Ken Alibek’s “Biohazard”
In Ken Alibek’s memoir about his work at the USSR’s bioweapons organization, Biopreparat, a new take on the scope of the Soviet Union’s bioweapons arsenal and research is revealed. Along with Pasechnik, Alibekov (as he was known as in Russia) was one of the most informative defectors from the USSR, and because of his high status in the USSR’s military-dominated science ministry and biological weapons, his knowledge of the extent of the research involving tularemia, smallpox, plague, toxins, and anthrax was instrumental in the United States’ understanding of their enemies progress. Though the memoir can become melodramatic and a little heavy handed at some points, Alibek attempts to describe the inherent danger of the USSR’s programs and the danger that could still exist today- the dispersion of USSR seed virus strains, scientists, and knowledge to rogue nations and terrorist operations throughout the world. Once a reader is able to get through Alibek’s attempts at flowery writing and dramatic line endings, the foundation of his book is interesting and terrifying. He explains very simply and in layman’s terms the genetic and biological processes to enable increased understanding of the magnitude of the biological weapons and biomanufacturing he was dealing with. All in all, this book was a great introduction and firsthand account of one man’s moral struggle as both a doctor and a biological weapons engineer, in a time when distrust between countries was rampant, and the knowledge and progress of the USSR’s Biopreparat program placed the entire world at danger.