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Gephardt thinks anthrax, terror attack linked

gephardt.jpg
U.S. Rep. Richard Gephardt  


By Kelly Wallace
CNN White House Correspondent

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- House Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Missouri, said he believes there is a link between the anthrax cases in the United States and the September 11 terrorist attacks.

"I don't think there is a way to prove that, but I think we all suspect that," Gephardt told reporters, after a breakfast meeting with President Bush and congressional leaders. "I think it is clear that these are people that are both up to no good and people that knew what they are doing."

Gephardt called the anthrax "highly sophisticated" and "weapons grade" material, but he cautioned against focusing on the words. Last week, Tom Ridge, director of the Office of Homeland Security, said the anthrax was not "weaponized."

"I think we've got to stop parsing words and trying to be anything other than accurate about what this is," Gephardt said. "This is highly sophisticated material. It is small in size and it aerosolizes."

At the same time, Gephardt cautioned against focusing on the words used to define the potency of the anthrax.

"The words are not particularly helpful," Gephardt told reporters. "Obviously, this stuff gets in the air and stays in the air and it is small in nature, which means it's milled. You can call it anything you want. It's not safe stuff."

In an interview with CNN, Gephardt did not criticize federal officials for not immediately testing postal employees who worked at the central mail facility, but said the entire federal government needs to, from now on, "err on the side of caution."

"It certainly wasn't an intentional mistake," Gephardt said. "No one understood that the machinery at the post office and the way it worked might tend to get this stuff in the air."

When asked about some postal employees' claims of a double standard with Capitol Hill staffers tested right away and mail handlers not tested until this weekend, Gephardt said, "You had a case in the Senate where we knew we had a plume had gone up. We had a letter that had the material in it. So you knew these people were exposed. There was not an understanding last week that the people in the post office were exposed. And so maybe in a way, we are all having to learn about something we don't know enough about, but I think now people see the need to err on the side of caution."



 
 
 
 



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