of Homeland Security Director Governor Tom Ridge
U.S. Army Med Research and Materiel Cmd, Major General John Parker
Deputy Surgeon General Admiral Kenneth Moritsugu
Homeland Security Press Briefing on Anthrax
White House Briefing Room
October 25, 2001
12:55 P.M. EDT
MR. FLEISCHER: Now I would like to introduce Governor Ridge, the Director of
the Office of Homeland Security. He is joined by Major General John Parker,
the Commanding General of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command;
as well as Admiral Kenneth Moritsugu, the Deputy Surgeon General.
GOVERNOR RIDGE: Good afternoon. Today I'd like to share with you the latest
information and actions we are taking to protect the American people from the
anthrax threats here at home.
Our investigation continues. We are aggressively pursuing every conceivable
lead to find and bring to justice those responsible for these terrorist acts.
Our health system nationwide is on full alert, and is working around the clock
-- and is working around the clock -- to identify and treat those potentially
affected by anthrax.
Today we want to share with you the latest scientific analysis of the anthrax
samples. Major General John Parker, Commanding General of the United States
Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, has joined me today to further explain
and answer your questions concerning these latest findings.
As I outlined last week, Department of Defense DNA tests showed the anthrax
samples from Florida, New York and Washington are indistinguishable, meaning
that they all come from the same strain of anthrax or the same family of anthrax.
That continues to be the case. The DNA tests have also revealed that none of
the anthrax samples have been genetically altered, which is very good news,
obviously, because it means that the samples all respond to antibiotics. And,
therefore, people who are exposed can be treated.
This week, we have received new information from additional laboratory tests.
I convened a meeting at the White House last night to bring together the scientists,
as well as representatives of the different agencies, to analyze and evaluate
this information. It shows that the anthrax in the letter received in Senator
Tom Daschle's office had some different characteristics. It is highly concentrated.
It is pure. And the spores are smaller. Therefore, they're more dangerous because
they can be more easily absorbed in a person's respiratory system.
We've also received a new preliminary analysis on the anthrax that was mailed
to The New York Post. The preliminary analysis shows that it is more coarse
and less concentrated than the anthrax in the Daschle letter. But I want to
tell you, it's still highly concentrated. The New York Post anthrax is also
sensitive to antibiotics.
Unfortunately, we have not been able to conduct similar tests on the anthrax
from Florida or the Brokaw letter because of limited amounts of substance retrievable
from the scene. Just wasn't enough for us to retrieve from the scene to conduct
the same tests.
Now, I know there has been a lot of both public and private discussion, some
of it with me and much of it among yourselves and even within this country,
about the term "weaponize." It seems to have different meanings, different
definition and meanings to different people. Based on these latest lab reports,
it is clear that the terrorists responsible for these attacks intended to use
this anthrax as a weapon. We still don't know who is responsible, but we are
marshaling every federal, state and local resource to find them and bring them
And General Parker is here to give you more of the details. But before he briefs
you, I would like to take a minute to share with the American people the steps
we are taking to protect postal workers.
As of this morning, health officials have tested and treated more than 4,000
postal workers in the impacted areas. In addition, the Postal Service, working
with federal, state and local officials, have begun environmental testing at
the 200 postal facilities along the Eastern corridor. The Postal Service will
also conduct random environmental testing at major postal facilities nationwide.
It will conduct random testing nationwide. It is strictly a precautionary measure.
It is taken to protect the mail.
I want to reiterate: There is no indication of any new exposure at this time
at these sites, but the Postmaster General felt that it was appropriate to begin
conducting random sample testing.
As the President announced on Tuesday, we are authorizing funds to implement
immediate security measures to better protect our nation's mail. These funds
will help purchase new technology to sanitize mail, and protective gear to help
protect postal workers.
Clearly we are up against a shadow enemy, shadow solders, people who have no
regard for human life. They are determined to murder innocent people. President
Bush is very proud of the federal, state and local health care officials whose
quick actions have no doubt saved many lives in the face of a new and horrible
threat. Our country has never experienced this type of terrorism. Tragically,
we have lost lives, starting with those in New York City in the Towers, but
also including those who wear the uniform overseas in this war, and those who
wear the uniform of the Postal Service here at home.
Our government will continue to do everything we can to make our nation safe,
stronger and more prepared. We will continue to provide the American people
with as much accurate information as we can, as soon as we can, to protect them
from future attacks.
Before I respond to some questions, I would like Major General Parker to brief
you, as well.
MAJOR GENERAL PARKER: Thank you, Governor Ridge. I represent some great scientists
and engineers at Fort Detrick who are currently working 24 hours a day, seven
days a week, processing samples and helping to define the characteristics of
the compounds that are given us to take a look at.
I can say to you without question, this is anthrax, and the samples from New
York, Washington and Florida are all from the same family or strain. That's
been documented by DNA testing. When we look at these spores underneath the
microscope, they are uniform in size and highly concentrated, and highly pure.
And these individual spores are very light, and if given some energy from, say,
wind or clapping or motion of air in a room, they will drift in the air and
fall to the ground.
The good news is that this strain is susceptible to all of the antibiotics that
we have in the United States, from penicillin all the way to the most recent
advanced quinolines that we have available.
The characteristics I already mentioned. When you look at it, it's like a very,
very fine powder. And you can imagine, in your bathroom, if you take a fine
talcum powder and you blow it, it drifts up into the air and then eventually
drifts down to the ground and falls to the floor, where it sticks.
We are continuing to try to characterize the products. When we looked at the
New York Post sample and compared that to the Daschle sample, even in gross
introspection, it appeared that the New York Post sample was clumpy and rugged,
and the Daschle sample was fine and floaty.
Now, one of my scientists actually described the New York Post sample as looking
like Purina Dog Chow, clumpy like a pellet.
QUESTION: Under the microscope?
MAJOR GENERAL PARKER: No, that's not under a microscope, that's grossly. Under
the microscope, the spores are densely packed in both samples, and highly concentrated
in both samples.
I just want to mention one other thing, is that I know there's a lot of questions
about some other things. We are trying very hard to characterize anything that
would be associated with the sample, and we continue to do that research and
we're continuing to do that investigation. And I don't have the absolute answers
until all of those investigations are in.
QUESTION: Can I ask you a question about, given the nature of the powder, especially
that was sent in the letter to Senator Daschle, what can you and the others
say about where this was produced, how it was produced, and ultimately by whom
-- domestically or foreign?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: Tests may give us answers to some or all of those questions,
as well as investigations being conducted by the FBI and the Department of Justice.
The tests now give us very specific characteristics, but the tests may or may
not lead us to the source.
QUESTION: Can I follow and say, at this point, are you able to say at any level,
preliminarily or otherwise, that this is the kind of anthrax that could have
been produced by an individual or several individuals here in the United States?
Or is this the kind of stuff that could only be produced by a foreign nation?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: I believe further testing will give us the range. It will either
expand it or contract it. But right now there are other, I believe chemical
tests and other tests in a series of tests that have to be conducted.
I mean, one of the challenges we have with trying to give you as much information
as we have as quickly as we get it, and give America this information, is that
the properties of this anthrax and our ability to describe its characteristics
really depend on ability for us to conduct several tests -- some simultaneously,
some in different parts of the world, some one after another.
I will tell you that one set of tests often generates a recommendation that
another set of tests, so we just -- the testing is incomplete, and we can't
give you the answers to that question yet, if ever.
QUESTION: There was a report today that preliminary tests suggest that the anthrax
could not have been produced in Russia or Iraq.
GOVERNOR RIDGE: Could not have been?
QUESTION: Could not have been, implying that it was produced in the United States.
Is that accurate or not? Preliminary tests suggest this.
GOVERNOR RIDGE: I don't think I've seen any preliminary tests that drew any
conclusions as to where it could or could not have been produced.
QUESTION: -- is aggressive? In other words, if these were mailed over a series
of days and the Daschle is much more sort of concentrated, could it be that
somebody is testing and getting more aggressive with the anthrax, and will that
GOVERNOR RIDGE: I think people are inclined to draw conclusions about the number
of letters in the mail, or the ability, the capacity of one letter to have contaminated
multiple stations. I mean, right now, as we continue to conduct the investigation,
we alert you to the letters we have and to the samples we have, and until we
have thoroughly completed our investigation, we can't draw any conclusions as
to number or source.
QUESTION: Governor Ridge, the apparent lethality of the anthrax sent to Senator
Daschle was apparently understood more quickly in Congress than it was throughout
other federal agencies. Are you and Major General Parker satisfied that the
information flow about what was learned about the anthrax in the Daschle letter
went to all of the agencies as fast as possible, and therefore, everything was
done to protect the postal workers who have since been exposed, whereas, members
of Congress were not?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: My sense was that -- I think it may have been General Parker
and other people within the administration gave -- briefed Senator Daschle.
And I think -- I'm not certain where the Senator got his information, but I
suspect it's from the information that we had. And the recognition of the pureness
of the spores, the concentration -- the highly concentrated nature of these
spores, it's the conclusion that it hasn't been genetically altered, a lot of
these things have occurred since that initial briefing, as we've had a series
of tests to confirm it.
I will tell you what, I think because it was respirated, because we had several
people who died because of inhalation anthrax, and because there's a body of
scientific evidence out there that it is easier and certainly has much greater
potential for infection if it's a smaller, purer form of anthrax, people legitimately,
without doing the samples, could conclude that it had to be of higher concentration,
it had to be a purer form, based on the information that we had at the time
We're now running through the series of tests. We're finding not only what might
have been a good thing to conjecture from previous research on anthrax, but
we have confirmed it. But there are other characteristics that we may or may
not be able to confirm in future tests.
QUESTION: Doesn't the very fact that, as General Parker said, this is free and
floaty anthrax that was sent to Senator Daschle, aerosolized, show that it is
a very sophisticated operation that produced it, not a grad student in a basement,
and that the knowledge of how to do that would be limited to a very narrow circle
of people, some state actors and some people with access to American secrets?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: I'm not prepared to tell you what level of competency, accessibility
to equipment, and other training either an individual or an institution needs
in order to develop this level of anthrax.
QUESTION: General Parker, can we ask you a question, sir? If you wouldn't mind
stepping up to the podium. I take it that some of the tests that you were alluding
to are on this chemical agent that's been mixed in with the anthrax to modify
the electro-static properties of the anthrax. Can you tell us what your preliminary
investigation shows about that? And who has the ability to alter the electro-static
properties of anthrax spores?
MAJOR GENERAL PARKER: Well, first of all, your question is complex, and I'd
like to say that, although we may see some things on the microscopic field that
may look like foreign elements, we don't know that they're additives, we don't
know what they are, and we're continuing to do research to find out what they
possible could be. They're unknowns to us at this present time.
QUESTION: Can you tell us who has the ability to alter the electro-static properties
of anthrax spores in order to allow them to become more easily aerosolized?
MAJOR GENERAL PARKER: Sir, that's beyond my knowledge. I don't know.
QUESTION: Isn't it limited to a very small number of countries?
MAJOR GENERAL PARKER: I don't know, sir.
QUESTION: -- sophisticated product? Are you looking at a sophisticated product,
GOVERNOR RIDGE: What the General is trying to relate to you is that this still
has -- there's a series of tests that need to be conducted by these men, who
are far better equipped intellectually and by experience, to draw some conclusions
from those results. And the fact of the matter is, we don't have all the information
available to us yet to draw any of the conclusions to answer some of the questions
QUESTION: When you say they're from the same -- all letters are from the same
strain or family, how much does that really narrow this down?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: Not much.
QUESTION: Not much?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: I don't think. I mean, I've got -- my sense is, it doesn't narrow
it much at all. My brother and I are from the same family. So it means, it's
a very broad and genetic classification. But, apparently, there are several
strains available for research around the world.
QUESTION: Can you tell us which strain it is, sir? And does the fact that these
are a little bit --
GOVERNOR RIDGE: Ames strain.
QUESTION: And can you tell us -- let me just finish my question. If you could
tell us, since these are a little bit different in their qualities, does that
suggest that these letters came from different people?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: Well, right now, first of all, you should know that, even though
preliminary tests on The New York Post letter shows it to be of a different
quality and, I guess, more readily in clumps than the other, it is still highly
concentrated. And I don't think, to date, with the preliminary tests, we can
point to one source or multiple sources.
QUESTION: Yes, sir. Two children, according to various -- including The New
York Times, Agence France Presse, have been checked into Children's Hospital
-- a girl age 2, a boy age 11, with, apparently, anthrax-like symptoms. Do you
know anything about it?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: I do not. And what hospital?
QUESTION: Children's Hospital in Washington.
GOVERNOR RIDGE: Children's in Washington? I do not know that.
QUESTION: Governor, a non-scientific question. Chances are that the person or
persons who did this would be inclined to follow every briefing, every statement.
That said, what would your message be to the person or persons who have sent
GOVERNOR RIDGE: We'll find you. We'll bring you to justice.
You know, trying to think the way some individual who would use the United States
mail service and take an envelope and turn it into a weapon of terror, it's
pretty difficult for me to be able to, I suspect, to be able to communicate
with that individual on any terms and within a value system that we share in
this country. So I'm not sure we could communicate to him in a democratic, American
way, how we feel about him and how we feel about this incident. But we'll get
QUESTION: Governor Ridge, there have been reports recently of tensions between
the FBI, CDC and other federal agencies over the sharing of information or full
disclosure of information on the quality of anthrax in the Daschle letter. Could
you address that, please? And also, could you tell us a little more about the
meeting last night at the White House?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: Yes. First of all, you know that as Director of Homeland Security,
I interact with these agencies on a daily basis, if not an hourly basis. And
I would tell you from day one, there has been collaboration and coordination,
and every day it continues to accelerate as the circumstances of the threat
bring people and people closer together.
There has -- everybody is intensely working on this issue. There has been extraordinary
collaboration. There has been new relationships that have developed. And I thought
it was important to have the meeting last night not just with the principals,
but with the scientists that we're all relying upon, in order to consolidate
whatever information we have, and to see if we can further accelerate the process
of answering the questions that America seeks from the administration.
And I thought it was a very productive meeting. They have been working together,
side by side. They will continue to work together. There's intense effort to
collaborate. We live in a virtual world, but we can't always come up with virtual
answers. And so, there's a process that goes along with trying to answer the
questions that you and the rest of America has. But their coordination is fine.
Maybe last night accelerated it even further. But it's not a question -- they
share information; I assure you.
QUESTION: You said a few moments ago that this was intended as a weapon, whoever
sent this intended it to be used as a weapon. Does that meet your definition
GOVERNOR RIDGE: I don't use that word, because I don't think "weaponize"
has any medical or scientific value. I mean, we never thought a 747 could be
turned into a missile. But someone who took an instrument that's part of who
we are and what we do every day, an airplane, turned it into a weapon. Somebody
took an envelope and turned it into a weapon.
QUESTION: What I'm getting at is, based on what you know to this point, can
you put into context how lethal this -- how concentrated, how pure, how dangerous
this was --
GOVERNOR RIDGE: It is -- it was not contaminated, which meant that the mass
-- again, the General could answer this better -- but as I understand it, explained
to me as a layman, and relate to people who don't have a background in microbiology
or chemistry -- but as I understand it, if you took a look at the spores under
the microscope, there was not any extraneous material. It was very pure. Practically
everything you saw, every -- was an anthrax spore, and it was of such a size
that with -- it was respirable; that if it was given a little energy, it could
get up into the air.
QUESTION: I just want to clarify something from an earlier question. The fact
is much of what you've told us here today we've already heard from other sources,
and the debate over "weaponized," whether or not you want to use that
word, has been going on for some time. But I just want to be clear --
GOVERNOR RIDGE: I don't want to use it, so there's no debate with me. It adds
no scientific -- you could put this on the head of a missile, you could put
it in an envelope, you could distribute it other ways. So it can -- anthrax,
itself, is a weapon. I'm sorry.
QUESTION: My question is, if you, standing in front of us, are the definitive
voices on anthrax, and you cannot even tell us, based on what you've discovered
so far, the countries that can produce this strain and whether or not we can
rule any of these countries out, be it Iraq, Russia, or the United States?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: We know it's -- I do not know. It is a an Ames strain -- look,
there are other characteristics that may be discovered in the course of this
investigation that may lead this government and our scientists to further conclusions.
Right now, I'm not prepared because we don't have the answers.
QUESTION: -- characteristics to the strain developed by those countries, military
GOVERNOR RIDGE: I don't know.
QUESTION: Governor, given all the things that are on your plate, Governor Ridge,
given all the things that are on your plate, is your day defined more by facts
you know, that expand what you know, or is it defined more by questions that
expand what you don't know?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: It's a little bit of both. I mean, there are questions that
I seek in my capacity as Director of Homeland Security that I ask, just because
of information that comes across my desk. There's also information that I receive
that's unsolicited that expands my knowledge as well. So, I mean, I think it's
a little bit of a combination of both.
QUESTION: Do you have any preliminary idea -- forget which country or what the
strain is -- do you have any preliminary idea about whether or not this is something
that would have had to have been produced by a large organization such as a
state, or if it's something that could possibly have been cooked up in a laboratory
somewhere in Trenton?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: I'm not prepared to tell you today the range of potential actors
who could have -- the range of potential actors who could have created as pure
and as concentrated and as respirable an anthrax as we are working on and investigating
now. I don't know whether it's a large range or a narrow range.
QUESTION: But do you know and you won't tell us, or -- I mean, isn't this information
that the government has?
QUESTION: -- you and the government intentionally downplay the threat to the
American public? And why, over time, have your statements changed about what
the American public should be worried about?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: The information in the literature on anthrax that existed before
this threat suggested the only way you can get inhalational anthrax -- that
it would be much easier to get inhalational anthrax if the spores were smaller.
And we not only have cases of anthrax, but we also have fatalities. So, based
on the literature that existed, and even prior to the testing, that confirmed
our worst suspicions that this was a different kind and a different grade of
anthrax. It had to be -and so we shared that information with you. We shared
it with the people on the Hill.
We run through a series of tests. The test tells us very specifically, the anthrax
spores are not only smaller and concentrated, they are very pure. There are
still some additional tests to be run on these individual spores. When we get
additional information, I'll --