Publisher: Bantam Books
Release Date: June 07, 2011

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The anthrax mailings of 2001 triggered one of the biggest and most complicated investigations in the annals of American law enforcement. Sent anonymously from a mailbox in New Jersey, the letters targeted two United States senators, along with a network news anchor and others in the media. Five people were killed and seventeen additional victims were infected. Mail delivery to homes, businesses, and government offices was disrupted. In the aftermath of September 11, the nation feared that an insidious second wave of terrorism was under way. For years, the mailings case remained officially unsolved.

Now, for the first time, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist David Willman tells the whole gripping story of the hunt for the anthrax killer—a case that 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.