In Palm Beach County, Florida, investigators are taking no chances in going through decontamination as they try to pinpoint the source of anthrax that killed one office worker and infected another. Dozens of other anxious office workers there were screened for signs of the bacteria today. Hundreds of others have been tested already. Some are taking antibiotics, just in case. The FBI is investigating this as a criminal case. CBS's Jim Stewart has new information about what investigators have determined, so far.
Worried that an anthrax-related death in Florida was prompting a national hysteria on the subject, US officials today quickly disclosed that so far their investigation shows no sign of terrorist involvement in the case. Elaborate tests on the belongings of the 19 dead hijackers showed they were not preparing any such attack.
The disclosure came even as a jittery public was reporting biochemical attacks left and right: from an IRS office in Kentucky where a woman received an unidentified powder in a letter to suburban Washington where a man on a subway sprayed police with what later turned out to be cleaning fluid. Reports of anthrax cases in Alabama and Virginia were also discounted, and health experts were urging everyone to get a grip.
Allan Rosenfeld, from the Columbia School of Public Health, said, "What is absolutely essential is that we don't panic with every flu-like symptom."
More significant, however, was the finding that the 19 hijackers had "no trace of chemical or biological agents on their clothing, in their cars, apartments, homes, or personal belongings." Officials also said, "There is no intelligence or evidence" that the men had ever "sought, inquired about, or researched" chemical or biological weapons.
As for their interest in crop dusters, investigators now believe the hijackers were simply looking at another way to crash into buildings and had no plans to convert one of the planes into a flying anthrax bomb, even if that were possible.
The bottom line, say officials, is that we have every reason to guard against a chemical or biological weapon--because Osama bin Laden has made it clear he'd like to have one. But we also have no reason to fear one has already been set off, officials say, because there's simply no evidence that's the case.
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