Candidate Profile

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Espionage, Intelligence & Spying
History - General
Politics & Current Affairs
Science - General
World Affairs
Lester Paldy’s background ranges across service as a Marine Corps officer to nuclear physics, intelligence and national security, and a long university career. He grew up in New York City and after graduating from high school, enlisted as a private in the Marine Corps during the Korean War, rising to the rank of Captain despite his lack of any college experience. After six years of service, he left the Marines to enter the university to study physics, did graduate work at the University of Maryland and Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, and then joined the faculty at the State University of New York at Stony Brook where he served as a dean and is now Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the School of Medicine.

The threat posed by the deployment of nuclear weapons during the Cold War sparked his interest in efforts to reduce their numbers and end their testing, leading to several tours of duty in Washington at the National Science Foundation and State Department while on leave from Stony Brook. He was a member of the U.S. Delegation to the Nuclear Testing Talks with the Soviet Union in Geneva that negotiated a treaty signed by President George H.W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev. His university courses on global issues continue to attract many enthusiastic students and led to invitations to speak on cruise ships on intelligence operations and national security topics.

Les Paldy’s presentations include:

1. Operation Gunnerside: Stopping the Nazi Nuclear Weapon Program
The iconic 1943 raid by the Norwegian Resistance on a closely guarded plant producing vital material for the Nazi nuclear weapons effort was the most important sabotage action of WW II.

2. Fair Wind to Norway: The Shetland Bus Operation
Norwegian seaman in small fishing boats braved the storms of the North Sea to bring weapons, explosives, and saboteurs to Norway and bring out persons sought by the Gestapo.

3. Victory in the Atlantic, 1943-44
Advances in antisubmarine technology and changes in defensive tactics enabled the allies to decisively defeat the U-boat threat in 1943 and build the forces needed for D-Day in Europe.

4. Nazi Doctors, Nuremberg, and the Code of Informed Consent
The trial of Nazi medical war criminals at Nuremberg led to the medical profession’s adoption of rules requiring informed consent of medical research participants.

5. The Holocaust and Resistance in Norway
The current debate in Norway over whether the resistance did enough to save more of Norway’s small Jewish population.

6. A Poem for Yacov Eisenberg
An intelligence operation to determine if a Ukrainian missile technology producer was delivering components to Iran was about to succeed when a blunder ended it.

7. Foreign Travel Safety and Security
There are simple measures that intelligence officers take that all travelers can use to ensure their safety and security while abroad

8. Nuclear Weapons and Nuclear Power for Future Presidents and Prime Ministers
Anyone can understand the essentials when they are presented clearly and graphically.

9. Thunder in the Earth
No nation is testing nuclear weapons now, but that could change overnight without a verifiable, worldwide, treaty banning all nuclear tests.

10. Iran, Nuclear Weapons, and the West
Iran is restarting its uranium enrichment program. What does this imply for the future? Was it wise for the U.S. to withdraw from the nuclear agreement that had stopped it? What are the arguments?

11. North Korea and Nuclear Weapons: What Next?
North Korea has nuclear weapons and may build more. What can the international community do to reduce nuclear threats on the Korean Peninsula?

12. Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction
What can be done to stop the plagues of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons from spreading?

13. Terrorists and Nuclear Weapons: Real or Imagined Threat?
How feasible would it be for a small group of terrorists to build an improvised nuclear explosive?

14. At the Brink: The Command and Control of Nuclear Weapons
Nuclear weapon accidents and false alarms during the Cold War might could have resulted in nuclear catastrophe.

15. A Tunnel in Berlin: Espionage and Betrayal
A CIA-SIS espionage operation to tap East German and Soviet communications illustrates how spies work in what is sometimes described as “a wilderness of mirrors.”

16. Raising the K-129
The CIA’s secret effort to recover a sunken Soviet submarine and its nuclear missiles was a spectacular operation involving presidents and a Hollywood mogul. The U.S. has never revealed if the weapons were recovered.

17. Into the Bear’s Mouth
U.S. submarines penetrated Soviet territorial waters to tap undersea communication cables in daring Cold War operations. The U.S., China, and Russia may be doing it now.

18. CIA Covert Action: The President's Hidden Hand
CIA covert action to advance U.S. foreign policy objectives began in 1947. How successful have they been?
Three cruises on Queen Mary 2 and one on Crystal Serenity speaking on intelligence and espionage topics. (I am a former Marine intelligence officer.) I am also scheduled to speak again on QM2 in December and expect to be invited to speak on Crystal in 2020.