ashthomas//blog: June 2005


Thursday, June 02, 2005

Deep Throat Cleared

There are a handful of historical mysteries that keep conspiracy theorists enthralled: who was Jack the Ripper? who shot JFK? who was Deep Throat? This last question has finally been answered, with the publication this week of a Vanity Fair piece by John O'Connor. Mark Felt, who was deputy director of the FBI at the time of the Watergate scandal, has admitted that he was Deep Thoat, the previously anonymous informant who passed on information and leads to the Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward. Woodward has confirmed that Felt was his confidential source. Over the last thirty years, a mini industry has arisen around the quest to discover the indentity of Deep Throat. O'Connor says in his article:

The identity of Deep Throat is modern journalism's greatest unsolved mystery. It has been said that he may be the most famous anonymous person in U.S. history. But, regardless of his notoriety, American society today owes a considerable debt to the government official who decided, at great personal risk, to help Woodward and Bernstein as they pursued the hidden truths of Watergate.

Felt's name has vbeen on the shortlist for some time. In fact, Felt was the prime candidate singled out by Nixon's White House itself:

Gray confided to me, "You know, Mark, [Attorney General] Dick Kleindienst told me that I might have to get rid of you. He says White House staff members are convinced that you are the FBI source of leaks to Woodward and Bernstein." …

I said, "Pat, I haven't leaked anything to anybody. They are wrong!" …

"I believe you," Gray answered, "but the White House doesn't. Kleindienst has told me on three or four occasions to get rid of you but I refused. He didn't say this came from higher up but I am convinced that it did."

On another occasion, Haldeman identified Felt as the source of the leaks [from a Slate article by Tim Noah]:

Nixon: Well, if they've got a leak down at the FBI, why the hell can't Gray tell us what the hell is left? You know what I mean?...

Haldeman: We know what's left, and we know who leaked it.

Nixon: Somebody in the FBI?

Haldeman: Yes, sir. Mark Felt. You can't say anything about this because it will screw up our source and there's a real concern. Mitchell is the only one who knows about this and he feels strongly that we better not do anything because--

Nixon: Do anything? Never.

Haldeman: If we move on him, he'll go out and unload everything. He knows everything that's to be known in the FBI. He has access to absolutely everything ...

Nixon: What would you do with Felt?

Haldeman: Well, I asked Dean ...

Nixon: You know what I'd do with him, the bastard? Well that's all I want to hear about it.

Haldeman: I think he wants to be in the top spot.

Nixon: That's a hell of a way for him to get to the top.

Haldeman: You can figure a lot of--maybe he thought--first of all, he has to figure that if you stay in as president there's a possibility or probability Gray will stay on. If McGovern comes in, then you know Gray's going to be out ...

Nixon: Is he Catholic?

Haldeman: (unintelligible) Jewish.

President Nixon: Christ, put a Jew in there?

Haldeman: Well, that could explain it too.

Felt's reticence about coming forward (recorded in the VF article) reveals his deep ambivalence about what he had done. Far from expecting to be hailed as a hero, Felt feared that he would dishonour the Bureau and face disgrace in the eyes of his former colleagues. One senses that at least at some level, Felt is ashamed of his actions. It is a testament to his courage, therefore, that despite his reservations about being the whistleblower, he went through with it.