- The Washington Times - Monday, October 15, 2001

Cabinet members fanned out over the talk shows yesterday to try to calm Americans shaken by fears of additional terrorist attacks and further cases of anthrax exposure in several states.
"I don't want to be Pollyanna-ish. But I just want to make sure that Americans understand that we can respond," Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson said on CNN's "Late Edition."
Just hours after Mr. Thompson made his comments, New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani announced that three more cases of exposure to anthrax had been identified in his city.
The victims, he said, were a policeman and two laboratory technicians who handled a letter tainted with anthrax that was sent to NBC News. Mr. Giuliani said tests showed their exposure was tiny and they are not ill. But they are taking antibiotics as a precaution, he said.
New York Health Commissioner Neal Cohen, who also attended the nationally televised press conference, said officials are also awaiting results of tests on a second employee of NBC-TV, who has suffered flulike symptoms since handling the letter containing anthrax powder.
The unidentified worker was put on antibiotics after developing a rash, fever and swollen lymph nodes all symptoms of anthrax.
When Mr. Thompson made the rounds on Sunday morning news talk shows yesterday, he apparently was not aware of the three new anthrax exposure cases announced by the mayor. He was aware that a second NBC employee was undergoing testing.
To date, 12 persons four in New York and eight in Florida have tested positive for exposure to the anthrax bacillus. Of that number, only two persons have tested positive for the disease.
Erin O'Connor, an assistant to anchor Tom Brokaw who contracted skin anthrax, is recovering. Bob Stevens, a photo editor for the Sun supermarket tabloid in Boca Raton, Fla., died of the inhaled form of anthrax.
Also yesterday, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice sought to quell fears that terrorists may have crude nuclear-type weapons. The Washington Times reported last week that U.S. defense officials believe Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist group has crude chemical and biological weapons and could have enough nuclear material to make "radiological" weapons that combine radioactive material with conventional explosives to increase their deadliness.
In an appearance on CBS' "60 Minutes," Miss Rice said, "We have no credible evidence at this point of a specific threat of that kind."
"There's no reason for the American people at this point to fear a specific threat of that kind," she said.
The presence of anthrax powder was confirmed in letters received by the tabloid publisher American Media Inc., NBC News and a Microsoft office in Reno, Nev.
In multiple talk-show appearances yesterday, Mr. Thompson used the word "bioterrorism" to refer to the recent anthrax cases, but he said it remains uncertain whether terrorist Osama bin Laden or his al Qaeda group is responsible.
"It's certainly an act of terror to send anthrax through the mail," he said on "Fox News Sunday." On CNN's "Late Edition," he said, "There is no question it's bioterrorism. It's a biological agent. It's terrorism. It's a crime."
But "it could be a domestic source," he said on "Fox News Sunday." "It could be someone holding a grudge. it could be" the work of publicity-seeking copycats.
Attorney General John Ashcroft said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that "we should consider this potential that it is linked" to bin Laden. But he said it's "premature" to make a direct link to anyone.
On CBS' "Face the Nation," Mr. Ashcroft tried to ease public concern about the possibility of more terrorism by discussing what his department is doing to try to prevent it.
He disclosed that the FBI has a "watch list" of nearly 200 suspects it's seeking to apprehend in connection with the Sept. 11 attacks. He said law-enforcement agencies nationwide are aggressively trying to track down those people to prevent new assaults.
"We are doing everything possible to disrupt, interrupt, prevent, to destabilize any additional activity. We are on alert. We are looking for individuals and are aggressively pursuing them," Mr. Ashcroft said on "Meet the Press."
Asked why the public shouldn't be terrified when law-enforcement agencies remain on the highest state of alert for new attacks, the attorney general said, "To indicate that there is a risk of terrorist attack is not the same as to say we think there is going to be one."
As he and Mr. Thompson made the rounds of talk shows yesterday to try to instill calm, they advised the public to be vigilant but not to panic in the face of threats by Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network of a new round of terrorist attacks.
Mr. Thompson kept reminding viewers that anthrax is not contagious between humans.
"There are three ways to get anthrax," he said on CNN. In addition to contraction by breathing in anthrax spores or having them pass through an open wound on the skin, he cited a third method that has received little media attention eating foods contaminated with anthrax.
The secretary has been criticized for portraying the federal government as being fully prepared to handle a bioterrorist attack. In interviews yesterday on CNN and ABC's "This Week," he backed off from that stance slightly.
"Sure we have some problems, there's no question about that. But we're going to go to Congress this week [to get funding] to purchase more pharmaceuticals," he said.
In interviews on Fox and ABC, Mr. Thompson said he will be seeking the money to increase supplies of anthrax antibiotics from the current level of 2 million doses for 60 days to 12 million doses for 60 days and to boost the stockpile of smallpox vaccine.

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