The Mirage Man by David Willman
Bruce Ivins, the Anthrax Attacks, and America's Rush to War

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For the first time, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist David Willman tells the whole gripping story of the hunt for the anthrax killer who terrorized the country in the dark days that followed the September 11th attacks. Letters sent surreptitiously from a mailbox in New Jersey to media and political figures in New York, Florida, and Washington D.C. killed five people and infected seventeen others. For years, the case remained officially unsolved—and it consumed the FBI and became a rallying point for launching the Iraq War. Far from Baghdad, at Fort Detrick, Maryland, stood Bruce Ivins: an accomplished microbiologist at work on patenting a next-generation anthrax vaccine. Ivins, it turned out, also was a man the FBI consulted frequently to learn the science behind the attacks.

The Mirage Man reveals how this seemingly harmless if eccentric scientist hid a sinister secret life from his closest associates and family, and how the trail of genetic and circumstantial evidence led inexorably to him. Along the way, Willman exposes the faulty investigative work that led to the public smearing of the wrong man, Steven Hatfill, a scientist specializing in biowarfare preparedness whose life was upended by media stakeouts and op-ed-page witch hunts. 

Engrossing and unsparing, The Mirage Man is a portrait of a deeply troubled scientist who for more than twenty years had unlimited access to the U.S. Army’s stocks of deadly anthrax. It is also the story of a struggle for control within the FBI investigation, the missteps of an overzealous press, and how a cadre of government officials disregarded scientific data while spinning the letter attacks into a basis for war. As The Mirage Man makes clear, America must, at last, come to terms with the lessons to be learned from what Bruce Ivins wrought.  The nation’s security depends on it.

From the Hardcover edition.

About David Willman

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David Willman is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist whose reporting for the Los Angeles Times brought to light the pivotal developments surrounding the 2001 anthrax letter attacks.
Published June 7, 2011 by Bantam. 464 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Much of the narrative reads like a brief for the prosecution, but in the process of trying to get to the bottom of the anthrax attacks, Willman makes clear that many involved in the investigation acted incompetently, maliciously or irresponsibly, including cocksure but ignorant members of the nat...

May 04 2011 | Read Full Review of The Mirage Man: Bruce Ivins, ...

Publishers Weekly

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Willman, a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist, offers a nuanced account of the bungled FBI investigation into the "anthrax attacks" as the Bush administration strove to use the public panic to strengthen their case to go to war, while the culprit was, in all likelihood, a military microbiologist...

May 30 2011 | Read Full Review of The Mirage Man: Bruce Ivins, ...

The Wall Street Journal

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Among the anthrax samples collected from different labs, only one matched the "fingerprints" of the killer anthrax in the letters.

Sep 17 2011 | Read Full Review of The Mirage Man: Bruce Ivins, ...

Los Angeles Times

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By the time Willman shows the FBI finally closing in on Ivins in the fall of 2007 and relates the grim psychic unraveling that preceded his suicide in 2008, readers have too much information and not enough meaningful interpretation.

Jun 12 2011 | Read Full Review of The Mirage Man: Bruce Ivins, ...

Los Angeles Times

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At the very least, Ivins should have been among the suspects the FBI scrutinized in the investigation's early days, especially after a phone call in January 2002 from scientist Nancy Haigwood telling them she thought Ivins was the anthrax killer.

Jun 12 2011 | Read Full Review of The Mirage Man: Bruce Ivins, ...

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