J. Edgar Hoover’s 50-Year Career of Blackmail, Entrapment, and Taking Down Communist Spies

The story begins in Sicily, on Friday, March 12th, 1909. Three gunshots thundered in the night, and then a fourth. Two men fled, and investigators soon discovered who they had killed: Giuseppe Petrosino, the legendary American detective whose exploits in New York were celebrated even in Italy. He was part of the “Italian Squad,” a group of immigrant NYPD members who battled increasingly powerful gangsters and crooked politicians in the early 20th century. They were famous for meting out tough justice to criminals who comprised the “Black Hand,” an international extortion ring. Beyond trying to prevent horrific crimes—nighttime bombings in crowded tenements, kidnappings that targeted children at play, gangland shootings that killed innocent bystanders—the Italian Squad commanders hoped to persuade society of what they knew for themselves: that their fellow immigrant Italians, so often maligned, would make good American citizens. Today’s guest is Paul Moses, author of “The Italian Squad: The True Story of the Immigrant Cops Who Fought the Rise of the Mafia.”

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