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CNN Newsroom

Aired September 28, 2001 - 04:30   ET


SHELLEY WALCOTT, CNN CO-HOST: And, welcome to CNN Newsroom. I am Shelley Walcott.

MICHAEL MCMANUS, CNN CO-HOST: And I am Michael McManus. The FBI is widening its terror investigation, as it looks into the possibility of a chemical threat. So far, at least 18 people have been arrested for allegedly trying to obtain fraudulent commercial trucking licenses. Those licenses will allow the transportation of hazardous materials.

Since the September 11 terrorist attacks, concerns about biological and chemical weapons have prompted major security moves. Earlier this week, crop-dusters were grounded amidst fears that the small farm planes could be used in a biological attack.

WALCOTT: That's right. Preventing and preparing for terrorist attacks are goals of President Bush's Homeland Security Office, which is led by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge. Rhonda Rowland and Jeanne Meserve report on the threat of bioterrorism. How prepared is America?

First, here's Jeanne Meserve.


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The best-laid anti terrorism plans didn't contemplate anything of this enormity. But the startling fact is many cities don't have any plans at all. They haven't assessed possible terrorists targets or how to protect them or trained emergency personnel to deal with the chemical or biological attack.

Although many may have plans for dealing with an array of other emergencies, when a National League of Cities survey asked, does your city have a terrorism response or prevention plan in place? Thirty two percent of the cities who responded said, no; including 7 percent of cities with populations of more than 100,000. What cities are they, the League of Cities won't say. They don't want to expose their vulnerability.

DAN BORUT, NATIONAL LEAGUE OF CITIES: It's imperative that a 100 percent of the cities develop plans, and that a 100 percent of the cities do it in terms of what their local needs are and what their unique conditions are. MESERVE: Perhaps no city has conditions more unique than the District of Columbia. Home of the federal government and National Monument. Terrorism has been a concern for decades. But its terrorism plan that would've used technology to speed evacuations and insure fail-safe communications was a work-in-progress on September 11, and problems with communications and coordination generated confusion and a lot of criticism.

CHIEF CHARLES RAMSEY, D.C. METROPOLITAN POLICE: Sometimes I do resent the little armchair quarterbacking that goes on around this town. Sometimes it's too much. There is a time for us to pull together. There is a time for us to kind of dissect what could have worked better.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, POLICE OFFICER: Stay back from the area. Stay back from the area.

MESERVE: Those people first on the scene, fire-fighters, police officers, emergency medical personnel are critical. If they are not properly trained and equipped, experts say, even the finest plans to cope with terrorism will be ineffective. But these so-called first responders have not been a priority, at least, not in terms of federal funding. Of the $9.7 billion federal devoted to fighting terrorism this year, only about 300 million or less than 4 percent goes to state and local preparedness.

PETER LAPORTE, D.C. EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: Oh, let's be very clear, that's not enough, not even close to, you know...

RHONDA ROWLAND, CBS CORRESPONDENT: There have been previous attacks with chemical weapons. The Tokyo subway attack with serin gas six years ago, it killed 12 commuters who got high doses. More than 5,000 went to the hospital, but only a fraction were actually sick. A chemical attack causes immediate symptoms; eye and lung irritation for example, and does not spread far beyond the area where it's released.

DR. HENRY SIEGELSON, DISASTER PLANNING INTERNATIONAL: A biological attack is very different. This is a delayed event. The patient may not even know that he has been exposed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take a deep breath in and out.

ROWLAND: It would take an alert physician to notice the symptoms and report them to local health officials. Right after the World Trade Center attacks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told its network of public health officials to be on heightened alert for signs of unusual illness clusters; depending on the biological agents, for instance, small pox or plague, they can be contagious. Experts say, if the United States were to experience either a chemical or biological weapon attack, the health care system overall is woefully unprepared.

SAMUEL WATSON, BIOMEDICAL SECURITY INSTITUTE: For an attack by a terrorist using biological weapons, we're about half way there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Put it on your first inhalation, nice and sharp it's going to...

ROWLAND: For a chemical attack, medical preparedness is only slightly better; though, experts say hospitals are moving rapidly towards preparedness.

DR. SIEGELSON: We can do that today with minimal expenditures, and a minimal amount of training, purchasing of the appropriate equipments, and policies and procedures.

ROWLAND: For example, to get this Atlanta hospital equipped with protective gear of portable decontamination showers, it cost $13,000 plus some investment in staff training. Experts say there are no official national standards or guidelines for how hospitals should be prepared to respond to biological or chemical attack.

A recent survey of 186 hospitals in four North-western states, found less than 20 percent had response plans to deal with incidents involving biological or chemical weapons. Less than one-third of respondents had enough antidotes on hand to treat 50 patients exposed to chemicals. And half had a two-day supply of antibiotics, if the exposure was biological, two days for 50 people.

The National Pharmaceutical Stockpile Program overseen by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can rapidly deploy medications, antidotes, and equipment to counter the effects of both biological and chemical agents. But once again, experts say it's not enough; for instance, supplies of smallpox vaccine are too limited to deal with an outbreak.

WATSON: The U.S. government has recently made a contract to develop and then to manufacture a large quantity of smallpox vaccine and that's a very good step.

ROWLAND: The contract calls for 40 million more doses of smallpox vaccine, a powerful vaccine that can provide protection within hours, but the shipment may not be ready until 2004.

Rhonda Rowland, CNN.


MCMANUS: Within hours of the September 11 terrorist attacks, federal agencies were on the lookout for signs of a biological or chemical attack. In the event of such an attack, there are steps and products that can be taken or used. Some of them can mean a difference between life and death.

Ann Kellan reports.


ANN KELLAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Emergency crews want to quickly assess, detect, and clean up after a chemical or biological attack and get out safely; an array of products are designed to do just that. This robot from Mesa, scopes out a dangerous area before humans go in. W. DRU MURPHREE, JR., MESA ASSOCIATES: And there are three cameras built into the unit to begin with, and then there are two-way audio communications on the vehicle also.

KELLAN: This low cost portable censor under development at Georgia Tech uses light waves to scan for poisons in air or water samples and can hunt for as many 75 different toxins at a time. This dust buster-looking device by MesoSystems is one of the few devices that can suck biological agents like bacteria and viruses out of the air for testing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It pulls in about 150 liters of air a minute; and it pulls the bacteria through, streams (ph) it through the system right here and dumps it into this liquid cartridge.

KELLAN: That can be taken to a lab, or if you are in hurry, these test strips can analyze the liquid at the scene.

DON OLSON, MESOSYSTEMS TECHNOLOGY: Within 10 to 15 minutes, we can identify anthrax, if it was anthrax.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your first responder EMT requirement placement puts in vital information about the patient that he encounters...

KELLAN: In the event someone is poisoned, this pocket PC developed at Georgia Tech help crews on the scene identify the contaminant, check off the symptoms, help the computer zero in. In this example, the patient was likely poisoned by a blistering agent, like mustard gas. Protection gear for emergency crews is getting better all the time.

(on camera): Now this is what's called a Level A suit. This one's made by Laquin (ph) Industries and it offers the highest level of protection against chemical warfare agents. Everything is sealed. You can notice that the glove, the face -- you have to wear a face mask with oxygen to use it. Nothing goes in, air can go out. Now you wouldn't want to buy this, it costs about $700 plus you need a 40-hour course to learn how to live in this suit.

(voice-over): Half the cleanup, just not better; a decontamination foam developed at Sandia National Lab can destroy chemical and biological agents in minutes. This simulates how the foam is used at a contamination site, sprayed on objects, even people. It's not an antidote, but it prevents the agents from spreading and could neutralize the agent before it affects the people who are poisoned.

PETER BEUCHER, ENVIROFOAM TECHNOLOGIES INC.: This foam will moisten and begin to decontaminate and kill these biological chemical agents. The chance of a survival though is still -- are going to be very problematic. The key is, you don't want people exiting out into an urban or small town environment and really spreading the decontaminant, and you also want to give them a chance for survival.

KELLAN: Developers claim because of the hydrogen peroxide base, there's little irritation to the skin, and it's much less toxic than the chlorine based products used by the military today. Not all these products are ready for market, but the potential market for them has expanded considerably.

Ann Kellan, CNN, Huntsville, Alabama.


WALCOTT: U.S. officials say Special Operation Forces are expected to play a crucial role in the war on all types of terrorism. Consider the military's elite fighting units; their reputation today is actually born out of a failed mission and a reform effort that ironically some military officials resisted.

Miles O'Brien has more on that.


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They are revered as some of the best fighters in the world; strong, smart, skilled, but it hasn't always been that way. After Vietnam, many in uniform looked down their noses at Special Ops. as cowboys. And as the military establishment focused on conventional war planning for a fight with the Soviets, Special Ops. and unconventional war became the stepchild not seen as a resume builder, the training and the skills deteriorated.

GENERAL ROBERT PATTERSON (RET.), AIR FORCE SPECIAL OPS: They were there but had been atrophied to the point that they are very (INAUDIBLE), no promotions to speak of, you know, that was a (INAUDIBLE) streak.

O'BRIEN: The weakness was made apparent in 1980 with the failure of operation Eagle Claw; a rescue mission to free hostages in the U.S. Embassy in Iran. Instead of getting them out, eight commandos died in the desert, when a helicopter collided with a tanker loaded with fuel, 200 miles from the target. While the 1983 invasion of the Caribbean nation of Granada was a military success, the Special Operations Force was beset with problems.

GENERAL DAVID GRANGE (RET.), FORMER COMMANDER: And we're still - the question about was, (INAUDIBLE) procedures. Authorities lifting the chain of command and, so we were still sorting out some issues.

O'BRIEN: Congress concluded the special operators were not special enough. It wanted to put the Army, Navy, and Air Force special operations under a single unified command; a reform that some Pentagon brass resisted.

PATTERSON: They did not want to give up assets. They just would -- they're going to say, we can do this on our own. We do not need this service.

O'BRIEN: But a new law created a new joint command with it's own budget; headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida, this was a turning point for Special Ops. GRANGE: The ability to have these people work together, train together all of the time, you can't beat that. That's the biggest rating this factor that there is.

O'BRIEN: While all the components of the Special Operations Force share many of the same combat skills, each unit also maintains its own specialty, which may be useful in this new war on terrorism. For example, if the Untied States works with opposition groups, the army Special Forces known as The Green Berets could play a role.

GRANGE: They're experts on training indigenous personnel in guerrilla warfare.

O'BRIEN: In this case there's an anti-Taliban coalition known as the Northern Alliance.

GRANGE: Now it's not to say that they are not already very good guerrilla fighters but we could just add a little more expertise to what they already have.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three, two, one, green light...

O'BRIEN: The army rangers work in larger groups, to pack more firepower. They are considered the experts in ceasing airfields.

GRANGE: A lot of these airfields are located by military installations. There may be 20-30 buildings that are barracks, maybe a thousand enemy soldiers at these locations.

O'BRIEN: Air Force Special Operations uses some of the same equipment seen throughout the military; but to insert, re-supply and rescue fighters deep inside enemy territory, the aircraft are modified to fly longer, lower, and quieter.

PATTERSON: In a Special Operations mission -- a routine mission, if you're detected on the way to the target, you may as well turn and go home. You've failed.

O'BRIEN: As tensions rise in this unconventional war, U.S. officials will likely monitor the fate of eight western humanitarian workers including two Americans arrested by the Taliban last month. They were charged with trying to convert Muslims to Christianity. The super secret Delta Force might be employed to help.

GRANGE: Units like Delta Force are pretty much focused on hostage rescue.

O'BRIEN: For expertise in underwater reconnaissance and demolition, Navy SEAL teams are the specialists. Even though, Afghanistan is landlocked, there may be other places where their skills are needed. Since, authorities say Osama bin Laden's network extends into as many as 60 countries.

PATTERSON: Look at Indonesia, look at Philippines, look at Malaysia. O'BRIEN: According to publicly available military reports, Special Operations Forces number nearly 47,000, about 2 percent of the armed forces.

PATTERSON: They really believe in the heart of hearts that they are just a little bit better than anybody else.

O'BRIEN: While romanticized in the movies and poked in (INAUDIBLE), not all their recent missions have been as successful as the Hollywood versions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are SEAL team. We're here to get you out.

O'BRIEN: 1993, Somalia, Militia reportedly trained by bin Laden's organization shot down two helicopters carrying army rangers and Delta Force commandos. By the time the two-day fire fight was over, 18 U.S. soldiers were dead, nearly a 100 others wounded; the worst fire fight, since Vietnam.

PATTERSON: If that was a standard, run of the mill; military unit that got in that situation, the outcome could have been one -- one hell of a lot worse.

O'BRIEN: But it's a reminder that despite their high motivation, advanced training, sophisticated weapons and practice, their mission is as risky as a guess.

PATTERSON: Special Forces are (INAUDIBLE) just like (INAUDIBLE) regular ones out there.

O'BRIEN: They may be special, but they aren't bulletproof.

Miles O'Brien, CNN.



MCMANUS: Teachers have had a challenging time these past two weeks explaining what's going on to their students. We found a teacher and a class that have thrown textbooks out and made the events of September 11 for their focus for the rest of the year. But in Cristy Lenski's class at Clarkston High School, near Atlanta, Georgia, world events aren't the only lesson.


(voice-over): In this high school's Social Studies class, the textbooks have been replaced by the newspaper.

CRISTY LENSKI, TEACHER: Our headlines today in the Atlanta Constitution, "Bush Supports War Claims."

MCMANUS: Since September 11, this suburban Atlanta high school teacher has thrown out her lesson plan, focusing instead on the terrorist attacks and its aftermath; history in real time. CRISTY LENSKI: I felt, as though this was a prime opportunity to encourage their diversity, to encourage a better understanding of student's distinctions. What they really need - is not what social studies is, but who we are as a nation.

MCMANUS: Ms. Cristy Lenski starts each day by having the students write about concerns; the discussion follows.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, STUDENT: This is probably America's greatest war, and has a big effect on my life because I feel that this might be the end of the world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, STUDENT: Afghanistan is really not that powerful (INAUDIBLE) it's not going to be a big deal.

IKRAN AHMED, STUDENT: When we go to war, everything is not going to be the same. The economy will change, the way we live and the future.

MCMANUS: Ikran Ahmed, a Muslim has found the discussions informative.

AHMED: We come to class today with different students, different cultures, you know, Jewish, all different; and everyone talks about his opinion.

TILMON GADDY, JR., STUDENT: We think that people who did it were doing it because of a Muslim faith, but the real reason why they did it was because they don't believe in the way, the U.S. does things.

Before this happened, we did not talk in that class, it's like, she wants us to communicate little more. But since this happened, we have been communicating with her more, we talk to her a lot.

MCMANUS (on camera): The school accounts to more than 2,000 people from 54 countries. This makes sure some unique discussion that sometimes stems from personal experience.

(voice-over): James Qualls' (ph) father was killed during the Sudan civil war.

JAMES QUALLS (ph), STUDENT: When my dad was killed, then they (INAUDIBLE) you kill somebody. You just kill (INAUDIBLE).

TILMON GADDY JR., STUDENT: He's very strong because the way he held his own, right then in there and being emotional in front of others, it takes a big man to do that, and everybody does it every time they come to this class.

CHARLIE HENDERSON, PRINCIPAL, CLARKSTON HIGH SCHOOL, ATLANTA: I think that the students will bond a little bit better because they're getting a varied set of opinions from each one of the students.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, STUDENT: I'm afraid that going to that country, messing with them might provoke them. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, STUDENT: A war is not a good experience. If we have a war, what is that going to solve? Innocent people are going to die.

MCMANUS: The school has decided to continue discussing the attacks, and the reactions to it for the foreseeable future, helping students understand both the events of September 11, as well as each other.


WALCOTT: The events of September 11 have disrupted countless plans, not the least of which is the New York Mayoral election. The current Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is scheduled to leave City Hall by the end of this year, but many New Yorkers would like him to stay in office past the end of his term.

With more on this, here's Joel Hochmuth.


JOEL HOCHMUTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is still mulling over his political future. He's already served two terms, and legally can't run for a third; but in the wake of the terrorist attacks, he is suggesting a plan to extend his current term by three months beyond the December 31 end date to ease the transition to a new administration. He says he is running the idea past the three candidates remaining after Tuesday's primary election.

RUDOLPH GIULIANI, NEW YORK MAYOR: I hope we can agree on a way in which to handle this tremendous crisis that we have and it's something that I would hope that the candidates would take very seriously; so, I'm going to talk to them and try to come up with something that unifies the city.

HOCHMUTH: Two of the three candidates say they'll go along with the plan, no words yet from the third. There's also been speculation, Giuliani is looking for a way to change the rules; so, he can seek another term, perhaps, as a write-in (ph) candidate in the general election in November. Polls show 39 percent of Democrats and 78 percent of Republicans would vote for him, if he decided to run. But CNN Political Analyst Bill Schneider says that prospect is still a long shot.

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It would be very difficult to mount a write-in (ph) campaign in November. It's hard. You have to be a contortionist to write in names on the New York City ballot. But the alternative is to figure out some way of getting his name on the ballot, that can't be done, unless, the Legislature or the City Council acts, and they don't seem inclined to do that right now.

HOCHMUTH: Even, if Giuliani did run, not everyone thinks it's a good idea.

KATE O'BERNE: I believe the people of the city of New York have a right to vote for whomever they want, and it would clearly be Rudy at this stage. I think it would even be good for the city, if Rudy Giuliani stayed in office. I think it would be bad for Rudy Giuliani, you think the Mayor of Broadway would recognize you always leave in the mourning more. But I don't think he can help himself; the city he loves, finally loves him.

HOCHMUTH: That timing Giuliani enjoying such popularity among some of the city's darkest days is where Candy Crowley picks up the story.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The mayor of New York put a smile on his face, a tux on his back and escorted a Brooklyn bride down the isle. He was making good on a promise he made several weeks ago, to the mother of the bride who told him, she had lost her son, a husband and a father within the last year.

RUDOLPH GIULIANI, NEW YORK MAYOR: I asked her, how she can bear it? And she said because she feels the pain of it, she allows the pain to happen, but then she focuses on the good things that are left in life like her daughter's wedding. And that's what we will have to do, she said. We've got to focus on the good things in life.

CROWLEY: For a city that's endured days of bottomless grief and endless agony, focus on a good thing seemed like the right thing, but then Rudy Giuliani has been doing a lot of things right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is such a strong man. I think he carries everybody with his strength.

CROWLEY: There are rays from his honor nearly every corner of this vast aching city. They applaud, as he walks by now. A salute for a guy who seems never to sleep and nearly always seems to know the answer.

GIULIANI: Basically, what the medical examiner needs are, toothbrush, hairbrush, items -- personal items that would contain cells, hairs that you can use to do DNA analysis.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think the public information as he gets it seems he is personally very thorough and on top of things.

CROWLEY: Within hours of twin tower attacks, Giuliani had twice addressed his city, shaken but steady with the gut instinct for what needed saying.

GIULIANI: We ask the people of New York to do everything that they can to cooperate, not getting frightened, to go about there lives as normal, everything is safe right now in the city.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He has really just been an inspiration of leadership and has stability that made us all remain calm and comfortable here.

CROWLEY: Term limited, the mayor in his final months. After seven and a half years, his exit has been to now singularly ungraceful. Captured fairly efficiently in a short exchange with the press last June over questions about a messy private life.

GIULIANI: Don't be a jerk, thank you. I said, don't be a jerk.

CROWLEY: Tenderness, caring, and empathy have not been hallmarks of his tenure, until September 11.

GIULIANI: And people should know that they're not alone. That there are a lot of people suffering with them, there to help them and support them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He comes across very kind and very sympathetic, and he is...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And very sincere?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes and very sincere, and he is very sincere.

CROWLEY: He has been known as a mayor who made the city work with a tough no-nonsense approach.

GIULIANI: One of the best things they can do to show how strong we are, and how terrorists can't tower us is not to be coward.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, a city like New Yorker needs a tough mayor like him. No matter how you look at it.

CROWLEY: Politically Governor George Pataki and Mayor Giuliani have never cared much for each other, but they have bonded over their care for this city.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, BISHOP: For our governor and our mayor for being with us in every step along the way.

CROWLEY: You would not be surprised to know that on the street, they're saying, they wish Giuliani could run for mayor again now and perhaps, he will run for something again soon but whatever happens this much remains. In New York's worst hour, Rudy Giuliani gave his best. When his city was in danger of crumbling, Rudy was a rock.

Candy Crowley, CNN, New York.


MCMANUS: That was an interesting package, and Shelly, what's more interesting is that the mayor doesn't actually leave office, till December 31, and that's still a few months away.

WALCOTT: Sure and a lot of people want to see him stay. He has really risen to the occasion.

MCMANUS: He sure has.

WALCOTT: And that wraps ups today's Newsroom. Have a great weekend. We'll see you, Monday.




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