Pence: Indiana not a target for terrorism

Indiana is not a target for terrorism, Sen. Mike Pence, R-Ind., said amid reports of suspicious letters and white powder at Ball State.

Pence, who moderated a panel discussion on the war abroad and the anthrax scare at home Tuesday, said he has not heard from Washington of any targets in Indiana.

The four medical experts who comprised the panel also confirmed that no Hoosier has tested positive for the organism.

Pence and the panel were trying to calm the fears of Ball State mailroom employees, who were the first to ask Pence about the procedures used to handle suspicious packages.

"Our people need reassurance," custodian Chris Johnson said. "We have mailroom employees who are very vulnerable."

Johnson and Cheryl Edmundson said they were concerned that an unopened packaged addressed from Pakistan was destroyed without being tested for anthrax. Edmundson said she wanted to know if there was any threat or if it was a hoax.

White powder has also been reported in the Art and Journalism Building and in the Administration Building. Both were false alarms.

According to David LePoris, the deputy director of emergency management of Delaware County, different procedures are used depending on if a package is closed or open. Also, he said the Indiana State Department of Health cannot test every suspicious package.

"We have certain protocols we have to follow," LePoris said. "We cannot send everything to them."

However, LePoris said the protocols are evolving and can be changed if need be.

Pence had his own anthrax scare on Oct. 26 when trace amounts of the organism were found in his office in the Longworth House.

During the briefing Tuesday, Pence said the anthrax was not deliberately put there.

"Our mail got friendly with some bad mail," he said. "Cross-contamination seems to be the culprit here."

Pence stressed that the amount of anthrax found was "nominal." He said there were hundreds of thousands of spores in his office, compared to the billions found in Senator Tom Daschle's office.

He also said that recent anthrax cases are probably from a foreign source.

"We believe we're getting a better handle on who is delivering these," Pence said.

According to Dr. Michael Langona, the anthrax found recently is very rare. About 17 countries in the world have access to such forms of the disease.

Dr. Kent Bullis, Student Health Center director, said the powder found in the country was refined to billow "like a cloud." Naturally-occurring anthrax, he said, does not spread in the air. Very few places in the world, he said, can alter the chemistry of the disease so that it does.

Anthrax was not the primary concern for Judy Graham, though.

"I am afraid to death to fly," Graham said. "I am really nervous about it."

Graham was also nervous about the airport-safety legislation that is currently resting in a conference committee. Graham wanted to know if the legislation would be left to die.

Pence said he expected the bill to pass this week. He said there are few differences between the Senate's version and the House's. The only difference, according to Pence, is how many security employees should be federal employees.

The Senate bill would make all of them federal employees. The House bill would create a department within the Department of Transportation that would oversee security employees.

Pence also said protocols and rules have been implemented that make flying safer, independent of legislation in the Congress.

According to CNN, new airport restrictions since Sept. 11 have banned knives of any material, increased the number of physical and baggage checks and prohibited anyone but ticketed passengers from going beyond metal detectors.

"I think you've never been safer flying than you are now," Pence said.

Pence will return to Washington this week. He and his staff have been relocated to another office while his is sealed off.

Pence said he expects to move back to his old office after the Thanksgiving holiday.


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