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Germs: Biological Weapons and America's Secret War [Paperback]

William J Broad , Judith Miller , Stephen Engelberg
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 2 2002
In the wake of the anthrax letters following the attacks on the World Trade Center, Americans have begun to grapple with two difficult truths: that there is no terrorist threat more horrifying -- and less understood -- than germ warfare, and that it would take very little to mount a devastating attack on American soil. In Germs, three veteran reporters draw on top sources inside and outside the U.S. government to lay bare Washington's secret strategies for combating this deadly threat.
Featuring an inside look at how germ warfare has been waged throughout history and what form its future might take (and in whose hands), Germs reads like a gripping detective story told by fascinating key figures: American and Soviet medical specialists who once made germ weapons but now fight their spread, FBI agents who track Islamic radicals, the Iraqis who built Saddam Hussein's secret arsenal, spies who travel the world collecting lethal microbes, and scientists who see ominous developments on the horizon. With clear scientific explanations and harrowing insights, Germs is a masterfully written -- and timely -- work of investigative journalism.

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From Amazon

Three reporters from The New York Times survey the recent history of biological weapons and sound an alarm about the coming threat of the "poor man's hydrogen bomb." Germs begins ominously enough, recounting the chilling attack by the followers of the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh in 1984 on the Dalles, Oregon--no one died, but nearly 1,000 were infected with a strain of salmonella that the cult had legally obtained, then cultured and distributed.

While the U.S. maintained an active "bugs and gas" program in the '50s and early '60s, bio-weapons were effectively pulled off this country's agenda in 1972 when countries around the world, led by the United States, forswore development of such weapons at the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. The issue reemerged in the early '90s thanks to Saddam Hussein and revelations of the clandestine and massive buildup of bio-weapons in remote corners of the Soviet Union. The book's description of the Soviet program is horrific. At its peak the program employed thousands of scientists, developing bioengineered pathogens as well as producing hundreds of tons of plague, anthrax, and smallpox annually. The authors conclude that while a biological attack against the United States is not necessarily inevitable, the danger of bio-weapons is too real to be ignored. Well-researched and documented, this book will not disappoint readers looking for a reliable and sober resource on the topic. --Harry C. Edwards --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Methodically researched and cogently argued by three New York Times reporters (one of whom received an anthrax-tainted letter recently), this survey of the modern history of biological weapons is a worthy, albeit frightening, exercise in investigative journalism. The book details the evolution of biowarfare (beginning about 60 years ago)from the U.S. to Iraq and the Soviet Union, vividly portraying these weapons in all their power and nightmarish possibilities. Guyer brings a dry but authoritative and appropriate journalistic tone to his reading. His is the steady, baritone voice of a network news anchor, and it works well conveying weighty information about major international events and politics. Thankfully, despite the topic's sensationalist possibilities, this production stays true to the sober, reasoned style of the text and steers clear of punctuating the reading with ominous or melodramatic musical flourishes. There's plenty in the facts themselves to convey unease, and while it might not be the lightest listening, there is no doubt that this is a high-quality production of a balanced and informative look at a growing global threat. Based on the S&S hardcover.

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Good, doesn't go far enough though Jan. 21 2004
By BP -
This book's largest contribution, I think, is the meticulous way that it documents how most scientists don't belong in the room assessing threats and intelligence any more than one should turn to them for business strategy.
Scientists, by training and temperament, are usually people who will argue that the sky isn't blue, and won't believe anything until it is proved beyond the shadow of a doubt. Even then, they maintain skepticism. It's their profession to do so. What is worse, they tend to have an overweening self confidence and certainty.
The activity and conclusions of Meselson in particular, in convincing the DOD and presidents that biological weapons were not being worked on, is a case history that should give leaders pause. Very well meaning, having learned a specific way of arriving at scientific truth by painstaking repeated experiment and results, he was utterly and completely wrong, and incapable of understanding his limitations or lack of fitness for the role that he grabbed for himself in determining policy.
I can say that this is the achilles heel of the scientific community of advisers. Scientists are, with rare exceptions, thought followers, not leaders, and unable to project the knowledge they establish forward. If this were not true, scientists would be almost universally wealthy, and excellent inventors and engineers. But who invented the personal computer? Who invented thousands of other things and took them forward? Who understands disruptive technologies, scientists or venture capitalists?
The reason I say that this book doesn't go far enough is that even people like Lederer, who also mean very well, and have worked so hard to stop genetic engineering being used for weapons, are UTTERLY out of their MINDS and extremely dangerous to you and I.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but not Harrowing Jan. 21 2004
"Germs" covers the recent history of biological warfare as well as may be expected, given the extremely secretive nature of the subject. It sheds light on the fact that America is very unprepared for a massive biological attack, yet at the same time is not likely to experience one. While small-scale attacks are possible and maybe even likely to occur, the fact is that they are not likely to succeed to any great extent due to the difficulty of creating a bug that is sufficiently virulent and able to survive on its own outside of the lab. Certainly more can and should be done to prevent and/or contain any such attacks, but at the same time, people should not be losing much sleep over it.
Probably the most interesting thing about this book is the level of paranoia and moral superiority displayed by the American government. They spent so much time and money scrutinizing the Soviet Union, sure that they were violating the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention of 1972, even after the collapse of the Union. And of course, the soviets were doing just that and even admitted to it. But the level of moral superiority is just disgusting, as the U.S. was just as guilty as they were, probably even more guilty than the book leads one to believe.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A chilling, reality check ! Oct. 25 2003
Germs: Biological Weapons and American's Secret War.
Three journalists/authors Judith Miller, Stephen Engelberg, and William Broad have created an eye opening, heart pounding and a thought-provoking book. Using information collected from declassified government materials and interviews ranging from Russian scientists to top United States officials like President Clinton, it tells how American is/was involved in Biological warfare and how prepared is the United States for a Biological attack. Starting with the 1st Biological attack on American in 1988 on the town of Dalles, Oregon and how easily it was for a cult to spread Biological germs infecting nearly 1000 people of that community. In the after math of the destruction of the Twin Towers and the Anthrax scare here on American soil makes the words in this book take on a whole new meaning. The book conveys that this question as been kick around for many years "Should the United States protect its self from a Biological attack?"
GREMS sheds light on events that began in the 50's and 60's of the United States experimenting with Germ warfare and the development of devices to spread these agents to the present giving explanations on how and why we arrived at September 11, 2001 and the present day war in Iraq. How the United States Government reacted to other countries involved in making these Biological weapons. GERMS uses the combination of declassified government papers and interviews to place one in real timeline sequence events as though standing in the room being part of the conversation. Explaining the information in full compared to the bits and pieces that we as Americans are accustomed to get from the government.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent review of historical and current events March 30 2003
After attending a course on weapons of mass destruction, I read Germs because it was recommended by one of the instructors. I am a law enforcement supervisor and manage a team of hazmat officers. I found Germs to be very well written and well documented. Judith Miller does an outstanding job of providing the history of chemical and biological warfare in order to place current events into the proper perspective. Ms. Miller then goes on to bring the reader up to date in current events, to include information about Iraq and North Korea.
Ms. Miller has done a great job of researching her material and providing information in an un-biased manner so that the reader can come to their own conclusions. It was refreshing to read a book about a very controversial subject and not have a particular point of view jammed down your throat.
Germs will give the reader a well rounded knowledge of not only different chemical and biological weapons but also the terrorists and governments that might use them. It also provide realistic information with which you can use to make your own threat assessment with.
Other books that I have read subsequent to this, have supported Ms. Miller's findings. I would strongly recommend Germs for anyone.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars File under fiction
As others have noted, the editors of the New York Times have discovered that one of the authors of this book was manipulated by Ahmed Chalabi's false claims that Iraq had WMD. Read more
Published on May 31 2004
1.0 out of 5 stars Miller's Motive For Bad Reporting
This book came out at the same time that Judith Miller was doing the incredibly bad reporting for the NYTimes that lead the US into the Iraq War. Read more
Published on May 27 2004 by RuthAlice
1.0 out of 5 stars This Book Has Been Discredited
Even a week ago I would have said this is book is probably the best popular introduction to the subject. Read more
Published on May 27 2004 by Sean Flynt
4.0 out of 5 stars Scary to say the least
As a molecular biologist, I was shocked at what was discussed in this book. Descriptions of potential weapons, or weapons that were being worked on when the Soviet Union fell sent... Read more
Published on April 25 2004 by A. Lee Lang
4.0 out of 5 stars Scary to say the least
As a molecular biologist, I was shocked at what was discussed in this book. Descriptions of potential weapons, or weapons that were being worked on when the Soviet Union fell sent... Read more
Published on April 25 2004 by Julie
4.0 out of 5 stars From Oregon to the Soviet Union, bioterror can happen
Since September 11 and the Anthrax letters people have become more aware of the threat of biological weapons. Read more
Published on April 24 2004 by M. Buisman
1.0 out of 5 stars A Boring and Uninformative Book
What these three authors are up to here is known in the trade as "selling your notes." This is a poorly organized, poorly written and boring account of a fascinating... Read more
Published on April 5 2004 by Mark K. Mcdonough
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Account
I read this book for the purpose of gaining an understanding of the dangers of bio-terrorism and wanted to be more informed on national preparedness to this threat. Read more
Published on Jan. 21 2004 by J. head
4.0 out of 5 stars A detailed and shocking look at biowarfare
Germs is a shocking book. Written by writers from the New York Times, it provides an interesting look at how America and the rest of the world researched biological weapons, and... Read more
Published on March 19 2003 by Andrew
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