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"Clearing Deep Throat"

Published:

Last Edited: June 7, 2005, 9:56 am

Found the following commentary on PowerLineBlog.com which lead to a clarification of the altruistic motives of Felt.  Article at bottom .. bold blue underlined print is live links.
 
"Edward Jay Epstein is the brilliant essayist and author whose meticulous 1974 Commentary essay "Did the press uncover Watergate?" suggested that Mark Felt was Deep Throat. Now he has established Edward Jay Epstein's Web Log. At the site he is writing for those of us who wish to continue our Watergate studies as his humble students. Check out his most recent post: "Clearing Deep Throat" (and keep scrolling down)."
"Clearing Deep Throat 
"Journalists cannot hope to approach an accurate rendering of an event without revealing their sources. Every source who has supplied a journalist with a part of a story has selected that bit of information, whether it is true or false, for a particular purpose. That purpose may be to advance his own career, to advance the interests of the agency he works for, to discredit an enemy, to advance an ideological agenda, or simply to assist a reporter. The bits of information thus supplied can be properly evaluated only in light of the circumstances and context in which it was given. It is not enough simply to present the assertion of an interested party— even if it can be shown that it is "accurate," in the trivial sense of "accuracy" (which simply means correctly specifying the details touching on the event). One must know who made the disclosure and, ideally, why he made it to that particular individual at that particular moment in history. Concealing such information from the reader amounts to a deliberate disguising of the event itself, since such a process hides all the interests that selected, shape and possibly distorted the disclosures. To be sure, concealing the interests behind the disclosures of sources often serves the self interest of the journalist by making more likely that his sources will continue to provide him with information for public disclosure. This makes his job much easier, but at the same time it prevents any independent evaluation of his work, and omits what might be a critical part of the event.

Consider, for example, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’ celebrated Watergate stories– described on the jacket of their book, All The President’s Men, as "the most devastating political detective story of the century." For 30 years, they kept secret one of their principal sources, Deep Throat. Only now, three decades later, does Woodward intensify this mysterious information provider as W. Mark Felt, the FBI’s Associate Director (until he resigned in June 1973). Felt had begun his career at the FBI in 1941, according to his autobiography, as a disinformation officer. When J. Edgar Hoover died in 1972, it was Felt who took over a number of the most sensitive ones, including one entitled "Black Bag Jobs," the FBI term for its secret burglaries. Following the arrest of the Watergate burglars in June 1972, and the confession of Alfred C. Baldwin III, a former FBI agent, outlining to the FBI the full scope of the wire-tap conspiracy, Felt had a real concern that other illegal back bag jobs he had himself authorized, including warrentless and illegal break-ins into the homes of relatives of political radicals, could be exposed in the Watergate investigation. (Seven years after Watergate, Felt was convicted in Federal court of "unlawfully, willfully, and knowingly combine, conspire, confederate, and agree together and with each other to injure and oppress citizens.") So there is some reason to assume that he was not acting out of pure altruism, when he contacted Woodward and other journalist and helped steer their stories.

Enter Donald H. Segretti, a young lawyer who had been playing "dirty tricks" on various Democrats in the primaries, but had nothing to do with illegal break-ins. Instead of telling Woodward about the extensive electronic eavesdropping that Baldwin had revealed to the FBI, Felt supplied Woodward with FBI "302" reports (containing interviews, phone-call records, and credit card records.) Believing Felt that these dirty tricks were an integral part of Watergate, Woodward and Bernstein wrote story after story about, even postulating that there were fifty other Segretti-type agents, all receiving information from Watergate-type bugging operations. It turned out this was at best a detour. (Segretti served a brief prison sentence for such "dirty tricks" as sending two hundred copies of a defamatory letter to Democrats), and Felt’s "50 other agents" never materialized-- except in a Woodward and Bernstein story .

To be sure, Felt directed Woodward to a number of more profitable areas, such as the destruction of documents by his superior at the FBI, L. Patrick Gray III. Less than 2 months after he supplied Woodward with this story, Felt was out of the FBI. He had evidently lost his power play. What this Machiavellian game involved, though an important part of the Watergate puzzle, was obscured so long as Woodward hid the fact that a high-ranking FBI executive was his source.
The conversion of Deep Throat into a mythic hero who helped journalist duo defeat the governmental Goliath is a tribute to the literary skills of Woodward and Bernstein."
Entry #38

Comments

1.
Comment by Rip Snorter - June 7, 2005, 10:30 am
Hi.

I'd be the last person to accuse anyone in Washington of doing things for altruistic motives or for matters of conscience. Including 'Deep Throat', including Woodward and Bernstein.

But keeping things in context, this country and this presidencial institution had gone a long way down the slippery slide by the time Watergate came along.

Kennedy getting into office by using cemetary votes provided by Lyndon Johnson from Starr County, Texas. Bay of Pigs. The Kennedy clan passing women (including Marilyn Monroe) around like bags of candy, covering things up in such Byzantine ways that no one could ever have any confidence she hadn't been murdered to keep things under wraps.

The whole country arguing for decades about whether Kennedy was killed by Oswald, the Russkies, or because of his mob connections.

All that without even getting into the rat nest of the Johnson Administration, Spiro Agnew, and there's no imagining what else.

The institution of President of the US needed something to inspire a bit of fear into the hearts of the men in office. A demonstration that they couldn't just get by with absolutely anything needed to be brought home (as is probably needed again, today). Nixon was as good a place to start as anywhere in the entire nest of scorpions. Some highly positioned folks in Executive needed to go to prison.

It's too bad the aftermath included making heroes of Woodward and Bernstain. But for a brief while we had a population with a chary attitude about trusting presidents and their men. I believe that was a good thing.

Jack

2.
konaneComment by konane - June 7, 2005, 11:43 am
http://www.opinionjournal.com/columnists/pnoonan/   Excellent article here which goes a bit more in depth regarding the atrocities Deep Throat's actions precipitated. Excerpt:

"Even if Mr. Felt had mixed motives, even if he did not choose the most courageous path in attempting to spread what he thought was the truth, his actions might be judged by their fruits. The Washington Post said yesterday that Mr. Felt's information allowed them to continue their probe. That probe brought down a president. Ben Stein is angry but not incorrect: What Mr. Felt helped produce was a weakened president who was a serious president at a serious time. Nixon's ruin led to a cascade of catastrophic events--the crude and humiliating abandonment of Vietnam and the Vietnamese, the rise of a monster named Pol Pot, and millions--millions--killed in his genocide. America lost confidence; the Soviet Union gained brazenness. What a terrible time. Is it terrible when an American president lies and surrounds himself by dirty tricksters? Yes, it is. How about the butchering of children in the South China Sea. Is that worse? Yes. Infinitely, unforgettably and forever.

And so the story that Mark Felt was Deep Throat exposes old fissures, and those fissures are alive and can burst open because a wound this size--all this death, all this loss--doesn't really heal."

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