Governor George Pataki?s midtown Manhattan office has tested positive for anthrax. No workers are currently known to have been exposed. About 80 employees were evacuated, but other offices in the building remain open.
The governor?s Manhattan offices, on the 38th and 39th floors of 633 Third Avenue between 40th and 41st streets, have been closed for further testing and decontamination. Pataki?s main offices are in the state capital of Albany.
?I feel fine,? Pataki says. ?I feel great.?
It?s not clear how the anthrax got into the office, but the positive result was discovered on samples taken from an area occupied by state police officers who were involved in the earlier investigation into anthrax reports at NBC and ABC. ?The state police have been obviously at NBC, at ABC, all over the environs over the course of the past month,? Pataki says.
His secretary received a letter on September 25 that worried her and she turned it over to the state police. Tests for anthrax done on her and on two mail handlers were negative. ?We don?t believe that envelope was the source of the anthrax, but we don’t know,? he says.
Anthrax has now shown up in three Manhattan locations–at the Governor?s offices, at the General Electric building in Rockefeller Center where NBC is located and at ABC news.
Mayor Rudolph Giuliani says officials are testing media mailrooms throughout the city. Initial tests are negative. Among the news organizations being tested are The Associated Press, CNN, CBS, Fox, The New York Times, Daily News and New York Post.
Several dozen workers at USA Today?s headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, were evacuated after a reporter received a suspicious envelope. She thought she saw a powdery substance when she opened a corner of the envelope. The envelope has been sent to the FBI for tests.
Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., two more Senate staffers have tested positive for anthrax exposure, bringing the total number of people who have been exposed to anthrax in D.C. to 33.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota reports that nasal swabs of 25 members of his staff and six Capitol security officers indicate they have been exposed to anthrax. There were positive samples of anthrax in his mailroom, as well as his office.
The two newest cases are from Senator Russell Feingold?s office, which is next door to Daschle?s. No anthrax spores have been found in the Hart Senate Office Building ventilation system, where Daschle?s office is located, or in its main mailroom.
About 1,400 Senate staffers were tested for anthrax exposure and many received a three-day supply of ciprofloxacin to prevent onset of the disease.
The U.S. House of Representatives has decided to close for five days after today (Wednesday) for a complete security sweep of the House facilities.
A top Pentagon spokeswoman says that mailroom workers are wearing gloves and masks as they sort piles of material. Also, the ventilation systems in the building are being ?checked fairly regularly.?
The U.S. Consulate General in Osaka, Japan, closed Wednesday after receiving a suspicious letter, and the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo also closed because of a ?credible security threat,? State Department spokesman Phil Reeker says. The letter was turned over to police for testing, and the employees who handled it are taking antibiotics.
Investigators may be looking at two separate sources in the anthrax attacks in Florida and New York. Richard Butler, the U.N.?s former chief weapons inspector in Iraq, says that the size of the particles in the Daschle sample was ?very small,? making them easier to inhale, while the Florida spores were larger.
Unknowncountry Insight: It seems likely that the state police officers who visited NBC and ABC studios carried the anthrax spores back to the governor’s office. This finally gives the lie to the absurd shibboleth that certain officials have been spreading, that anthrax is ‘not contagious.’ It is not a human disease, but the infection can certainly be spread by human beings, as is now happening.
The probability is that many staffers at these and possibly other places have spread these spores throughout the communities in which they live and work. How serious this problem is depends upon the number of spores that have been spread.
Unknowncountry Opinion: It is to be hoped that the authorities focus on the one rogue country that is known to possess the means to produce weaponized anthrax, which is Iraq. If we persist in approaching this as a domestic criminal investigative matter, it is going to become a major catastrophe very quickly. The command and control infrastructure must be challenged, and that cannot be done without putting military pressure on Iraq.
We do not believe that the material will be widely distributed and cause massive casualties. But the distribution within crucial areas of our national infrastructure could be extremely damaging, because weaponize anthrax disperses into the air with the greatest of ease, can persist in still air for hours, and the spores live for decades.
Weaponized anthrax is easily dispersed in an enclosed area like an office. It is invisible. A person willing to wear a jacket imbued with the powder could walk through on a routine activity and contaminate hundreds of people with this substance. And if that individual was vaccinated, he might run only the most minimal personal risk. He’s light-years beyond the suicide bomber: he can cause serious damage, and keep on doing it until his supply of anthrax runs out.
Officials who are trying to minimize the seriousness of this situation domestically, and who refuse to address the issue of Iraq’s likely involvement, are doing their country a disservice. Elements of the administration who are still pursuing the criminal model should get behind the President, who has been saying that this is “terrorism” for days, and should listen to Senator Liberman, who has stated flatly that Iraq should be considered the leading suspect.
For Nando’s story, click here.For the Sun-Times story, click here.For CNN’s coverage, click here
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