Nathan Hale Wasn't a Very Good Spy

A manuscript given to the Library of Congress may solve a mystery as old as the American Revolution: how the British caught and executed Nathan Hale for spying.

It turns out that Hale, considered by the Central Intelligence Agency to be the first American executed for spying for his country, probably made some monumentally naïve mistakes, chief among them trusting a stranger with the secret of his mission. Those blunders could have led to his hanging 227 years ago this Monday.

Details of Hale's capture had eluded historians, but library officials have new information from the manuscript, written during or soon after the Revolution by Consider Tiffany, a Connecticut storekeeper and British sympathizer. The document was donated to the library in 2000 by a descendant, G. Bradford Tiffany.

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