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The Mirage Man: Bruce Ivins, the Anthrax Attacks, and America's Rush to War [Kindle Edition]

David Willman
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)

Kindle Price: $11.84
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

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.

Editorial Reviews


Advance praise for The Mirage Man
“A well-told true-crime story with vast ramifications.”  - Kirkus

The Mirage Man is a mystery story about murder committed on the national stage. The characters include an innocent man hounded by investigators and the press, politicians fixated on justifying a foreign invasion, a mixed bag of FBI agents, and scientists who try to crack the code. And, at the story’s heart, we have a twisted villain whose secret life is laid utterly bare. Unlike most mysteries, this one is literally true, carefully documented and skillfully told by one of America’s finest investigative journalists.”—John S. Carroll, former editor of the Los Angeles Times
“This is a book of alternative history and alternative truth about one of the most misrepresented incidents of our 9/11 trauma. David Willman has set a grand standard for investigative reporting—and investigative history—in his account of America’s anthrax scare. There are few heroes in this story of psychosis, official dithering, and political scaremongering, but it is uplifting nonetheless. It is simply fun to read someone at the top of his craft.”—Seymour M. Hersh, author of Chain of Command:The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib
“Peering through David Willman’s magnifying glass into the anthrax-laced heart and soul of Bruce Ivins is chilling. Willman’s investigative chops and skilled yarn-weaving make for a compelling read. Most strikingly, Willman shows how this emotionally warped man pumped the bellows that fanned the flames of war with Iraq. It’s a haunting and heartbreaking tale.’’—Mark Thompson, national security correspondent, Time

From the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

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.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1304 KB
  • Print Length: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam (June 7, 2011)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004T3B5MQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #634,482 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
33 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sensational True Crime Account June 10, 2011
Two big surprises in this new book about the anthrax murders. It is a vivid look inside the twisted mind of Bruce Ivins, a madman who nevertheless had unsupervised 24/7 access to some of the most lethal biological toxins on this planet. Author David Willman has done a fabulous reporting job tracing the sordid history of a psychopath from an abusive mother in an Ohio small town to a painful suicide from an intentional overdose of Tylenol. He was a man of bizarre obsessions for decades, while convincing at least some of his friends that he was just an eccentric,cheerful guy who loved to play music at church services.

Deep in the book, like buried treasure, comes a second surprise--a no-holds-barred inside account of the bungled FBI investigation. It is a rude wake-up call for those whose impression of the FBI and law enforcement comes from TV shows such as CSI. Here in the real world, a high-priority investigation personally monitored by none other than the FBI director himself stupidly and blindly pursued the wrong suspect for many years. In one of the more ridiculous moments, senior FBI officials believed they had a dog so smart that it could pick out the real anthrax killer.

In his relentless exposure of bungling FBI executives, unprincipled White House officials who manipulated anthrax fears, fatuous and sloppy news media coverage, negligent security procedures and other breakdowns, the author may lose a few friends in Washington. But readers will learn what the world is really like.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Compelling, but not without flaws August 1, 2011
By D. Reed
David Willman has written a very compelling book about the 2001 anthrax attacks and the alleged perpetrator, Bruce Ivins. However, the book has some issues. He fails to point out flaws in the FBI's evidence, in particular the issues regarding the amount of silica in the spores. While he's correct that the silica was not an additive to 'weaponize' the spores it is also true that the amounts were far higher than would be considered 'normal' and labs working at the FBI's direction have been unable to replicate the amount of silica found in the attack letters. Mr. Willman also likes to take a number of conversations and emails from Dr. Ivins and attribute sinister motives; if you look at them more dispassionately then those same emails and conversations seem far more innocent.

He does an adequate job laying out the problems that occurred during the FBI's investigation and the FBI does not come out looking good from this critique. There were enough problems within the investigation that it likely would have led to an acquittal, had it ever gone to trial.

Four things, however, do stand out. It was clear that there were individuals who were aware of Bruce Ivin's mental health issues prior to 2001 (including homicidal threats) and failed to inform his superiors. He was unable to account adequately for the hours spent in the lab at night in the weeks leading up to the attacks (although whether those hours were sufficient to generate the spores needed is NOT clear) nor for the times when he might have been driving to Trenton to mail the letters. The "Greendale School" address on two of the letters and his knowledge of a "Greendale Academy". And finally, the decision after he knew he was being watched to dispose of evidence suggesting he had a fascination with secret codes which seemed to match up with an apparent code found in the letters.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Much More Than a Crime Novel June 26, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Many lessons to be learned from this book.

First, you have an unfettered and irresponsible press spreading unverifiable lies and innuendo ruining a man's life. The sanctimonious Kristof for example hiding behind the 1st Amendment and protecting his "sources". It turns out that one of Kristof's undisclosed sources was a woman who had no real knowledge of or training in manufacturing anthrax spores. She was very loud, very opinionated and very willing to feed "material" to Kristof. The problem is that because none of Kristof's readers knew who she was, readers were not able to evaluate her qualifications and/or credibility or even her possible motive to smear Hatfill. Three other anonymous news sources were the federal attorney for the District of Columbia, the head of his criminal division and another DC Federal Court employee who was a "spokesman" for the DC district DOJ. These three people were not only lawyers with ethical responsibilities but DOJ officials, who some day might have had to prosecute Hatfill. The Kristof reporting reminds me of another NYT reporter, Judith Martin, who was spoon fed erroneous WMD info by Scooter Libbey. She like Kristof was allowed to publish material without any apparent vetting by the NYT. I am all for press freedom but there has to be a limit.

Second, the impact of Mueller's personality quirk's in bolloxing up the investigation. One of his problems apparently is the inability to consider other possible suspects once he's fixated on one person as the suspect. Ludicrously, the only real evidence the FBI had that Hatfill was involved in the letters was the fact that a bloodhound named Klarabelle identified Hatfill as "something".
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling But Not Convincing
I have read the book, and I'm not 100% convinced that Bruce Ivins was the killer. Although there is considerable circumstantial evidence pointing to someone LIKE Ivins, there was... Read more
Published 7 months ago by C. Gould
5.0 out of 5 stars Book in excellent condition. It is still doubtful in my mind ...
Book in excellent condition. It is still doubtful in my mind whether Ivins was the guilty party. The FBI seems to focus on anyone who is different as a potential suspect. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Jim Murphy
4.0 out of 5 stars A meticulously researched, comprehensive overview of the Anthrax case...
In examining the 2001 Anthrax case, Willman has laid out a stunningly comprehensive and flawlessly researched case against Bruce Ivins that leaves very little room for doubt of... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Rahul P. Kamath
5.0 out of 5 stars Reads like a novel
This is a book every concerned citizen should read. It is truly frightening to think that the government has not done anything to prevent something like this from happening again.
Published on March 5, 2013 by irish
4.0 out of 5 stars The Mirage Man
Well researched and written. A truly frightening book. Not only because of the subject himself but also because of the politics of law enforcement and criminal investigations.
Published on September 17, 2012 by Carol Maleska
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a Five-Star Book, but ...
What a fascinating book! To me it was the compelling story of Bruce Ivins, high school science geek, doctor, and probable sociopath who many believe perpetrated the anthrax letter... Read more
Published on April 20, 2012 by Anne Salazar
5.0 out of 5 stars 2001 Anthrax Attacks, The Full Story
As a microbiologist whose laboratory was directly involved in both the diagnostic and environmental testing for anthrax in 2001, and one who has had contact over the years with... Read more
Published on January 27, 2012 by Jack DeBoy, DrPH
5.0 out of 5 stars How Journalism Should be Done
This is a fantastic piece of journalism. Even if I disagreed with some interpretation (which I am not saying I did, although I see that there are a couple of dissenters writing... Read more
Published on January 9, 2012 by Elizabeth A. Root
5.0 out of 5 stars A chilling and spectacular narrative of America's first bio-terrorist
Some monsters are created by Hollywood screenwriters, others by urban myth. The story of Bruce Irvins as told by David Willman is far, far scarier. Why? Read more
Published on August 25, 2011 by Chip Jacobs
5.0 out of 5 stars A Terrific, Gripping Read
There are number of important themes running through this book. One is about the massive, long-running and poorly-run FBI criminal investigation that focused on the wrong suspect... Read more
Published on August 18, 2011 by cmurrell
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