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Special Report

All-Star Panel: Senators briefed about ricin sent to Sen. Wicker

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," April 16, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: This is a Fox News alert. Breaking news that we just brought to you, Fox News confirming that Senator Roger Wicker, a Republican from Mississippi, his office received a letter that has tested positive for the poisonous substance ricin, tested positive for ricin. It was found in an envelope sent to his office of the Mississippi Republican.

But it never got to his office because since 2001 all of the mail – since the anthrax attacks on the Hart Senate Office Building in late 2001 – all the mail bound for the U.S. Capitol complex goes offsite for testing. In other words, if this was a tainted letter it was caught in the system that worked. And apparently it tested positive. And then it was sent to a lab.

Now, we are being told that senators are behind closed doors at this hour being briefed not about Boston, but about this letter addressed to Senator Roger Wicker. And we are getting more details by the moment. We are going to talk about Boston in a minute. But, with this breaking news, I want to bring in our panel, Jason Riley, editorial board member of the Wall Street Journal, A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of The Hill, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

OK, Charles, obviously things happen by the minute here. First of all, let's talk about ricin, if this turns out to be ricin, you know, tests positive in lab tests. We can't be 100 percent sure, but that's what we're being told. Tell us, you know, about ricin and what we know about it.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, it's a very deadly substance. I believe it was used in the Japanese subway attacks. And it killed about seven people on contact. It's really bad stuff.

I think once you start to get things in the mail we are getting to a second level of complexity. Assuming it's connected and it could be, then it's less likely to be a lone wolf. It looks -- it could be if it's related something much larger.

The other part about the mail attacks is they are really hard to decipher, remember, the Unabomber was on the loose for years, extremely hard to trace it back. The anthrax attacks that we had in 2001 -- shortly after 9/11, we were never able to really understand who was behind it, where it was made. There were accusations, but it remains really unsolved.  So this adds a level of complication. Again, we don't know if there's any connection but it's a hell of a coincidence that it would happen the day after Boston.

BAIER: OK, we can now confirm that the senators were, in fact, told that it tested positive for ricin. The briefing was conducted by the Senate sergeant at Arms Terry Gainer, the FBI director Robert Mueller, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. All of the senators were briefed and they were told that it tested positive for ricin.

Just to give you some context about ricin, according to the CDC, if authorities suspect people have inhaled ricin, a potential clue would be a large number of people who had been close to each other rapidly develop fever, cough, and excess fluid in their lungs. These symptoms would likely be followed by severe breathing problems and possible death.

OK, A.B.?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: Well, the fear all day, Washington, D.C., New York City, other cities besides Boston, and transportation locations and senators have been on high alert since yesterday. And obviously the fear is we don't have an answer. We are going to remain in high alert. And if there is any other tainted mail going to any other senator and it's not a one-off, this is going to be obviously a different story.

I mean, everything yesterday was coordinated and many bombs were not detonated that were recovered afterwards because of a rapid response. But if we're in a situation in several cities with several things going on, especially something like tainted mail, that's so hard to trace, becomes a real ongoing heightened threat unlike we have been in since anthrax following 9/11.

BAIER: Jason?

JASON RILEY, WALL STREET JOURNAL: And not just here in the U.S.  Cities around the world are on edge. Paris, Rome, London, where they have a marathon coming up in a few days. So it's not just affecting us here in the United States.

And it has a very post 9/11 feel, everything happening, proximity. Is there a connection? We don't know. We are a little uncertain. We're going to be overcompensating for a few days. We're going to be a little anxious for the weeks and months ahead. It has a very post 9/11 feel.

It will be interesting how it effects our policy debate. There's another Patriot Act-type piece of legislation coming down the line. I wouldn't be entirely surprised at that. Then of course, the libertarians will scream bloody murder, but we all know the saying the Constitution is not a suicide pact.

BAIER: Chad Pergram, our producer up there just said Senator Durbin said the senators were told about this letter testing for ricin. They are moving forward with this. Ricin, how it is treated, there is no antidote for ricin, the most important factor is avoiding it in the first place. There is a system in place for Capitol Hill mail going offsite, as I mentioned.  It's irradiated and all was set up in the anthrax letters. I want to save some time for the Boston bombings, but last word here.

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, I think the relationship is important. And the reason that there is a 9/11 feel is as I said last night, the attacks in Boston were the first successful bombing in the United States since 9/11 11-and-a- half years.

BAIER: The embassy in Benghazi obviously it was U.S. soil. But inside the United States proper.

KRAUTHAMMER: Inside the United States at the homeland. And the scenes that we saw, a much smaller scale, of course, but it reminded us of 9/11 the people running in the streets of a great city, the smoke and the chaos, and the, you know, and the screams and the injuries. All of that was – and remember, we have intercepted and stopped a lot of the bombing attacks, all of them until now.

So it had that -- the feel. And I think that's the reason there was that resonance. Now all of a sudden we have followed on -- as happened after 9/11 –

(CROSSTALK)

KRAUTHAMMER: -- with a chemical attack, and then it has that whole picture. Now, again we have to have a caveat. Is there any connection? Nobody knows, but it could be.

BAIER: Next up, we will give you update on the Boston attack and what the president is saying about terrorism.

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