Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Watergate Deep Throat mystery solved

Deep Throat Speaks
Washington Post June 1, 2005

Editorial leader

FOR MORE THAN three decades Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein and former executive editor Benjamin C. Bradlee preserved an extraordinary secret: the identity of the source known as Deep Throat, who helped inform the stories The Post published in 1972 and 1973 exposing what became known as the Watergate scandal. They kept the secret despite extraordinary press ure on The Post from the White House, including charges that Deep Throat was an invention; through the hearings and impeachment proceedings that led to President Richard M. Nixon's resignation in August 1974; and despite endless speculation about the source's identity in the years afterward. Mr. Woodward, now a Post editor, and Mr. Bernstein, who no longer works here, said that they had made a commitment not to reveal Deep Throat's identity until after his death. Yesterday that pact was finally superseded by the publication of statements by W. Mark Felt, former deputy director of the FBI, confirming that he was Deep Throat. He revealed his role in part because of his family's belief that he deserves to be honored for his actions while he is alive.

The honor is surely deserved. Mr. Felt, now 91, was a dedicated servant of the FBI, and no softie: He was convicted of (and later pardoned for) authorizing illegal acts in pursuit of leftist radicals in the early 1970s. Yet he was also outraged that the Nixon White House brazenly interfered with the FBI's investigation of the burglary of Democratic Party headquarters in June 1972 and by what he saw as Mr. Nixon's attempt to gain control over the FBI for political purposes. Risking dismissal or prosecution, he began meeting with Mr. Woodward secretly to confirm The Post's reporting about the funding of the operation and about other illegal acts by the president's top aides. He was not the only source The Post relied on; Mr. Woodward and Mr. Bernstein tracked down dozens of others, many of whom were named in their articles. Deep Throat was nevertheless crucial to the paper's reporting of Watergate. Following book and movie depictions of his role, he became the most famous anonymous source in the history of American journalism, and a model for government whistle-blowers.

Mr. Felt was ambivalent about his decision to cooperate with Mr. Woodward. He declined to disclose his actions for years after he retired, denying his role even to his family. By leaking details of the FBI's probe into Watergate, he violated the bureau's standards and arguably the law. Yet in retrospect it is clear that his decision was the right one. Mr. Nixon had set out to subvert the U.S. system of justice: While publicly ordering the FBI to investigate, he secretly directed a coverup intended to prevent the agency from confirming the connections between his campaign and the Watergate burglars. The FBI criminal investigation of senior White House and campaign officials was effectively blocked. Only when the complicity of such figures as former attorney general John N. Mitchell was publicly disclosed with the help of Mr. Felt did Congress begin an investigation that eventually revealed the full scope of the Watergate crimes. Had Mr. Felt remained quiet, Mr. Nixon might have succeeded in one of the most serious abuses of power ever attempted by an American president.

In a small irony, Deep Throat's unveiling comes as the media and Washington officialdom engage in one of their periodic debates about the use of anonymous sources. We think that both the debate and the newly professed cautions about relying on such sources are healthy. As we noted, The Post's reporting depended on many sources, and the truth emerged thanks to the courage of U.S. District Judge John J. Sirica, then-Sen. Sam Ervin and others who rose to the occasion. But it's worth remembering that this landmark victory for the rule of law also depended on the secret patriotism of a source named Deep Throat -- that is, Mark Felt. It's nice to be able to honor him by his real name while he still lives.

I was Deep Throat, says top FBI man

Julian Borger and Jamie Wilson in Washington

The Guardian June 1, 2005

One of the most enduring mysteries of the 20th century was finally solved yesterday with the unmasking of Deep Throat, the legendary source who leaked the secrets of the Watergate scandal and helped bring down President Richard Nixon.
The mystery man is Mark Felt, who was number two at the FBI at the time of the scandal. He ended 33 years of silence with the words: "I'm the guy they used to call Deep Throat", telling Vanity Fair magazine he was the government source for the Washington Post reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, who broke the Watergate story.

After hesitating for several hours, the Washington Post confirmed Mr Felt's identity on its website last night.
Mr Woodward said the FBI veteran had helped the newspaper's investigation of corruption in the Nixon administration because of "tense relations" between the bureau and the White House at the time.
Meeting Mr Woodward in an underground garage and other secluded locations, Mr Felt guided the Washington Post reporters along a trail from a little-noticed burglary of Democratic party offices in Washington's Watergate complex in June 1972 to uncover a scandal of extraordinary government corruption which led to the fall of President Richard Nixon two years later.
According to the Vanity Fair article, Mr Felt had initially been reluctant to make his role public, but had been convinced to do so by his family.
Mr Felt, now 91 and in poor health, appeared at the door of his home in Santa Rosa California, yesterday, to wave to reporters. His grandson, Nick Jones, said: "The family believes my grandfather, Mark Felt Sr, is a great American hero who went well above and beyond the call of duty at much risk to himself to save his country from a horrible injustice."
Ben Bradlee, the Washington Post editor at the time of Watergate, said he was initially told that Deep Throat had a senior position in the FBI and only learnt his name in 1974, within a few weeks of President Nixon's resignation.
However, he felt he knew enough to gamble the newspaper's reputation by printing such controversial stories
"The number two guy at the FBI - that was a pretty good source," Mr Bradlee said last night. "I knew the paper was on the right track."
Trying to guess Deep Throat's identity had been a Washington parlour game for years, and Mr Felt was frequently mentioned as having both the necessary access to information and a motive.
He had been passed over for leadership of the FBI in 1972 when J Edgar Hoover died, and feared the bureau would fall under the political sway of the Nixon White House.
Leonard Garment, President Nixon's former White House lawyer, told the Guardian last night that he was not surprised by the news.
"I was close but no cigar," Mr Garment said, arguing that Mr Felt's role was part of a wider struggle for power between the FBI and the White House.
Asked what he thought of Mr Felt's role as government mole, Mr Garment was ambivalent.
"That's too hard to get into a few sentences," he said. "It all depends on where you stand. What you think about sources depends on how you feel about what they're leaking and on where one's loyalty lies. Everyone has reasons for leaking. And Mark Felt had his reasons."
The Woodward and Bernstein book on the Watergate saga, All the President's Men, and the subsequent film of the same title made Deep Throat and his mantra "Follow the money" legends in US politics and journalism.
To arrange meetings with Deep Throat, Mr Woodward would stick a red flag in a flower pot on the balcony of his flat.
Mr Felt would respond by marking the morning edition of the New York Times delivered to the journalist's home with a drawing of a clock face on page 20, giving him the time of the rendezvous.
The Vanity Fair article which broke the story yesterday was written by John O'Connor, who stumbled on the story by chance. He was an acquaintance of Mr Felt's grandson and the family contacted him when they convinced the elderly FBI official that the time had come to break his silence.
Until recently, Mr O'Connor wrote, Mr Felt was torn over the ethics of what he had done.
"Felt, having long harboured the ambivalent emotions of pride and self-reproach, has lived for more than 30 years in a prison of his own making, a prison built upon his strong moral principles and his unwavering loyalty to country and cause," he said. "But now, buoyed by his family's revelations and support, he need feel imprisoned no longer."


Deep Throat - the plot thickens

By Jonathan Aitken

Daily Telegraph 01/06/2005

Richard Nixon may be chuckling in his grave over the alleged confession yesterday of Mark Felt, the former assistant director of the FBI, that he was the real Deep Throat. There may be less in this story than meets the eye.
For in his old age the 37th president of the United States used to enjoy playing the "Who Is Deep Throat?" game as much as anyone.
"Is so-and-so the one?" he would ask. He would then tick off the reasons why so-and-so could be or could not be the mysterious individual who still personifies the last secret of Watergate.
Wearing my hat as Nixon's biographer, I can easily imagine some of the things the president might have said about the Felt confession.
One of them would be: "Well, I always thought it was someone in a key position at either the Department of Justice or the FBI." For many years Henry Peterson, ex-FBI man and chief of the criminal division of the Department of Justice, was Nixon's prime suspect. Felt was very close to Peterson during the Watergate investigation, so at first glance the cap looks as though it could fit Mark Felt.
On the other hand, as the years rolled by, Nixon ruled out Peterson and everyone else at Justice and FBI because they could not possibly have had access to what was perhaps Deep Throat's greatest revelation.
This was the story in the Washington Post of November 8, 1973 saying that a crucial White House tape of June 20, 1972 featuring Nixon and his chief of staff, H R Halderman, had been "doctored" and that the problems on the tape were of a "suspicious nature".
Deep Throat told Bob Woodward that this tape contained "deliberate erasures". This was the sensational story of the 18-and-a-half minute gap on the tape. It remains one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of Watergate because it contains the probable identity of Deep Throat.
When Deep Throat leaked the information about "deliberate erasures" to Woodward at some time in the first week of November 1973 only six people in the White House, or for that matter in the world, knew about the problem of the gap in the tape. They were Richard Nixon; Rose Mary Woods (Nixon's personal secretary); Alexander Haig (The White House chief of staff); Haig's deputy, Major General John C Bennett and two trusted Nixon White House aides, Fred Buzhardt and Steve Bull.
There is the strongest possible presumption that Deep Throat was one of the names on the list, at least in regard to the story of the 18-and-a-half minute deliberately erased tape gap.
As Mark Felt is not on the above list, how can he possibly have been the source for the story - even though he may well have been the source for many of the other stories linked to the criminal investigation of Watergate?
Sources close to these events and characters tell me that Mark Felt, who is 91 years old, is increasingly vague and forgetful. The Watergate saga, naturally enough, has been on his conscience for many years, during which he has become obsessed with the notion that he was the sole source of Woodward Bernstein's scoops.
Last night Woodward and Bernstein were refusing to confirm Mark Felt's claim.
This may be because - as the Washington Post claims - they stated long ago that they would never reveal the identity of Deep Throat until after his death.
But I also suspect it is because they do not accept Felt's story. Of course, even to refute someone's claim is to make a step towards identifying the real mole, so they are keeping quiet.
The answer to the conundrum is the one Richard Nixon came up with 20 years ago. It is the one supported by virtually all of Nixon's surviving senior White House aides.
The explanation is that there is no such individual as Deep Throat - the character is a composite of two or three, possibly more, sources used by Woodward and Bernstein.
Mark Felt may well have been the prime figure in this composite. Or maybe he was just one of several Deep Throats in the mixture.
So the mystery continues on the vital question of which Deep Throat leaked the revelation about the 18-and-a-half minute gap, a revelation that Woodward says came from the source he likes to call Deep Throat.
Richard Nixon would have enjoyed all this latest wave of controversy, seen through it and laughed.
ยท Nixon: A Life by Jonathan Aitken (1993, Weidenfeld and Nicolson)

Full article in Vanity Fair:
http://www.vanityfair.com/pdf/pressroom/advance1.pdf

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