The former number two Soviet bioweapons researcher, now an American citizen, told The Village Voice Monday that the FBI still hasn’t called to ask if the anthrax hitting the United States came from his laboratories.
Dr. Ken Alibek was first deputy director of Biopreparat, the pharmaceutical front company for the Soviet bioweapons program. He immigrated to the United States as Kanatjan Alibekov in 1992 and now serves as chief scientist for Hadron, a Virginia company developing countermeasures to anthrax. In recent days Alibek, who wrote about his experiences in a book called Biohazard, has appeared in news reports for his advice to Congress that those concerned about anthrax could simply iron their mail.
American officials have said the anthrax bacteria used in attacks in Florida and New York appear to be of the same strain. Experts have speculated the germs may have been sold on the black market from former Soviet labs, many of which were in Central Asian breakaway republics. Alibek is a native of Kazakhstan but did most of his work in Moscow.
When asked if he could confirm that the anthrax came from his former laboratories, Alibek said, “I don’t know. I have only vague information from the media.” The FBI and other government agencies haven’t approached him to review data and evidence, he said.
“To me, I’m doing my business. I hope they’ve got people who know what they are doing. I would be glad to help, but that request hasn’t come,” said the 51-year-old Alibek, who oversaw the cultivation and breeding of anthrax in the U.S.S.R. He also developed methods for keeping the germ stable and packaging it for delivery and dispersal.
When asked if this was an oversight or if there was a reason to leave Alibek out of the loop, FBI spokesperson Steven Berry said, “I don’t think we have a comment on that right now.” When asked if the bureau was working with Alibek’s former colleagues in Russia, Berry would only say, “We are working with the CDC [Centers for Disease Control] and health officials.” Berry declined to clarify if the health officials included members of Biopreparat or other experts in Russia.