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Biohazard: The Chilling True Story of the Largest Covert Biological Weapons Program in the World--Told from Inside by the Man Who Ran It [Paperback]

Ken Alibek , Stephen Handelman
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (126 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 11, 2000 0385334966 978-0385334969 Reprint
Anthrax. Smallpox. Incurable and horrifying Ebola-related fevers. For two decades, while a fearful world prepared for nuclear winter, an elite team of Russian bioweaponeers began to till a new killing field: a bleak tract sown with powerful seeds of mass destruction—by doctors who had committed themselves to creating a biological Armageddon. Biohazard is the never-before-told story of Russia’s darkest, deadliest, and most closely guarded Cold War secret.
No one knows more about Russia’s astounding experiments with biowarfare than Ken Alibek. Now the mastermind behind Russia’s germ warfare effort reveals two decades of shocking breakthroughs . . . how Moscow’s leading scientists actually reengineered hazardous microbes to make them even more virulent . . . the secrets behind the discovery of an invisible, untraceable new class of biological agents just right for use in political assassinations . . . the startling story behind Russia’s attempt to turn a sample of the AIDS virus into the ultimate bioweapon. And in a chilling work of real-world intrigue, Biohazard offers us all a rare glimpse into a shadowy scientific underworld where doctors manufacture mass destruction, where witnesses to errors are silenced forever, and where ground zero is closer than we ever dared believe.
Praise for Biohazard
“Harrowing . . . richly descriptive . . . [an] absorbing account.”The New York Times Book Review
“Remarkable . . . terrifying revelations . . . [Ken Alibek’s] overall message is ignored at great national peril.”—Newsday
“Read and be amazed. . . . An important and fascinating look into a terrifying world of which we were blissfully unaware.”—Robin Cook, author of Contagion

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Biohazard: The Chilling True Story of the Largest Covert Biological Weapons Program in the World--Told from Inside by the Man Who Ran It + Lab 257: The Disturbing Story of the Government's Secret Germ Laboratory + The Demon in the Freezer: A True Story
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Editorial Reviews Review

In this fast-paced memoir, Ken Alibek combines cutting-edge science with the narrative techniques of a thriller to describe some of the most awful weapons imaginable. The result will remind readers of The Hot Zone, Richard Preston's smart bestseller about the Ebola virus. That book focuses on the dangers of a freak accident; Biohazard shows how disease can become a deliberate tool of war. Alibek, once a top scientist in the Soviet Union's biological weapons program, describes putting anthrax on a warhead and targeting a city on the other side of the world. "A hundred kilograms of anthrax spores would, in optimal atmospheric conditions, kill up to three million people in any of the densely populated metropolitan areas of the United States," he writes. "A single SS-18 [missile] could wipe out the population of a city as large as New York."

Chilling passages like these, plus discussions of proliferation and terrorism, make Biohazard a harrowing book, but it also has a human side. Alibek, who defected to the United States, describes the routine danger of his work: "A bioweapons lab leaves its mark on a person forever." An unending stream of vaccinations has destroyed his sense of smell, afflicted him with allergies, made it impossible to eat certain kinds of food, and "weakened my resistance to disease and probably shortened my life." But it didn't take away his ability to tell an astonishing story. --John J. Miller --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Biological weapons in the former Soviet Union; where are they now?
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Delta; Reprint edition (April 11, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385334966
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385334969
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (126 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #34,753 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
51 of 52 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Real Red Scare October 27, 2001
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I had read this book a few years back when it first came out. Now that the issue of bioterrorism and biowarfare is a front page issue, I decided to give it another read. Though not as compelling as some books on the dangers of unchecked plagues devastating the world (Richard Preston's The Hot Zone is still one of the scariest books I've ever read--fact or fiction), it focuses specifically on the use of biological agents as weapons. In this respect, it is an eye-opener.
Alibek was one of the key leaders and scientists in the Soviet Union's biological weapons. Until he defected in 1992, little was know in this country about the extent of the Soviet program--a program that was supposed to be dismantled by treaty agreement in the early 1970's. Alibek made us aware of how advanced the Soviet program was. And he warns us that Russia still works on advancing their program despite claims to the contrary.
Certainly this is a frightening prospect, especially in light of recent events in this country. Though I do not personally consider Russia a threat, it is painfully clear that Russian technology is leaving Russia and falling into the hands of people who are not afraid to use it. One of the things I like most about Alibek's book is that he gives tremendous insight into the Russian mentality. How even he, as a high-level soldier in the Soviet military, was brainwashed into believing the United States had an extensive bioweapons program. (I am not naive enough to think our program is non-existent despite treaty agreements but it certainly does not compare to the Russian production machine.) Additionally, he points out that in the trying economic times of post-communist Russia, anything and everything is up for sale.
I am not easily made paranoid.
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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Ken Alibek's *Biohazard* is shocking even to a seasoned observer of the strategic weapons scene. It exposes the terrible danger that US and other world leaders prefer we don't think about: the vulnerability of human populations to biological weapons, and their inability to do anything about it.
While Alibek is certainly telling the story from his perspective, the fact that Americans were ignorant of the extent of the KGB's bioweapons program is undeniable. After reading this book, I personally cannot see any defense against the inevitability of a large-scale bioattack, and our helplessness in the face of such an attack. Viruses respect no geographical boundaries.
In one especially horrifying sequence, the Biopreparat researchers are forced to witness a colleague's slow death from Marburg (a cousin of Ebola) as a result of accidental exposure. When the colleague finally dies, the researchers are ordered by the KGB to weaponize the virus in the man's bloodstream, since it is now considered more lethal after having been inside a human host.
The moral of the story: Never assume we really know what those governmental institutions are up to. Highly recommended.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping and spine-chilling! August 7, 2000
If you read one book about biohazards/bioterrorism, make it this book! Dr Alibek does a superb job of presenting the terrifying facts concerning the extent of biological weapons of mass destruction that have been developed and are currently available to anyone looking for such a weapon. If you think stockpiling vaccines, vaccinating the military against specific agents, and/or there is no threat to the US from these weapons, you really need to digest the info provided here by an author "in the know". To make these facts even more frightening, think about this... I'm sure there are some things Dr Alibek could not include in this account as they are considered classified information. As Dr Alibek clearly shows, the R&D didn't stop just because the USSR collapsed. What horrors have been engineered and perfected since his defection in 1992?
When one thinks about it, the world was probably safer before the Soviet collapse. At least there were massive safeguards in place to provide ultimate secrecy to this program and to keep the organisms in check in case of accidents. Now, there measures have dissolved with the Soviet state..... who is controlling/maintaining these bioweapons? Dr Alibek makes you think about these very hard questions.
It is also very interesting to realize that both Yeltsin and Gorbachev were deeply involve in propogating these weapons under the guise of countermeasures/vacine development. All this was done with total disregard to the 1972 Bioweapon Treaty signed by the USSR. This certainly gives a new meaning to Peristroika!
It is not easy to like or even accept the choices the author made in his life. He is quite frank in how he came to his decisions and the realizes the abhorrent results of his decisions.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hell Revisited... October 30, 2002
As this review is written, in October 2002, it is well to remember that Ken Alibeck first brought his revelations of the massive Soviet (and now, Russian Federation) bioweapon production to the public in his book BIOHAZARD more than two years ago. His defection to the U.S. occurred almost four years earlier.
And yet, as I travel the country to promote my own book --a fiction bioterrorist assault on the U.S. that threatens humanity itself-- I'm dumbfounded to discover that the majority of my audiences have no idea of who Ken is.
Worse, they have no conception of the horrors that he, as deputy director of Biopreparat/Vector, the massive organization the Soviet Union created to develop and mass-produce lethal viruses and other bioagents BY THE METRIC TON, has visited on today's world.
Today we live with the very real threat of a worldwide pandemic of smallpox --a disease officially eradicated in nature three decades ago-- that could be sparked by any number of rogue nations or their terrorist clients who possess the weaponized form of smallpox that Biopreparat/Vector produced.
And because that hideous form of variola virus is likely to have been genetically modified, it is entirely possible that existing smallpox vaccines (such as that being recommended for mass immunization in the U.S., Israel, Australia and elsewhere) simply will not work against it.
While I was researching my novel of bioterrorism, Final Epidemic, I met many experts in the field of national security, medicine and government. In private conversations, those who consented to be interviewed all agreed on one point: a staggering volume of bioweapons exist today, and could be released upon mankind at any time by a ruthless ideologue... or a madman.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic and frightening
Fantastic and frightening. A real eye opener to the behind scenes of the USSR's biological warfare program. A must read!!!!!
Published 12 hours ago by Ronald J. Lederman
5.0 out of 5 stars Best summary of USSR's bio weapons program
I loved the detail of how the USSR went to such extremes to build the worst bugs and toxins imaginable. The waste in time and money it is no wonder their system came apart.
Published 3 days ago by Mark O'Connor
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Since I haven't read it, I don't want to pre-judge the book.
Published 3 days ago by Juan Martinez
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling, Scary, Important
This story of the development of the Soviet Union's biological weapons program as written by a former high level official in the program is truly scary. Read more
Published 4 days ago by Cherie J Guelker
5.0 out of 5 stars What an eye opener!!
A wealth of information. Every person in this country should be required to read this book. How many ways can a man kill another man. Read more
Published 6 days ago by James Denman
3.0 out of 5 stars Informative but Dated
I think this is a story that most of us never knew. Most is very interesting, but the Russian names are hard to follow. However the central characters can be followed. Read more
Published 12 days ago by Harry Kiefer
5.0 out of 5 stars A great and very scary book
Right from the horses mouth as it were. Here is a gentleman who has blown the whistle on the former USSR's biological and chemical warfare program, research, development,... Read more
Published 12 days ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars scary, but true
A fast paced book that easily could be a fiction Cold War thriller, but unfortunately is true. Traces the development and manufacture of biological warfare.
Published 16 days ago by Mark R. Mcmahon
5.0 out of 5 stars Required reading for any person living on this planet that breathes.
This is one of those extremely rare books that I will be recommending as a MUST READ book to every person who ever asks me... Read more
Published 17 days ago by Mamabear Cherei
5.0 out of 5 stars A REAL PAGE TURNER
Scary stuff from a man who was there, ran the labs, made the stuff , take the time to read this book..
Published 18 days ago by DexterDon
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