Watergate's Deep Throat: Maybe Not So Heroic After All

Reason Contributing Editor and Deputy Most Interesting Man in the World Glenn Garvin has a fine piece up at the Miami Herald about a new book by Max Holland called Leak: Why Mark Felt Became Deep Throat. The upshot? That the image of Felt as a high-minded truth-teller is wrong, wrong, wrong. Excerpt:

The real story is "considerably messier and less than a fairy tale," Holland writes in Leak. Through interviews, declassified documents and Nixon's White House tapes, he demonstrates convincingly that Felt's objectives were covetous rather than civic: He desperately wanted to be director of the FBI.

Less than a month before the Watergate break-in, the top FBI job had come open for the first time in 37 years with the death of J. Edgar Hoover. Enraged that he hadn't gotten the job, Felt saw Watergate as an opportunity to shatter the career of the man who did, Nixon's friend L. Patrick Gray.

Felt began systematically leaking material from the FBI's Watergate investigation. He knew Nixon, whose paranoia about leaks was legendary in Washington, would figure out that the source was somewhere in the FBI. Gray would be blamed, lose his job (he hadn't yet been confirmed by the Senate and was officially only acting director) and Felt would be the logical replacement.

Felt played the Washington media like a mighty Wurlitzer, planting his leaks not just with the [Washington] Post but Time magazine, the Washington Daily News and anybody else who would take them. As his scheme began to work, with Nixon pressing Gray hard to plug the leaks, Felt stood smugly by as other FBI officials were demoted or threatened with the loss of their jobs. [...]

Even more damning to the romantic image of Deep Throat as the guy in the white hat standing up to the Nixon Gang at high noon is what he didn't leak. For instance, the unsuccessful but quite genuine blackmail the FBI used against Martin Luther King Jr., using illicit tapes of sexual incidents to try to force his resignation. Or the FBI campaign of burglaries ("black-bag jobs," they were called) against anti-war groups, which were directed by Felt himself.

Read the whole thing here.

Charles Paul Freund surveyed the Deep Throat guessing-game as it stood in 2002. Jesse Walker talked about the Felt unveiling when it happened. I compared Bob Woodward to Judith Miller (doh!) in 2006. A conspiratorial passage from the latter:

Woodward met Mark "Deep Throat" Felt not as a reporter but as a visitor to the White House on Navy intelligence business in 1970. At the time Felt led an FBI "goon squad" charged with making impromptu visits to the agency's field offices to make sure they were following director J. Edgar Hoover's dictates, according to Woodward's June 2005 recollection for the Post. "Here was someone at the center of the secret world I was only glimpsing in my Navy assignment, so I peppered him with questions about his job and his world," he wrote. "I turned it into a career-counseling session." Within months, Woodward's career received a surprisingly powerful boost: The Post hired him, despite his glaring lack of journalism experience.

We have a pretty good handle on Miller's motivations: She loves intrigue, is intoxicated by power, and believes Islamic terrorism is the biggest threat to the country. But what of Woodward's?

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  • Tim||

    Selfish interests? Oh so ordinary.

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  • Ed Zacharias||

    Is that Ron Popeil?

    Set it and forget it, bitches.

  • ||

    Wait, people played and continue to play power games in Washington, consequences be damned? Why wasn't I told?!?

  • Zombie Jimbo||

    Anyone have an example of a DC whistleblower that was an altruist?

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Yes, Undiel the Unicorn, who worked in the Department of Rainbows.

  • sarcasmic||

    Does this mean that had the guy had the altruistic motivations, and committed the exact same acts, that the book's author would have approved?

  • Bee Tagger||

    First Julie uses "lose, lose, lose" in a headline and now Welch uses "wrong, wrong, wrong" a mere 14 minutes later?

    Who is pretending to be whom on the byline? I demand an answer.

  • Abdul||

    With a code name like Deep Throat, I really expected he'd have been more pure of heart.

  • rather||

    Heaven has no rage like love ambition to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned for a promotion

  • Alan Vanneman||

    Matt welch, still nursing Bob Woodward envy after all these years.

  • Dirt Bomb||

    Anal Vanneman, still nursing his balls after all these years.

  • Tim||

    Makes me wonder what sort of dirty shit is going on right now that we won't hear about until after 2030.

  • STEVE SMITH||

    ANAL VANNEMAN, STILL BEGGING STEVE SMITH FOR HOT THROBBING RAPE AFTER ALL THESE YEARS. SOON, VANNEMAN. SOON.

  • Years-long Regular Poster||

    One of my greatest joys in the past few year was renaming Vanneman and seeing it stick. It's the little thing in life that OH MY FUCKING GOD A HUGE HAIRY PRIMATE-LIKE CREATURE IS HEADING RIGH FOR ME!!!

  • Anal Vanneman||

    Stop spelling my name wrong!

  • Years-long Regular Poster||

    ^^This^^ wasn't me.

    *smiles broadly*

  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle||

    You're one to talk.

  • Jeff P.||

    Great. Invoking Popeil and Deep Throat in one post. Do you have any idea what my nightmares will be like tonight? Ronny making me massage his sack with a shammy! Pushing my face into his spray on pubes! Thanks Matt.

    (this post paid for by the pitchmen slashfic fetish erotica league)

  • Pip||

    This is very,very old news.

  • ||

    OK so how do you recon that happened.

    www.anon-dot.tk

  • Rene Chang||

    The impact of Nixon's visit to China 40 years ago has been enormous.
    It may be the time to re-examine what actually happened at Watergate.
    Nixon was a favorite son of Yorba Linda and the Thirty-seventh President of the US.
    He was re-elected with 60.7 per cent of the vote beating Senator McGovern by 18 million votes. He was the first president to have won all the southern states at a single election. Yet he had to resign two years later.
    Was Watergate any worse or out of character with the actions of Presidents before and after?

    Why were the culprits arrested only at the THIRD attempt?
    Why did the $100 dollar bills have consecutive serial numbers?
    Why was Howard Hunt's details in the address books of TWO of the four arrested Cubans?
    There was a coup attempt in China to prevent the rapprochement. Could the same have happened in the US?
    Why were the leaks of Deep Throat' regarded as the gospel truth?
    What has Richard Dawkin’s memes got to do with Watergate?
    Read about all these in 'Watergate - The Political Assassination, ISBN 9780956911940.
    The book is available at http://www.smashwords.com in many ebook formats.

    When Nixon took the dollar from the gold standard in 1971, did he lay the foundation of today's financial crisis? He did bring about untold wealth to US citizens for several decades.

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