Senator Nunn on ABC's World News Tonight

Copyright 2001 Burrelle's Information Services
ABC News World News Tonight
(6:30 PM ET) - ABC July 23, 2001 Monday

HEADLINE: Scenario of a small pox outbreak undertaken by local and national government officials




PETER JENNINGS, anchor:  In Washington today, there was a dramatic reminder the US has a lot to do if it wants to be ready for a bioterrorist attack on the country. A few weeks ago, at Andrews Air Force Base, former and current government officials participated in an exercise called, Dark Winter. It was designed to see how the US might respond to a small pox attack. Not very well. Here's ABC's John Yang.

JOHN YANG reporting: (VO) This was the scenario. In Oklahoma City, 20 confirmed cases of small pox, more suspected in Georgia and Pennsylvania. The White House is in crisis. Former Senator Sam Nunn played the role of the president.

Mr. SAM NUNN (Former US Senator): The enemy's invisible. The enemy's in cities and spreading everywhere and you don't know how to contain it.

YANG: (VO) Mr. Nunn had, at his disposal, a makeshift National Security Council of former federal officials. His first questions were about public health.


YANG: (VO) The answers were grim. There is no cure and vaccine for only 12 million of the United States. Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating played himself.

Governor FRANK KEATING (Republican, Oklahoma): It was one of those situations that got more horrific as more information rolled out.

YANG: (VO) As they tried to limit the outbreak, tensions quickly arose between health officials and the military, who would get the vaccines; and between federal and local authorities, who was in charge?

Gov. KEATING: I said, 'I'm going to close the airports. I'm going to close all roads in and out of my state.' One of the generals from the federal family said, 'What authority do you have to do that?' And I said, 'I just did it.'

YANG: (VO) It was too late, they were soon told the outbreak would spread to 25 states and 300,000 people would be infected within two months.

(OC) While the details of the small pox outbreak were hypothetical, the participants say they came away with very real lessons.

Mr. NUNN: I would like to tell you that the people sitting around the table were just amateurs, but these are the real players and these are people who have the knowledge. And I can say without any question this country's not prepared.

YANG: (VO) The politicians are not prepared and the public health system is certainly not prepared. John Yang, ABC News, Washington.

LOAD-DATE: July 24, 2001

July 23, 2001

John Yang interviews Senator Nunn about his participation in "Dark Winter" and America's readiness to withstand a bioterrorist attack.

Sam Nunn
Sam Nunn

Co-Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, NTI