departments. CDC's health alert network now includes
more than 80 state and local health departments and laboratories, and
more are being developed.
I think we are doing well as a nation and
we need to stay the course. We need to continue to do those things that
we know are effective. We have a very strong public health infrastructure,
and it is getting stronger, as it should.
We need to make sure that people are informed as to what can be
done to minimize the risk. It is important
to continue to point out that, as serious as anthrax is as a disease,
it is not contagious. And from a public health perspective, that
is very good news.
It is also important to point out
that we have the ability -- when we know that someone has been exposed
to this bacteria, we have the ability to treat them with antibiotics
and to prevent the development of the disease. And so what we are
treating in many cases now, we are treating exposures. And by treating
exposures, we are preventing the development of the disease.
The American people should know
that we have plenty of antibiotics to get to those who need them,
and we have the ability to deliver those antibiotics rapidly. Over
the last three years, we have developed a stockpile at CDC. There are
sites distributed throughout the country. There are agreements with vendors,
manufacturers, that can aid in getting antibiotics anywhere they are needed
in a very short period of time, in a matter of hours. And we have demonstrated
that in Florida, in New York, and certainly in Washington, D.C.
The administration took
steps this week to expand the antibiotic stockpile even further.
We now have enough to serve 2 million people for up to 60 days, which
is what is recommended when one has been exposed to anthrax. We have now
taken steps to expand that so that we could, in fact, serve at least 12
million people with ciprofloxicin up to 60 days.
There is another very important
point that needs to be made here. There has been so much attention given
to the drug Cipro, it is very important that everyone understands that
Cipro is not the only drug that we have in our armamentarium to
deal with this problem. Several varieties of penicillin and tetracycline
can also be used. FDA has, in fact, now taken the steps to label those
drugs so that physicians will be very clear about the use of them.
But in most cases, we try to start people who have an exposure on ciprofloxicin,
and after a period of time when we have been able to determine the sensitivities,
we are able to move to other drugs.
Let me just say I think despite all of
the discussion, and perhaps sometimes confusion, about the nature of different
organisms -- for example, the discussion with Capitol Hill -- I think
what is really important to understand that so far all of the strains
that have been identified are sensitive to the antibiotics that we have.
They are sensitive to ciprofloxicin and, in most cases, sensitive to penicillin
and to tetracycline.
So we have not only the antibiotics that we have been describing in terms
of ciprofloxicin, but we also have penncillin and various forms of tetracycline
that can also be used. And we can deliver them.
We certainly do not recommend -- and I want to
state this again -- we do not recommend that physicians prescribe ciprofloxicin
and other antibiotics for anthrax when they are not needed. We do
not believe that the treatment for anxiety in patients is to give them
prescriptions. We believe the treatment is to really discuss this issue
with them and to try to make them understand that we are able to respond,
but to also understand the harm that can be done if people hoard antibiotics,
use them inappropriately, so that we develop more resistant strains.
And I just have to remind you that over the years
the powerful drug penicillin has been severely weakened by inappropriate
use, and so we don't want this to happen in this case. We need your
cooperation. The public is a very important part of this public health
approach, and so we hope that that will happen.
Today, between 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m., the CDC,
as Governor Ridge mentioned, will be holding a special conference for
physicians and others on the front line. It is entitled, "What
Clinicians Need to Know." That conference can be accessed on
and information will be provided for physicians and others on the front
But also, as Governor Ridge mentioned,
it should be pointed out that on a very regular basis the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention makes information available for the general
public. Health alert announcements that are provided -- they can
be accessed at www.cdc.gov.
But to keep all of this in perspective, we've had a lot of concern over
the last few weeks, and I think it's appropriate. We've said that we think
it's appropriate not only that the public health system be on high alert
during this time in our history, but also that the public be on high alert.
Now, what is the role of the public?
And it's not a new role -- there are certain things that we have said
all along that people should do in the interest of the public health.
We've talked about the importance of hand
washing. We've talked about
the importance of carefully handling foreign objects or substances.
And you've heard the Postmaster General describe
what we need to happen relative to the mail, and CDC issued guidelines
in terms of handling envelopes, especially those that are not familiar
and those that are unusual in terms of their bulkiness or their odor,
or their stain or what have you.
But these are public health precautions, just
like the thorough cooking of food. If people are worried about the danger
of anthrax in their food, then the best defense against that is to thoroughly
cook foods. So, the general public health guidelines apply here as
they have before.
We have now had -- we have announced before, and I think the MMWR that's
coming out today will still say that there have been four cases of anthrax
disease, the two in Florida and the two in New York. However, CDC will
be announcing today that we have confirmed a fifth case, and that we're
in the process of confirming a sixth case of anthrax disease. Dr. Mitch
Cohen, who is here, and who is head of the Division of Mycotic and Bacterial
Diseases at the CDC will be here to discuss that.
Also, as you've heard, with us today is the Deputy Surgeon General, Dr.
Ken Moritsugu, who has been detailed of assigned to Capitol Hill to work
very closely with Congress. He has certainly been very active in the last
two days in dealing with the situation there, and will discuss that with
Again, I want to thank Governor Ridge for his leadership at this very
important time in our history. And we look forward to working very closely
DEPUTY GENERAL MORITSUGU: Good morning.
As Dr. Satcher mentioned, on Tuesday Secretary Tommy Thompson assigned
me to work together with the Senate leadership on Capitol Hill
in coordinating both the assessment and the response to the anthrax
incident that occurred on Monday morning.
CDC epidemiologists have been on-site since
Monday afternoon and have been evaluating the situation within the Senate.
And based upon their evaluation, of greater than 3,000 nasal swabs
there were only 31 nasal swabs that indicated an exposure to anthrax.
And for that reason, yesterday afternoon the CDC epidemiologists recommended
that there was no need for further nasal swab evaluation; that CDC had
identified the area of exposure, and that area was on the fifth and the
sixth floor on the southeast wing of the Senate Hart Building, and it
was confined to individuals who either worked in or traveled through that
area on Monday.
Furthermore, those individuals who had worked in or traveled through that
area on Monday should be on 60 days of medication. There is continuing
analysis and evaluation of that area, as well as other areas of the Senate
and the Capitol. And we will be reporting as we get additional information.
GOVERNOR RIDGE: Two quick observations, if I might, before I ask Dr. Cohen.
First of all, Dr. Satcher referred to the fifth case, and that's the third
case in New York. Remember, we've got two in Florida, three in New York,
and I told you there will be a sixth that we're in the process of confirming
And secondly, I thought it was very
important for you to know that every morning I meet with, or talk to,
the Attorney General and the FBI Director. And every morning, among
many things that we discuss, we discuss the need to commit FBI and
Justice resources, and public health resources to follow up as aggressively
and as quickly as possible on every single potential threat.
And we just want to assure America that when the threats turn out to be
a hoax, that the Department of Justice and the FBI will move as aggressively
against those as they do to investigate to make sure that a threat exists
in the first place.
It's inconceivable to me that under
this extraordinary set of circumstances that this country is dealing with,
to me, that the Department of Justice, and the FBI, and the CDC, and public
health officials have to respond -- and will respond as aggressively as
possible and as quickly as possible -- and then we find out that it's
fraudulent, that it's a hoax.
Let there be no mistake about it; let it be a strong message and a very
clear message. The federal government -- and, I might add, the Attorney
General pointed out that there are state and local officials who will
assist us in prosecuting these individuals to the fullest extent of
In the past couple of days, several people
have asked the administration, asked different officials, and queried
about the delay, from getting the swabs and getting the samples to getting
public information. Obviously we like immediate gratification. We like
to know as quickly as possible. But there is some science that is involved
in making this determination, in drawing the appropriate medical conclusion.
And I have asked Dr. Mitch Cohen from the CDC to join us today to talk
to you a little bit about the science of identifying the bacteria and
confirming the bacteria.
DR. COHEN: Thank you, Governor. Good morning. As you have heard, there
have been several additional cases that are being evaluated. As those
people are notified about their diseases, we will be able to provide you
more information about those.
We have a series of investigations that are going on in several
places. These are jointly conducted with state and local public health
officials, and with law enforcement officials as well. These are very,
very good collaborations, and we are making tremendous progress in all
I will be happy, during the question and answer period, to answer any
specific questions that you have concerning some of the laboratory tests,
some of the investigation issues. I know the laboratory test work is often
very confusing, and that is in part because this is an unusual disease,
and there are many different types of tests that have to be used to determine
its presence on people, in people, in the environment, in letters. And
all of those can be very complex and confusing, and I will be happy to
provide any additional information that anyone would like to know on that.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WINKENWERDER: My name is Dr. Bill Winkenwerder, and
I am the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health affairs. Just confirmed
two days ago, so very new to the situation here. I am joined by General
John Parker, who is with the Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious
Diseases, who has been involved in performing some laboratory testing
and other support to the CDC and to the FBI.
I just want to say that our role thus far has been to be a support to
the CDC and to the FBI and to other agencies that have called us in because
of the expertise and skill and special resources that we are sometimes
able to bring to the table. And so we are more than glad to play that
role. We do have some things that we can offer, and we look forward to
playing a supportive role in the fight against these acts. So, I will
be glad to answer any questions in the question and answer period. Thank
GOVERNOR RIDGE: Yes, questions.
Q Governor Ridge, clearly the Administration
is putting out a message today, "Be calm, we're engaged, we're doing
what we can to help you." Yesterday we got a confusing message
from Capitol Hill, and a troubling message: the House went out, the
Senate stayed in. Were you consulted? Do you agree with what they did?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: I think both branches, in consultation with their members,
did what they thought was reasonable and prudent based on the information
they had at the time. And certainly we've talked about it with them.
Again, I think an excess of caution, given the situation, particularly
on the Senate side, led to the Speaker and Minority Leader Gephardt, in
consultation with their caucuses, to make those decisions. And I think,
again, caution was the word. And they will be back to business, ready
to go, on Tuesday.
The Senate did remain in session today, I believe, for a vote or two,
they had some committee work to do, some conference committee work to
do perhaps. They are going to continue to conduct their business.
But I think, again, everybody is trying to respond properly based on information
they have available to them. And the individual leaders, in consultation
with their caucuses, made independent -- you know, it's not the first
time the House and the Senate have disagreed on certain things. You go
talk to Nick Calio -- it happens more than once. Yes?
Q Governor, the federal government is asking for
money to buy 300 million smallpox vaccines, that's enough to treat
every American. Why are we buying all of these vaccines, and when does
the inoculation program begin?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: First of all, answering the second part of the question,
we can't start inoculating until we have the vaccine. But again, we have
decided, as a matter of prevention and protection, to strengthen the stockpile
of antibiotics and vaccines that we have. And we looked at potential challenges
to this country -- smallpox is one of them -- and decided to prepare for
that challenge. Again, it's a very appropriate response.
Q So it's the intention to vaccinate every American against smallpox?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: It is the intention to determine, after we have sufficient
supplies available to commence inoculation, to make the decision at that
Q One of the things that is noticeable out in the public is this fear
that in case they get exposed, will they get the antibiotic, be it Cipro
or be it anything, on time? There seems to be some doubt out there of
what the period of incubation would be, what the symptoms would be to
make sure that if they have it to go to the doctor and get the medicine.
Because we keep hearing there is plenty and there is going to be 600 percent
more in stock. But how do people know not to hoard the medicine -- when
they should go to a doctor to be tested?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: I will let Dr. Satcher and Dr. Cohen respond. But let
me just say, that one of the things that he FDA has done -- because there
has been so much public discussion about Cipro, and everybody thinks that's
the only antibiotic that can be used to treat exposure and to use as a
preventive measure. And that's just not the fact. There are a wide range
of antibiotics available in every drugstore in the country. But let me
ask Dr. Satcher to elaborate on that.
GENERAL SATCHER: A couple of things. I think we have demonstrated that
we have the ability to deliver the antibiotics in a very short period
of time, and in much larger numbers than we've had to do to date. So we
feel that we have demonstrated the ability to perform in that sense. CDC
has been developing the stockpile now since 1999, and that stockpile,
as you know, contains Cipro and other antibiotics that can be used to
treat people who are -- and we're using "treat" in an interesting
way here -- to treat people who have been exposed, or who are presumed
to be exposed, to anthrax.
And I do want to make the point, there will be people who have negative
nasal swabs who will still be treated. Because a negative nasal swab test
does not rule out exposure to anthrax. And so, if we have a reason to
believe that there is a high probability that someone has been exposed,
they will, in fact, be treated. We can deliver the drugs in a very short
period of time. That system of stockpiling and vendor management agreements
are in place, and the transportation modes are in place. So we can deliver
I do want to say a word about smallpox. That is, I think the issue here
is, of course, is when you don't -- we haven't seen a single case of smallpox
in the world since the late 1970s, except those that may have been related
to vaccines at a particular time. But smallpox has been eradicated since
1977, and so you're always hesitant to immunize people against a disease
unless you're certain, fairly certain, that there is going to be a risk.
And that's what has to be assessed as Governor Ridge said, ongoing. Will
there be the risk to indicate immunization against smallpox?
Q How about the period? From the
moment you start getting the symptoms?
GENERAL SATCHER: The incubation period for anthrax is usually between
one and seven days. It's a very short incubation period. It probably averages
two or three days. And as you know, the symptoms can be very difficult,
because they include things like fever and fatigue and muscle soreness.
So in a sense, they can be very similar to the flu.
And the other thing, of course, it can be rapidly progressive. So that
is why we focus so much on exposure. We try not to wait for symptoms;
we try to really respond any time we know there is an exposure. If we
find symptoms in any given person, then we are concerned about who else
around that person has been exposed, and we move aggressively to put those
people on antibiotics also.
Q Governor Ridge, really this press
conference is a demonstration of how much the U.S. government is putting
into investigating these anthrax cases. And I'm curious as to whether
you feel that the devotion of this amount of personnel and resources
to anthrax heightens the risk that the U.S. government could be blindsided
from another direction by any terrorist?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: Oh, no, I would say, even though this press conference
suggests that it's really about anthrax generally, we are more vigilant
today, and continue to get more vigilant every day as we assess different
risks that might present themselves in this country.
I mean, if you take a look at everybody in the FBI, the Border Patrol,
the Coast Guard, CDC, everybody is working 24/7. We have engaged the state
and the federal communities. So no, I think our antennae are up for all
conceivable risks, and you ought to be reassured of that.
Q One for the Attorney General, if I might.
GOVERNOR RIDGE: Oh, good. Yes. (Laughter.) General Ashcroft?
Q Are there any promising leads in terms
of tracking down the sources of the anthrax letters, particularly
those sent to Senator Daschle and to NBC?
GENERAL ASHCROFT: We are devoting every resource and pursuing every lead.
I don't think it's appropriate for me to announce that we have any promising
leads, but we are investigating very thoroughly.
And that includes --
Q Are there leads to disclose?
GENERAL ASHCROFT: I will have to defer on that. I am not in a position
to say that there are, and I don't know whether the Director wants to
make a comment or not. Obviously the FBI is a very important part of this
investigation, but the Postal Service authorities are also involved. And
our desire to make this investigation a successful one is indicated by
the fact that today we are offering a reward of up to $1 million for individuals
who provide the information that will lead to the successful arrest, detention,
prosecution and conviction of the individuals involved.
Q Can you say whether there's evidence linking --
Q Mr. Mueller, do you want to answer?
Q -- each of the three cases now?
DIRECTOR MUELLER: I will perhaps respond to the question about leads.
I can't get into whether lead A is better than lead B. I can tell you
that from each of the areas where there has been anthrax exposure -- Florida,
New York, and D.C. -- the samples relating to the spores in the anthrax
exposure are being analyzed by a variety of laboratories to determine
alikeness, and to determine whether or not there is a sole or single source
of each of those attacks.
Likewise, we put out yesterday, I believe, the envelopes, the two envelopes
of the letter that was sent to NBC in New York, as well as the envelope
of the letter sent to Senator Daschle. And that, you can look at it yourself
and compare it. And by putting out those two envelopes, we are getting
a number of leads.
We put those envelopes out there for two reasons: one for leads,
but also so persons would look at those envelopes, and if they saw an
envelope with similar writing, or a similar return address, they would
let us know. I think we are over 300,000 leads since September 11th to
now. Many of those in the last few days have been related to anthrax,
and every one of them is being pursued.
Q Just to follow on that, there have been a number of public statements
by officials saying that there is some belief, without hard evidence,
that al Qaeda or Osama bin Laden may be behind these anthrax attacks,
letters. Is there any hard evidence that perhaps another rogue nation
or a domestic terrorist, an American terrorist, could be behind this?
DIRECTOR MUELLER: Let me start by saying that the mailing of anthrax is
a terrorist act. It is a terrorist act. And we are pursuing it as a terrorist
act. We are not in a position at this point to determine those who are
responsible to the extent that they could be put into an indictment or
arrests be made. I'll just leave it there.
Q Governor Ridge?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: Every single day, the organizations represented by these
individuals with me today, along with others that are not represented
here -- every single day they work to improve our ability to identify
and prevent a threat, and they work every single day to improve our ability
and strengthen our ability to respond to it. So please know that every
organization in the federal government right now is focused on the widest
possible range of anti-terrorism activity.
Q Governor Ridge, there has been --
Dr. Cohen talked about other places being investigated. Have there been
any other cases of anthrax found in government buildings or field offices,
and would you tell us if they were?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: To date, there have been none. And secondly, we will,
but my experience has been, at least it seems to me that sometimes you
find out before we do. I mean, the local response to the effort, frankly,
generates a great deal of interest. All of a sudden, the public health
department and a couple sirens perhaps, and it draws your attention to
But obviously the President and everyone in the administration understands
that it's very important for us to get information to you, validated
information to you, as quickly as we possibly can.
Q Can someone talk about how mail is
being handled at the White House? Is it being screened with extra
care? Have any threats been received here with regard to the mail supply
in light of what's --
GOVERNOR RIDGE: The mail has been handled the way it has been handled
for a long time. I don't think we're doing -- we're following the Post
Office regimen very carefully.
Q Governor Ridge, if there is a bioterrorist
-- a large-scale bioterrorist act in the future, who is in charge of the
response? Who has authority to make decisions related to the response?
What I am trying to find out, basically, is are the boss here or are you
GOVERNOR RIDGE: If there is a -- well, I guess a coordinator is like a
conductor with an orchestra. The music doesn't start playing until he
taps the baton. Coordinate -- if you've got a response to a bioterrorism
activity, you've got several agencies that spring into action immediately,
simultaneously. And my role would be to participate in that effort to
make sure that the response -- agency-wide, cross-government-wide -- is
coordinated so that it is quick and is aggressive and is complete as possible.
That's my job.
Q But nobody believes that this -- do people have to listen to you if
-- do they --
GOVERNOR RIDGE: Well, first of all --
Q -- make a decision about how people are going to respond or who is going
to respond? Do they have to listen to you or not?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: Well, there are some areas that they are certainly going
to have to listen to me. But your question was around what happens in
the event of some form of attack, and everybody has pre-assigned responsibilities.
Everybody knows the job that they need to do.
And in that eventuality, they immediately proceed to do that work, and
I'll oversee that work. And if there is a gap, if there is something I
think that needs to be done differently, if there are additional preventive
measures I think need to be taken, if I think we have overlooked something,
I make the call.
Q On the science of the anthrax, please?
Do we know yet whether the three cases are all of the same strain?
And secondly, could someone speak to the D.C. anthrax? We've heard weapons
grade, not weapons grade, you know, you need a special machine to make
it, you don't. Could someone just talk about that?
DR. COHEN: Well, in our laboratories we have done preliminary tests on
the strains from Florida and from New York. These preliminary tests do
not show any differences between those two strains. They have been sent
to further laboratories for more detailed tests to see whether or not
we can sort out any differences from them.
Q And you don't know about D.C. yet, whether it matches those others?
DR. COHEN: Well, those studies probably
will be done today. We haven't received the isolate yet, enough to do
Q Okay. And on the quality of the type of the D.C. anthrax, whether
it's -- you know, how sophisticated it is?
DR. COHEN: Well, from my perspective, from a public health perspective,
anthrax is a dangerous organism. And so I think the important public health
message is that people have to be careful and alert with their mail, so
that if you have anthrax in an envelope, you have to be alert and take
care, as prescribed by the Post Office.
Q How many of these other cases are outside of Washington and in New York
DR. COHEN: Well, as soon as the sixth case is notified, then we will be
able to provide that information to you.
Q But is it fair to say that of those several that you said you are looking
at, first, can you put a little bit more specific number than several?
Several could be anywhere from five to fifteen. And are they outside of
the Washington, New York, Florida axis you have seen, so a lot of people
elsewhere have reason to be even more worried?
DR. COHEN: Well, the cases that we are working with are in the general
areas of where we have been conducting investigations. There are a number
of people who have specimens sent -- there are several -- or evaluated
cultures from their nose or skin biopsy specimens. Some of these may or
may not turn out to be anthrax.
So this is a very small number that we are evaluating in the laboratory,
in addition to the six that we'll have identified.
Q The question, I think, about the grade of
the anthrax here in D.C. up on the Hill is there was some confusion.
We were initially told it was very high quality, raising fears that there
was state sponsorship behind it, that this was a very serious act of terrorism.
Then we were told, well, no, not necessarily so. So I think that is where
the confusion is. And could you or someone else maybe address that?
DR. COHEN: Well, I think those studies are actually being done to answer
the questions that you are asking about, but certainly the folks from
the Department of Defense might want to comment.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WINKENWERDER: This is just based on the conversations
that I have had with General Parker and others that are involved in the
technical aspects of this. And first, obviously the sample was confirmed
as anthrax by the USAMARID -- an acronym we use here -- lab. It looked
to be run of the mill. They are sensitive to all antibiotics. There was
no evidence, based on what we know thus far, that it was any different
from any samples at this time. Now, more comparative work may need to
be done to confirm that.
There was some suggestion that there was less debris in the specimen,
which could suggest that it may have have been processed in some way.
But, again I wouldn't even put that forward. It is not confirmed at this
Q What were the particle sizes?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WINKENWERDER: I don't believe that there was anything
unusual about the particle size.
Q But the spores were --
Q Milled --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WINKENWERDER: I don't know that that's a term that
we would use. That is an inference as to how something may have been altered
in some way, and I don't think we are prepared to make that inference
at this time.
Q Did the powder look the same in all three instances? And what does it
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WINKENWERDER: Well, my point was I don't think we
have compared this one sample from Washington with the others to be certain
Q Can you give us the characteristics -- the color of it and what people
might be alarmed --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WINKENWERDER: Again, I think that is work that needs
to be done.
Q Is it correct that it had a aerosol-type quality, that it plumed, popped
up in the air? Hastert suggested that at one point. Is that incorrect,
as far as you know?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WINKENWERDER: I can't comment on that.
Q Can you speak generally to weapons grade anthrax, whether or not --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WINKENWERDER: No, I can't. I'm not sure how that term
even came out, but no.
Q -- let it stay in the air, as Dr. Woolridge (phonetic) talked about
special ones that have coating that allows particles to stay in the air
longer? Did this have that coating?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WINKENWERDER: Again, I think that analysis still needs
to be done.
Q Governor Ridge, there have been waves
of anxiety in the public -- over flying, over anthrax. Is that a separate
problem that needs to be treated separately from the medical attention,
the law enforcement that is dealing with these other issues?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: On a daily basis, individuals associated with our effort
within the administration assess different kinds of threats. And obviously
one of the reasons that we worry about the crop dusters is it could potentially
be a vehicle to deliver these substances. That is why every single day
we do an assessment, and why we have acted as we have done in the past
-- to ground them, to check licensing, to check ownership.
And so -- someone asked a little bit earlier today about this assembly
of people and what it really means. And I just want to tell you that we
assembled this group today -- obviously it's my first opportunity to spend
a little time with you -- but to show you that on a daily basis, on an
hourly basis, every single day, there is communication and collaboration
between all agencies of government.
And we are not just focused exclusively on anthrax, I assure you. But
since that is the public challenge at the moment, it was appropriate to
bring these individuals here today to address some of the issues that
you and America have been asking for the past several days.
It is also my first opportunity to explain to you that I do not have --
in response to your question, I don't have tactical or operational authority.
These men and women throughout this government have for years -- for years
have had experience in the areas for which they presently work for the
United States Government and for the American people.
What President Bush asked me to do was come to Washington to work to create
a comprehensive national plan, to deal with homeland security; to deal
with a 21st century environment that says the challenges to American's
sovereignty and our security, which historically have been offshore, but
because of the 20th century environment we find that the challenges are
here; and to do whatever I could in conjunction, in consultation -- and
yes, I have the authority -- I certainly have access. I have the President's
ear. But my job is really long-term.
And when I say to you that if I find some gaps, if I find some areas that
need to be filled, if I see some -- and basically I find strength that
could be strengthened. I find areas where there may be more collaboration.
But the bottom line is I don't have technical operational authority. These
men and women are doing an extraordinary job.
You don't get a chance to see it like I do. You don't have a chance to
interact every single day like I do with every single one of these agencies.
The President has tasked me to take a look at the 46-plus agencies, to
take a look at everything that everybody considers to be homeland security,
and over the next several months put together a comprehensive national
strategy to deal with this -- heretofore a threat that perhaps we thought
about, but really didn't think too long or hard about it.
There have been plenty of things written. There have been plenty of things
said. There are experts all over this country, inside and outside the
government. The President says, "pull in the best," and help
design a plan that these individuals and their organizations would be
able to implement over the years. But I assure you, there is extraordinarily
strong foundation in this country. See how quickly CDC responded; FBI
and the CIA and the Department of Justice, everybody collaborating in
their efforts. It is strong. The President said to me, "Make it stronger."
That's my task.
But I don't have operational authority.
Q I just was wondering how you plan
to work with the NSC? There seems to be to be some overlap between
your office --
GOVERNOR RIDGE: Well, one of the great relationships I have is with Dr.
Condi Rice. There is some overlap. I don't know if you were here the other
day when General Downing and Dick Clark were introduced; again, the President's
goal is to provide the resources to me and the access -- and I have it.
The resources of the federal government and access to every area of the
federal government to develop a national strategy to deal with a threat
that up until September 11th -- maybe we thought about it, we might have
anticipated it, people had written about it, but maybe we were hopeful
in our own mind that it really wouldn't happen.
This magnificent country bordered by two great oceans, neighbors with
whom we collaborate and cooperate all the time. We're open, we're accessible,
we're free. We trust. But unfortunately the 21st century suggests that
we want to remain open and accessible, but friendly borders and large
oceans no longer immunize us to 21st century threats, particularly from
So the President says -- he's assembled an extraordinary team. I couldn't
possibly do the job that General Ashcroft is doing, or Dr. Satcher is
doing, or Bob Mueller is doing, the Postmaster General is doing --they're
doing extraordinarily fine work. But take a look at it. I'm the one person
in government that can stand back from the different agencies, stand back
from their missions, and stand back from their history and say, "Well,
Mr. President, I would recommend that we strengthen our national ability
to respond to these threats with this strategy." That I have been
asked to do, and that's what I'll do.
Q Will you also be sort of the spokesman
-- the main person who will interface with the public?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: Yes. We're going to try to have more regular briefings
of this type. Obviously on many occasions it's not going to be with
the array of agency and department heads. But I'm going to try to be --
and want to be -- briefing you on a more regular basis. And I intend to.
Q In the context of your oversight responsibilities
do you think you should have the national security and intelligence
briefings every day with the NSC or the President and his aides have
GOVERNOR RIDGE: I have been cleared by the President to have as much information
as I want.
Q What does that mean in terms of national --
GOVERNOR RIDGE: That I am cleared by the President to have as much information
as I want or need, which means that I have access to that kind of information.
11:07 A.M. EDT