Is Bin Laden Behind Scare?

This partial transcript of War on Terror, October 15, 2001, was provided by the Federal Document Clearing House. Click here to order the complete transcript.

LAURIE DHUE, HOST: The big question is: These anthrax attacks. Is Usama bin Laden behind them here in America? And if so, is he getting help from Saddam Hussein? Well, if anyone knows whether Iraq is capable of launching a bioterrorist attack against Americans, it is former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter, now a Fox News analyst who joins us now from Albany, New York.

Nice to see you again.


DHUE: Thanks for coming in tonight. All right, very quickly, the very latest developments. A 7-month-old child has tested positive for anthrax. The Senate majority leader gets a letter that tests positive for anthrax. I know we're not supposed to overreact, but it's hard not to. What do you make of these latest developments tonight?

RITTER: Well, clearly, I mean, again, we have to wait for all the data to come in, but I think it's becoming more and more certain that the United States has been subject to a fairly sophisticated postal delivery bioterrorist attack. We have anthrax appearing in several locations, targeted against, you know, high visibility targets: political leaders, major media outlets, Microsoft. And it's designed to get maximum exposure. Notice not too many people are being afflicted by this, but it does have the country terrorized. I think it's a very effective form of terrorist attack.

DHUE: And yet yesterday, when you and I were talking here on Fox, you said it's very hard to weaponize anthrax.

RITTER: Well, again, notice I said this is a bioterrorist attack. I didn't say this is a bioweapons attack. I think what we see right here is laboratory scale anthrax, not an anthrax weapon. This is not the kind of anthrax that former secretary of defense, William Cohen, tried to alarm the American public by when he raised that bag of sugar. This is not, you know, the kind of thing that will kill millions of people.

DHUE: A lot of people are concerned about opening their mail. What about microwaving our mail, you know, just flat out sticking it in the microwave? Would that kill any bacteria that would be harmful?

RITTER: Well, I think you'd have to defer to a microbiologist to get that answer, but, you know, by then, it's too late. We've received the mail. Again, by having a postal form of anthrax delivered by the mail, it's attacking the basic infrastructure of the United States. It's making people afraid to use one of the things that makes this a great and free nation: our postal service.

DHUE: All right, Scott, let's talk about your area of expertise, which is Iraq. How closely do you think Saddam Hussein may be working with Usama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda network?

RITTER: I don't think that there's any link between the two. I don't think historically there's been no link and there's no reason to believe there is a link.

DHUE: But what about reports coming out that some of Saddam Hussein's top men met earlier this year with some of the terrorists who are allegedly involved in the September 11th attacks? Does that not indicate that there may have been at least some kind of relationship that may have started?

RITTER: Well, we'd have to look at the credibility of these reports. For instance, some of the reports that have been put forth by the U.S. government suggested that two meetings took place in Prague, Czechoslovakia. The Czechoslovakian government has come back and said, "Look, Mohamed Atta passed through our airport one time for an layover of an hour or so and no meeting took place." So I think we have to question these intelligence reports until we get, you know, more credibility about the voracity of who's reporting and what their motives might be.

DHUE: But there is still a larger concern about Iraq and what Iraq may be capable of. This is something that you and I have talked about in the past. You told me that you don't think Saddam Hussein has the capability of conducting the kind of scare we are seeing, the anthrax scare, here in this country. What leads you to believe that Saddam Hussein does not have these kind of capabilities?

RITTER: Well, the Iraqis had a massive biological weapons program designed to produce huge amounts of concentrated anthrax, botulism, et cetera, for use in aerial bombs, ballistic missile warheads, aerial spray tanks. This is, you know, the kind of weapons one would use to attack a nation. It's highly sophisticated. And we destroyed these factories. We eliminated the production capability, et cetera.

What we're seeing here in the United States isn't a bioweapon produced by a state. This is laboratory-scale anthrax that's available in one of 400 repositories for anthrax virus in 60 nations. Easily gotten a hold of by anybody. And so I don't think it's logical to point to Saddam Hussein and Iraq which has been effectively disarmed by U.N. weapons inspectors.

DHUE: Scott, we've got about 15 seconds left. I need to point out that there has been no U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq since December of 1998. That's almost three years. Couldn't they be developing something?

RITTER: Of course. We've got to get inspectors back in. But I would say when we take their capability down to zero and it took Iraq decades to build it up, in three years, they don't have the technology. They haven't had the money. And it would be a huge leap of faith to suddenly say they've reconstituted this capability.

DHUE: All right, Fox News analyst Scott Ritter, thanks for being with us tonight as always.

RITTER: Thank you.

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