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The Spy Who Infiltrated NY’s Nazi Underground Before World War II

Monday, July 28, 2014

Peter Duffy Peter Duffy (Ran Graf/Courtesy of the publisher)

From the time Adolf Hitler came into power in 1933, German spies were active in New York. As war began in Europe in 1939, a German-American was recruited by the Nazis to set up a radio transmitter and collect messages from spies to send back to Nazi spymasters. Peter Duffy tells us how this German-American, William G. Sebold, became the FBI’s first double agent, spearheading a covert mission to infiltrate New York’s Nazi underground in the days leading up to World War II—it was the most successful counterespionage operation in U.S. history. Duffy tells the story in his book, Double Agent: The First Hero of World War II and How the FBI Outwitted and Destroyed a Nazi Spy Ring. .

Guests:

Peter Duffy

Comments [6]

gary from queens

@superf88

Liberals of the 1930s were not the same as liberals today----who eschew nationalism to such a degree that they condemn reasonable national security measures, as my example illustrates.

Liberals today are more strident and extreme, now that the modern conservative movement exists as counterpoint.

Conservatives are ideed rare, among Washington republican incumbents. But not among the population, as the nov elections may show.

Regardless of whether liberals were different than they are today, it is those on the left, for the most part, who object to these reasonable measures today.

take the last word

Jul. 28 2014 01:31 PM

Fascinating stuff, but similar stuff was going on in the WWI era as well. The Germans developed cigar sized time fused bombs that regularly blew up munitions ships going to Europe coming out of NYC, not to mention Black Tom's Wharf in New Jersey. That explosion blew all the windows out of Ellis Island and hit the Statue of Liberty with some shrapnel and could be heard I think in Philadelphia. There are a couple of books about the Black Tom explosion and spying at the time that are really fascinating.

Jul. 28 2014 01:30 PM

@ Gary -- and of course the answer to your question "what happened between 1939 and 2014 to (take power from authorities to secretly spy on Americans)" -- coming to mind very quickly are Hoover, Nixon, NSA. They blew it.

I do agree w you that liberals must find a way to defend human rights, privacy etc. without allowing real terrorists to hide under their skirts, or the accusations flung at them will stick.

Jul. 28 2014 01:17 PM
chris dennehy from Rockaway, NJ

Malcom Gladwell's piece in current issue of New Yorker argues in counter intuitive Gladwell style, that the actual damage perpetrated by spies has been vastly exaggerated. Would the author care to comment?

Jul. 28 2014 01:13 PM

@ Gary you make a good point about infiltrating a regime that wasn't at war with us.

But I take issue with turning this into a chance to bash liberals because I don't think it plays a hand in this matter, not to mention that I don't think it's true. In the 30s, liberals controlled MSM much more than today. In fact, as you know, before Stalin, China, etc. many of America's most talented and passionate liberals were literally members of the Communist Party. Many people who claim to be "liberal" today are really just devoid of facts, ignorant, talking out of their @sses because their news sources are so limited and targeted to make them feel "right."

Same story for "conservatives." It is rare and a pleasure to meet a real-life example of either -- they are rare as unicorns.

Jul. 28 2014 01:10 PM
gary from queens

Imagine! Americans infiltrating a regime that wasn't even at war with us!

If liberals controlled the MSM then as they do now, they would have railed against actions as civil rights violations and calling it "Germanophobia."

FDR surveiled German-Americans who were suspected nazis, hoping that would lead them to spies and saboteurs. It worked and lives were saved.

Bloomberg surveiled Muslims who were, or were suspected of being, islamic supremists----or "islamists" or jihadists----with the hope that it would lead them to violent terrorists. it worked and lives were saved.

What happened during the 70 plus years between those two events that made the second event wrong? Answer: liberal political correctness.

Jul. 28 2014 11:38 AM

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