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Bioterrorism Expert: Anthrax Attacks Show 'Very High Degree of Technical Sophistication'

Aired October 17, 2001 - 11:28   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's learn more about this anthrax and what this latest development might mean. We want to bring in Javed Ali.

We welcome you to our CNN team here. He's with Jane's Defence, and he is now our bioterrorism expert as well.

Javed, welcome, and good to have you with us this morning.

JAVED ALI, CNN BIOTERRORISM ANALYST: Thank you.

KAGAN: We also learned from House Speaker Dennis Hastert today that there have been traces of anthrax found in some of the ventilation systems. What does that tell you about this anthrax and this possible attack?

ALI: It may suggest could have been, potentially, some type of human intervention of the anthrax material into the ventilation system. But I don't necessarily want to suggest that is indeed what happened. That is certainly a possibility. If that has indeed happened, that would be a significant development. But there might be a less alarming explanation for that as well, a more localized source of the anthrax material somehow then getting into the ventilation system.

KAGAN: Just because there are traces doesn't mean someone put it there. We need more information before we can decide about that.

ALI: Correct. Correct.

KAGAN: We are learning a lot about the quality of the anthrax used in this attack, and apparently, it's a very high quality. What does that tell you about it?

ALI: When people refer to any biological material being of high quality, I think that is a reference to the concentration of the material relative to whether it's in a powdered form. So it would be concentration of the material in terms of per gram or concentration of the material, if it were in a liquid form, per milliliter. The higher the concentration level of any biologic material, the more that suggests there is fairly high degree of sophistication with whoever had produced it in the first place.

KAGAN: What about how fine it's ground down?

ALI: Again, that goes to the technical sophistication issue. The more finely ground down the material is, the higher the concentration. It just suggests a very sophisticated level of technical sophistication for whoever developed the material.

KAGAN: Does it give you any clues as to who? Not a name that you would have, but would it tend to be more somebody in this country, outside this country? Or any other clues that would indicate?

ALI: I think it's still too early to tell definitively whether this source of the material was from an international source or a domestic source. I don't think the signatures are there yet. The bottom line signature is what I keep talking about, the technical sophistication, and that in and of itself is significant.

KAGAN: What do you take from that?

ALI: Whoever is the sponsor of these incidents -- and it's not clear whether the sponsor of the incident on Capitol Hill is the same sponsor as in New York or Florida -- but I think it is alarming that whoever this group is or any other individuals, they have mastered some of the steps that other terrorism experts and analysts have for a long time, including myself, would be difficult for any terrorist group to master.

KAGAN: So given what we have learned this morning -- and we are all learning as this goes -- what either alarmed you the most, or what seems to be the most significant news of the day?

ALI: I think the most significant news is the fact it is, if indeed these reports are true about the concentration of the powder being very high, that this, I think, would be significant, because it indicates a very high degree of technical sophistication.

KAGAN: Javed Ali, once again, I want to welcome you to our CNN team. I'm sure we will be having opportunities to talk with you quite a bit in days to come.

ALI: Thank you.

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