- 12 Jun 2012 culture Leak: Why Mark Felt Became Deep Throat
very short list is a
The title of Robert Redford’s new documentary, which aired on the Discovery Channel last night, is All the President’s Men Revisited. At times, it seems more like All the President’s Men Repeated. Though created to coincide with the 40th anniversary of Watergate, the first half of the film contains little that could not be found in Alan J. Pakula’s 1976 political thriller starring Redford and Dustin Hoffman. You know the story: A pair of scrappy young reporters named Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein stick to their guns when nobody else will, and their reporting helps to bring down a president.
This is, to be sure, a terrific story. No matter how many times you’ve heard it before, there is something gripping about watching Nixon’s slow, painful descent into national disgrace. Redford’s film hits all the highlights: Nixon’s press secretary Ron Ziegler dismissing the original break-in as a “third-rate burglary”; Woodward and Bernstein scrambling to “follow the money” all the way to the White House; Nixon aide Alexander Butterfield admitting to Congress that his boss maintained a voice-activated taping system; Nixon’s restrained farewell address to the nation, then his devastating, heartfelt goodbye to the White House staff.
As far as it goes, the film is a reasonably adequate primer on Watergate mythology, and it’s certainly fun to watch. But it is also a missed opportunity for historical reflection—and one that, given the age of most Watergate participants, is unlikely to come around again. Forty years out, we know most of the basic facts about Watergate. The real challenge is figuring out what they all meant.
The film begins with footage of Nixon mugging for cameramen (awkwardly, as always) just before his August 1974 resignation speech. Redford then cuts back to June 1972, when the neophyte reporter Woodward received an assignment involving some sort of botched break-in at DNC headquarters. There is no hint of the controversies that have dogged Woodward in recent years, such as the accusation that his reporting (then and now) relies too heavily on anonymous inside sources. Redford sticks to the script first introduced in Woodward and Bernstein’s 1974 book All the President’s Men, then repeated in the 1976 film, laying out how the “good guys” in the media got the bad guy in the White House.
We now know, however, that Watergate was more complicated than that. Woodward and Bernstein did perform heroic work in the early months after the break-in. But the Watergate story didn’t capture national attention until 1973, well after Nixon had been re-elected to office. In those early months, some of the Post’s best information came straight from government investigators, already conducting their own troubled but expansive inquiries largely outside of public view. By far the most famous of these was Deep Throat—now largely accepted to have been W. Mark Felt, the FBI’s No. 2 man, who died in 2008. The film shows an aged Felt waving at reporters from behind his walker in 2005, when he revealed his identity to Vanity Fair. But Redford barely explores the implications of this revelation: Was Felt using Woodward for his own ends, and if so why?
Read the entire Slate article here.
Technorati Tags: Alan Pakula, Alexander Butterfield, All the President's Men, All the President's Men Revisited, Ben Bradlee, Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein, Deep Throat, Dustin Hoffman, FBI, Hugh Sloan, John Dean, L. Patrick Gray, Richard Nixon, Robert Redford, W. Mark Felt, war of succession, Washington Post, Watergate, Watergate, William Goldman
In Newsweek, Max Holland asks: Why is this man an American icon?
For the past week Washington has found itself debating Bob Woodward. The occasion: his very public argument with White House senior official Gene Sperling, in which Woodward left the impression that Sperling had somehow tried to intimidate him—only to see this accusation undermined by the release of an email exchange in which the pair sounded rather conciliatory.
Bob Woodward at his home in Georgetown. (Andrew Cutraro/Redux)
Almost all the commentary about this flap fits neatly under the heading, “What the Hell Happened to Bob Woodward?” But posing that question, as New York magazine did last week, implies a transformation that never occurred. Woodward is the same now as he ever was. His misrepresentation of his interaction with Sperling is only the latest in a long string of questionable journalistic episodes.
To understand how this started, one has to begin near the beginning: Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s book about their Watergate exploits, All the President’s Men. The authors enjoyed titanic-sized credibility when the book appeared in the spring of 1974; not too many reporters could point to having received a public apology attesting to the veracity of their work from a press secretary to the president of the United States. (“I would apologize to the Post, and I would apologize to Mr. Woodward and Mr. Bernstein,” Ron Ziegler had said on May 1, 1973, retracting his earlier criticism of the newspaper’s articles on Watergate.) The natural assumption was that Woodstein’s book would meet that same high standard. Why would their nonfiction for The Washington Post differ from nonfiction written for Simon and Schuster?
Read the entire article here.
Technorati Tags: All the President's Men, Barry Sussman, Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein, Deep Throat, FBI, Jeff Himmelman, John Mitchell, Judy Hoback, Leak, Max Holland, Richard Nixon, The Secret Man, W. Mark Felt, Washington Post, Watergate, Woodstein, Yours in Truth
David Warsh on All the President's Men
I like movies as much as the next guy, maybe more, but I was sorry to learn that Michelle Obama had announced the Oscar for the best picture last Sunday. She made the announcement via video feed from the White House. Presidential participation in the Academy Awards gives Hollywood story-telling a legitimacy that it does not deserve. Feature films entertain, inspire, illuminate, amuse. But truth-telling, as it is understood by acolytes of science, history and news, is pretty far down on their list.
Some cases in point this year: Canadians are annoyed because their involvement in the caper depicted in “Argo” was significantly underplayed. “Lincoln” screenwriter Tony Kushner and director Steven Spielberg needed to build the drama in their climactic scene, so they invented two Connecticut congressmen to vote “No” as the roll was called on the Thirteenth Amendment, abolishing slavery. “Zero Dark Thirty,” about the pursuit of Osama Bin Laden, ran into trouble in Congress because of the value (the film-makers were purposefully vague) ascribed to information produced by torture.
But the best example of Hollywood’s tendency to embroider to the point of fabrication is nearly forty years old. (I should say that I am leaving director Oliver Stone out of the discussion altogether.) That is the spin that director Alan Pakula and screenwriter William Goldman put on the motivation of the anonymous source known as “Deep Throat,” in their 1976 film version of Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward’s Watergate best-seller, All the President’s Men.
To read entire article click here.
Technorati Tags: Alan Pakula, All the President's Men, Barry Sussman, Ben Bradlee, Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein, Deep Throat, FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, L. Patrick Gray, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Richard Nixon, W. Mark Felt, Washington Post, Watergate, William Goldman
In a two-part review, Craig Henry writes, “Max Holland’s Leak might have been the most important book published in 2012. Combining painstaking research with a dogged determination to separate fact from myth, Leak is a careful examination of Mark Felt and his role in Watergate.”
Part 1: Felt’s Game
Part 2: The Problem with Sources
The press’ role was important in unearthing the scandal, but it wasn’t nearly as overarching as earlier assessments suggested.
By Max Holland
Max Holland is the author of Leak: Why Mark Felt Became Deep Throat
(University Press of Kansas, 2012).
It has taken all of the 40 years since the June 1972 break-in at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C., to arrive at a proper understanding of the media's role in the scandal that broke a presidency. Even then, it is not the sheer passage of time that permits a balanced accounting. Rather, it is time plus some key disclosures and documents, including information gleaned from recordings surreptitiously made by President Richard M. Nixon; recent releases by the FBI under the Freedom of Information Act; the 2007 opening of critical portions from the Woodward and Bernstein Papers at the University of Texas's Ransom Center; and finally, confirmation, in 2005, that the über-secret source known as Deep Throat was in actuality W. Mark Felt, the bureau's No. 2 man in 1972-73.
Integrating all this information results in an understanding that diverges markedly from the first draft of history presented in Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward's 1974 book, "All the President's Men," and two years later, glorified in the eponymous movie. To be sure, the press played an instrumental, possibly irreplaceable, role. Yet contrary to the legend fomented by the book and film, the media did not save the day with truth its only weapon.
The linchpin in this mythic version, of course, has always been Deep Throat, or more precisely, the widespread public perception of his role. Regardless of whether one believed Woodward's initial 1974 rendering (Felt as principled whistle blower, trying to save the office of the presidency), or the more nuanced 2005 version presented in "The Secret Man" (Felt as savvy bureaucrat, trying to protect the bureau from Nixon's clutches), the fable hinged on the clandestine-minded Deep Throat and his "deep background" arrangement with Woodward. The late Christopher Hitchens noted as much when he observed, in his New York Times review of "The Secret Man," that Watergate ranked "as the single most successful use of the news media by an anonymous unelected official with an agenda of his own."
So long as there was no consensus about Felt's true design, there was a gaping hole at the center of the narrative. The new documentation fills that void, and fractures the fairy tale at the same time.Read the entire article here.
Books in the Law
Leak: Why Mark Felt Became Deep Throat
By Max Holland
University Press of Kansas, 2012
Review by Joseph C. Goulden
The who of the Deep Throat mystery that captivated Washington for decades was not resolved until Mark Felt, the former number two man at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), revealed in 2005 that he was the unnamed source who fed information to Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward during the Watergate investigation. But left dangling was why he chose to breach the bureau’s code of silence and give a journalist inside information on one of the more sensitive criminal investigations of the century.
In their first book on Watergate, All the President’s Men, published in 1974, Woodward and Post colleague Carl Bernstein depicted Deep Throat (who they did not name) as a selfless, high–ranking official intent on exposing the lawlessness of the Nixon White House. Deep Throat, they wrote, “was trying to protect the office [of the presidency] to effect a change in its conduct before all was lost.” A secondary goal was to prevent the FBI from being corrupted by being drawn into a White House cover–up.
That statement turns out to be 100 percent false, according to Max Holland, whose exhaustively researched work is a must-read for any person interested in the tangled scandal that drove President Nixon from office. (And let me admit it: As did uncountable thousands of other Washingtonians, I delighted in “wallowing in Watergate” during the months in 1972–73 when the story unfolded. And despite the flaws pointed out by Holland, I continue to admire Woodward and Bernstein for keeping the story alive when it received scant media attention elsewhere.)
As Holland authoritatively establishes, Felt (who died in 2008) turns out not to be an altruistic hero, but a scheming bureaucrat who yearned to replace J. Edgar Hoover as FBI director, and did so by staging a smear campaign in an attempt to discredit rivals for the job.
His targets were L. Patrick Gray, named acting director after Hoover’s death in May 1972, and eventual successor, William D. Ruckelshaus. (Another aspirant to the position, William Sullivan, already had self–immolated by leaking material derogatory of Hoover to columnists Bob Novak and Rowland Evans in 1971.)
Further, contrary to public perceptions nurtured by Woodward and Bernstein (and by extension, The Post itself) that they “uncovered” Watergate, the truth is somewhat different. Actually, as Holland writes (and documents), “the newspaper essentially tracked the progress of the FBI’s investigation, with a time delay ranging from weeks to days, and published elements of the prosecutors’ case well in advance of the trial.”
Read the entire review here.
Athan Theoharis | July 18, 2012
Leak: Why Mark Felt Became Deep Throat, by Max Holland, University Press of Kansas, 285 pp., $29.95.
The timely publication of Max Holland's Leak, coming on the 40th anniversary of the Watergate break-in, promotes a needed reassessment of two myths about the Watergate scandal. The first myth is that the reporting skills and diligence of two Washington Post cub reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, uncovered the abuses of power in Richard Nixon's White House and led to the president's forced resignation in August 1974.
Holland, editor of the website Washington Decoded, acknowledges the limited importance of Woodward and Bernstein's reporting but contends that their contribution pales in contrast to that of Federal Judge John Sirica, Sen. Sam Ervin's investigation and public hearings, the testimony of White House aides John Dean and Alexander Butterfield, and the inquiries of the special prosecutor and the House Judiciary Committee (the latter when considering articles of impeachment).
The second, more important myth involves W. Mark Felt, the acting FBI associate director who in 1972 became Woodward's secret source, dubbed "Deep Throat." Holland rebuts Woodward and Bernstein's portrayal of Felt as a principled official who leaked information because he was concerned over the lawlessness of the Nixon White House. Felt's motives, as Holland convincingly documents, were more prosaic: He wanted Nixon to question whether he could trust Acting FBI Director L. Patrick Gray to control the FBI, thus leading the president to appoint Felt as the permanent FBI director, filling the vacancy caused by J. Edgar Hoover's recent death. Holland further documents that Felt withheld from Woodward some particularly explosive information about the White House attempting to use the CIA to contain the FBI's Watergate investigation. At other times, Felt passed on misinformation.
Holland's disclosure of Felt's insubordination does raise an important question: What emboldened this senior FBI official to betray his ostensible superior (while cunningly conveying the impression of a loyal acolyte), in the process unintentionally undermining Nixon's presidency?
The answer requires an understanding of the FBI's political culture forged during J. Edgar Hoover's 48-year tenure as the bureau's director. Since the mid-1930s, Hoover had expanded the FBI's role beyond federal law enforcement to operate surreptitiously as a political containment agency. FBI agents, accordingly, began to amass derogatory information about the personal and political activities of radical activists and prominent Americans, at times through the use of recognizably illegal investigative techniques. This information did not (and could not) advance legitimate law enforcement interests. Instead, Hoover and his senior aides exploited the information they acquired to advance their own bureaucratic and political agendas.
Read the entire article here.
By Michael Miner, 3 July 2012 at 01:25 PM
Though anyone with an ounce of romance in his soul would prefer to think of Deep Throat as a patriot with a keen sense of the dramatic, given to blowing the whistle on scoundrels in late-night meetings in parking lots, Leak advises us not to. To quote my April column on Holland's book, it makes the case that Felt's motives were "cynical and opportunistic." President Nixon had passed over Felt for the top job at the FBI after J. Edgar Hoover died in May 1972, and Felt still wanted it. Secretly discrediting L. Patrick Gray, who was Nixon's choice as acting director, by leaking details of the FBI's own Watergate investigation, struck Felt as the way to go.
"Felt held the news media in contempt," wrote Holland, "and was neither a high-minded whistle-blower, nor was he genuinely concerned about defending his institution’s integrity. He was not even hopelessly embittered—just calculating.”
With publication, Holland's interest in Felt, Watergate, and the Post has not abated, and he occasionally writes to pass along things he's turned up. The other day he sent two letters written shortly after Hoover died. They were written by Bill Sullivan, Felt's predecessor as deputy associate director, to former assistant attorney general Robert Mardian. They come from Mardian's papers at the Hoover Institution and were dug up there by Dr. Luke Nichter of Texas A&M University.
Read the entire article here.
Here's an excerpt.
Jun 12, 2012 4:45 AM EDT
Ben Bradlee isn’t the only one raising questions about All the President’s Men. Max Holland probes director Alan Pakula’s papers and finds more evidence of literary license.
The New Journalism wave was cresting when Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward published All the President’s Men in 1974. Yet the book, curiously, was not considered an outstanding exemplar. The two were hailed, rather, as New Muckrakers, befitting the emphasis on them as Washington Post reporters rather than Simon & Schuster authors.
Affixing ATPM in the New Journalism firmament however, even at this late date, explains a lot about the book and the controversy it still generates 40 years after the “third-rate burglary” that brought down a president. Just last month, the revelation (in Jeff Himmelman’s new biography) that Post executive editor Ben Bradlee harbored a “residual fear in [his] soul” about the accuracy of some Deep Throat–related details in ATPM provoked a major media flap.
The basis for evaluating ATPM against the backdrop of the New Journalism comes from an unimpeachable source: the Alan J. Pakula papers at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles. This is mildly surprising because no one was more responsible than Pakula, director of the eponymous 1976 movie, for turning "Woodstein" into the heroes of a mythic Hollywood Western (albeit one set in Washington).
Yet Pakula also sought to inject well-researched verisimilitude in his film. He obtained a heretofore unseen copy of Woodstein’s typewritten notes from a September 1972 interview with a key Watergate source. He interviewed Woodstein in 1975, as well as Harry Rosenfeld and Barry Sussman, the editors who directly supervised their work, and many others. All this occurred well before memories had become distant or gauzy. The Watergate duo had yet to become icons. Their recollections, and recollections about them, were not yet fully scripted.
* * *
From left to right: Robert Redford, Jason Robards, Jack Warden, Dustin Hoffman, director Alan J. Pakula, and Martin Balsam, in 1976. (Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images)
Before delving into the papers, it’s useful to recall what the New Journalism was all about. The technique employed literary devices that were normally considered the domain of novels and put them to work in essays and books that purported to be nonfiction. New Journalism apostle Tom Wolfe asserted the style was not only not fiction, but had “already proven itself more accurate than traditional journalism.”
Wolfe identified the four tools New Journalism practitioners used to such great effect:
Woodstein only had to be nudged to resort to these devices when they wrote ATPM (although they certainly hadn’t used them in their 1972 Watergate coverage for the newspaper). Woodward once aspired to be a novelist. He crafted an entire book before graduating from Yale, only to be devastated when a publisher responded with a boilerplate rejection. Bernstein, according to the 1976 book The New Muckrakers by Len Downie Jr. (Bradlee’s eventual successor), saw himself as “an unappreciated newspaper pioneer of the ‘new journalism,’ in which long, dramatic and somewhat subjective narrative recreations of events would replace terse, dry, just-the-facts reporting”—a form Bernstein regarded as mere “stenography.” After covering the 1967 march on the Pentagon, the subject matter of Norman Mailer’s Pulitzer Prize–winning Armies of the Night, Bernstein had been so “bowled over” by Mailer’s technique, according to Woodstein biographer Alicia Shepard, that he pushed for ATPM to use the same third-person voice in a firsthand account.
The New Journalism was not without its detractors. The critic Dwight MacDonald argued it was actually a bastard form—“parajournalism” he called it—for the style was trying to have it both ways: “exploiting the factual authority of journalism and the atmospheric license of fiction.” In the hands of a less-than-scrupulous writer, the shifting of gears could be so casual that a reader would have no way of knowing, at any given moment, which end was up.
If ATPM owes a debt to the New Journalism, what model of it did Woodstein embrace? Answering this question is where the Pakula papers come in particularly handy.
* * *
Read the entire article here.
very short list is a
Revealing Snitch's Motivation
By Wes Vernon
As America approaches the 40th anniversary of the Watergate break-in, which brought down the Nixon presidency, no historical discussion of the scandal will be complete without including the extensive research done by author Max Holland.
Leak: Why Mark Felt Became Deep Throat centers on a little-known but significant factor that drove much of the drama: the pure personal pique of one man. Mark Felt, then the FBI’s No. 2 official, was miffed that President Nixon had not appointed him to replace the legendary J. Edgar Hoover upon the latter’s death nearly seven weeks before the break-in.
Washington has long been a magnet for those imbued with the worst instincts of the Machiavellian back-stabber. Even by that standard, Felt’s deceitful maneuvering against the man the president had picked for the job, the decent but altogether too trusting L. Patrick Gray, leaves one breathless.
As a veteran of the FBI, the somewhat obsequious Felt had ingratiated himself to Hoover. With a feigned transfer of that loyalty to the newly appointed Gray, the man who would become “Deep Throat” actually set out to destroy his new boss. It rankled him that Gray had been selected from outside the bureau’s ranks for the top job (pending confirmation).
Felt accomplished his destructive goal in several ways, the centrality of which was leaking to the media details of the FBI’s ongoing Watergate investigation. Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein were among the chief beneficiaries of that steady stream of information.
Because the specifics of the probe had not yet been made public, spreading the incomplete findings to the public would make it appear to the White House that Gray was incapable of controlling the agency—and also leave the impression that the FBI was complicit in a cover-up. Felt’s goal was that Gray would be denied the permanent appointment as director and, while making his exit, would recommend his “loyal aide,” Mark Felt.
Read the entire review here.
The story is called "The Red Flag in the Flowerpot." The cast of characters consists of Ben Bradlee, editor of the Washington Post at the time of Watergate and father figure to Bob Woodward, young and relentless reporter who made his name uncovering Watergate scoops; and Jeff Himmelman, Woodward’s protege at the Post who, thanks to Woodward, was invited by Bradlee to sort through boxes of Bradlee’s old papers with an eye to writing a book about him.
The text is extracted and adapted from that book—Himmelman’s new biography of Bradlee, Yours in Truth.
The critical passage: In 1990 Bradlee was interviewed by Barbara Feinman, who was helping him write a memoir. Bradlee was talking about Watergate, and he allowed: “You know I have a little problem with Deep Throat. Did that potted [plant] incident ever happen? . . . and meeting in some garage. One meeting in the garage? Fifty meetings in the garage? I don’t know how many meetings in the garage . . . There’s a residual fear in my soul that that isn’t quite straight.”
Deep Throat was a character introduced by Woodward and his collaborator Carl Bernstein in their book All the President’s Men, and turned into one of cinema’s all-time Men of Mystery in the movie version of the book. Deep Throat was Woodward’s special source, and Woodward is only being human if he wants no one to think there was anything hinky about him. Himmelman shows Woodward what he’d come across Bradlee saying, and then dwells on Woodward’s reaction.
Seven minutes after he’d started reading, he put the pages down and looked up at me. He was visibly shaken. “I’m not sure what” he said, all vigor drained from his voice. Then, quietly: “What’s the question?”
“There is no question,” I said uncertainly.
Himmelman writes, “The way Bob saw it, the publication of those quotations from Ben would undermine his own legacy, Ben’s legacy, and the legacy of the Post on Watergate.” But Bradlee seems to think Woodward (his protege, as Himmelman was Woodward’s) is being a little hysterical. A meeting is arranged between Bradlee, Woodward, and Himmelman at Bradlee’s home.
When Bob arrived, he didn’t look like he’d slept a lot. We shook hands, but only in the most perfunctory way. Ben sat at the head of the dining-room table, and I sat to Ben’s left, facing Bob. There was no small talk. Bob had brought a thick manila folder with him, which he set down heavily on the table in a way that he meant for us to notice. When Ben asked what it was, Bob said, “Data.” Then he asked Ben what he thought of the whole situation.
“I’ve known this young man for some years now,” Ben said, meaning me, “and I trust his skills and his intent.” Then he looked down at the transcript and said, “Nothing in here really bothers me, but I know there’s something in here that bothers you. What’s in here that bothers you?”
Bob went into his pitch, which he proceeded to repeat over the course of the meeting. He would read the “residual fear” line out loud, and then say he couldn’t ﬁgure out how Ben could still have had doubts about his reporting so many years after Nixon resigned. This was the unresolvable crux of the problem, and one they circled for the duration of the meeting: How could Ben have doubted the ﬂowerpots and the garage meetings, when the rest of the reporting had turned out to be true? Bob thought this was inconsistent and hurtful. Ben didn’t. Bob tried everything he could to get Ben to disavow what he had said, or at least tell me I couldn’t use it. Ben wouldn’t do either of those things. “Bob, you’ve made your point,” Ben said after Bob had made his pitch four or five times. “Quit while you’re ahead.”
Himmelman sets up his tale adroitly. He identifies himself as professionally beholden to Woodward ("As a reporter, I was in awe of him") and Woodward as much more than that to Bradlee. (“I mean, you know, it’s ultimately like another father,” says Woodward of Bradlee. "Like with your father, you feel that you never close the deal.”) And having nailed down the always helpful Oedipal dimension, he promptly sets up Woodward to take a fall. Himmelman begins his account with a long discussion of another of All the President’s Men’s mysterious figures, an important source of Bernstein’s identified only as Z. (Z, a political thriller set in Greece, and Deep Throat were both famous films released while Richard Nixon was president, though they didn’t have much else in common. Well, each in its own way was breathless.) Himmelman lays out compelling reasons to believe that Z was actually a member of the grand jury investigating Watergate. If that’s so, it was a violation of the law that could have landed Bernstein and the juror in jail, and the two reporters have always insisted nothing of the sort ever happened.
The reader’s takeaway from this prologue: Woodward and Bernstein were a couple of young reporters chasing a huge, challenging story, and they weren’t above the sort of shenanigans that reporters have been pulling since the Founding Fathers signed off on the First Amendment. They certainly weren’t above putting their names to a romanticized account of their sleuthing in which flower posts were flagged to signal rendezvous and the rendezvous were held in dead of night in deserted garages.
Whoever Deep Throat turned out to be, it would be a letdown, and a few years ago we learned that he was Mark Felt, a high-ranking FBI official who possibly met with Woodward to serve the cause of liberty, but possibly had other reasons. I’ve written before in the Bleader about Leak, a recently published book by investigative reporter Max Holland that argues Felt used Woodward as much, if not more, than Woodward used Felt, and what Felt wanted out of the Washington Post’s reporting was acting FBI director Pat Gray so thoroughly discredited that President Nixon would ask Felt to take over the bureau.
Read entire article here.
New Questions About Deep Throat in All the President’s Men
In a new book, Washington Post boss Ben Bradlee questions the account of Deep Throat in All the President’s Men. Max Holland on the new Watergate debate.
1 May 2012
For several decades following the 1974 publication of All the President’s Men, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward have had to fend off critics of their bestselling account. For the most part, they have succeeded wildly, sloughing them off as ill-informed skeptics, untrustworthy revisionists, and plain sore losers.
But now comes a criticism from perhaps the one person capable of putting All the President’s Men in its place by poking holes in the Deep Throat saga. That’s because the voice of dissent is Ben Bradlee, the Washington Post editor made equally famous by the book and eponymous movie.
In a 1990 interview conducted by Barbara Feinman, who was then helping Bradlee compile his memoirs, the Post’s executive editor during its fabled Watergate coverage volunteered the observation, “You know I have a little problem with Deep Throat.”
“Did that potted [plant] incident ever happen? ... and meeting in some garage. One meeting in the garage? Fifty meetings in the garage? I don’t know how many meetings in the garage ... There’s a residual fear in my soul that that isn’t quite straight.”
Nothing akin to this sentiment appeared in Bradlee’s memoir, A Good Life, when it was published in 1995. The “residual fear” remark was discarded (an “outtake, Woodward would later call it), and the only discordant note Bradlee sounded was that in retrospect, he was “amazed” that he had accepted Woodward’s desire to keep Deep Throat’s identity secret from him. “[Given the high stakes] I don’t see how I settled for that, and I would not settle for that now,” Bradlee wrote.
Read the entire article here.
A new book recasts the heroes of Watergate.
When the manuscript of contributing editor Max Holland’s Leak: Why Mark Felt Became Deep Throat came my way last year, I searched in vain for an excerpt that could run in the WQ. Now I’m doubly sorry it didn’t work out, because Leak’s reconsideration of the myths surrounding Watergate is stirring useful controversy about how the scandal came to light and its lessons for today.
Leak is really two books. One is a dramatic retelling of the story of Mark Felt, the top FBI official who became Deep Throat, the famous anonymous source who helped Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein penetrate the secrets surrounding the Watergate scandal. In the mythology surrounding Watergate, Deep Throat (Felt’s identity wasn’t revealed until 2005) was a public spirited official whose revelations helped save the country from a lawless administration. But in Holland’s persuasive telling, Felt emerges as a villain worthy of Shakespeare, his only goal to win the top spot at the FBI after J. Edgar Hoover’s death. Felt talked to the two reporters only to make his rival, acting director L. Patrick Gray, appear incompetent and to convince Nixon to put the veteran Felt in charge. (And, ironically, Felt was forced out of the FBI by the machinations of another canny rival.)
The second book in Leak looks at the larger mythology surrounding Watergate and its central story line that two intrepid reporters prevailed against all odds in revealing high level malfeasance. In fact, Holland says, Woodward, Bernstein, and other reporters did excellent work, but they didn’t do much that official investigators in the FBI and elsewhere weren’t already doing. “The main effect of Deep Throat’s leaks was merely to accelerate the scandal by perhaps six months or a year.”
That’s where the shooting starts.
Read the entire article here.
"Deep Throat" Blowback:
Trying To Run a Wily, Venal Intelligence Source Who Is Running You
By Gary E. Harter
In January 2009, a funeral service was held for former FBI Associate Director W. Mark Felt in Santa Rosa, California. Among the many in attendance were journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. As Deep Throat, Felt had been instrumental in furthering their careers as reporters with the Washington Post. Both were eulogists. During his remarks and perhaps swept away by emotion of the moment, Woodward described his former source as a "truth teller." That statement was at variance with what Woodward wrote just a few years earlier. At that moment of clarity he pointed out that his "truth teller" lied to his colleagues, friends and family. Such is the state of modern journalism.
Oh, and to set the record straight, Woodward's "truth teller" didn't spare him from his veil of prevarication.
Richard Nixon once observed the verdict of history depends upon who writes it. While the president was referring to himself and his political legacy, this also applies to Mark Felt. Woodward assigned Felt the noblest of motives for his actions. After his public identification as Deep Throat, his motives were tailored to include saving the FBI from President Richard Nixon, and by inference, Acting Director L. Patrick Gray. Thus began the "Felt is a hero" nonsense. Then came the publication of Woodward's The Secret Man, closing the book on the Felt/Deep Throat saga. Or did it?
By 1974, the media template was set with the publication of Bernstein and Woodward's book on
their Watergate reporting. Two years later, a movie by the same name was released. In the movie, Felt/Deep Throat, brilliantly portrayed by Hal Holbrook, was always in shadow, cigarette in hand, gently guiding the young Robert Redford/Bob Woodward. With the passage of time, the importance of Felt/Deep Throat in the story seems more myth than reality.
Enter a new book examining the role, and possible motivations, of Mark Felt. Max Holland challenges the media template in Leak: Why Mark Felt Became Deep Throat. The author opines Felt w8s motivated by little more than spite for being passed over for the top job in the FBI. The careful reader will discover Felt saying much the same thing in his 1979 memoir.
In his reminisces about Mark Felt, Bob Woodward believes him to be a wise teacher, committed
to seeking the best version of the obtainable truth. That said, the Felt record of duplicity is impressive in scope. A short chronicle includes the "Canuck Letter" authorship, Donald Segretti's overall importance to the 1972 presidential campaign, Gray's knowledge of FBI wiretaps against journalists and White House staff members, and perhaps the grandest howler of all, the president was pressured to keep Gray at the FBI.
The strength of Leak is its quality of research. The author utilizes a wide variety of sources, including interviews with former executives and agents of the FBI, other US government officials, reporters, including Bob Woodward, oral histories, Nixon Library materials, Woodward/Bernstein Watergate Papers, selected US government records, and, of course, Watergate/political books, papers, studies. Out of this archival stew, the author weaves a likely and believable case for Felt's subterfuge and underlying motivation.
For Watergate aficionados this book is a must. It's also instructive for others interested in how some members of the press conveniently distort the truth to fit their ideology, to support some of their prior claims, and to sweeten future book deals. Felt's many leaks to the press were a naked attempt to distort reality in the Nixon White House with the ultimate goal of removing Pat Gray. His behavior exhibited little concern for those charged with investigating Watergate-related crimes; they were expendable pawns in his drive for power. And Felt realized his actions were shameful, and perhaps unlawful. This was a prime reason he declined the media spotlight. Felt understood his media-generated shelf-life would be brief. Mark Felt was clearly no hero, no savior of the republic, or custodian of the FBI flame. He was nothing more than a self-serving bureaucrat, consumed by career angst and envy, who believed the rules everyone else followed didn't apply to him. This is the underlying story of Leak, and why it is the unvarnished, definitive account of Mark Felt and his twisted relationship with the press.
Former Special Agent Gary E. Harter joined the FBI in 1972 and focused on counterintelligence issues and spy cases for much of his career. His appointment letter was signed by legendary FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. He retired after more than 30 years with the Bureau and works for BearingPoint. He is a frequent reviewer for AFIO publications. The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the FBI.
 Felt never met with Bernstein during the Watergate investigation. Felt's first and only meeting with Bernstein occurred in November 2008. At the time Felt was in home hospice care. The visit, described as a "family reunion" by the reporters, lasted two hours.
 Michelle Locke, "Deep Throat Regarded at Memorial as Truth Teller," AP, 17 January 2009.
 Bob Woodward, The Secret Man: The Story of Watergate's Deep Throat (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005), 5.
 "In brief, he knew there was a cover-up, knew higher-ups were involved, and did not trust the acting FBI director, Pat Gray. He knew the Nixon White House was corrupt. At the same time he was disappointed he did not get the directorship." From Bob Woodward's website, http://bobwoodward.com/question-answer.
 L. Patrick Gray, appointed acting director upon the death of J. Edgar Hoover in May 1972, was a Nixon loyalist working in the Justice Department at the time. Grey antagonized many of the "old guard" at the Bureau for relaxing standards on personal grooming, weight, and hiring women to become special agents. These and other assorted topics were covered in Felt's original memoir, The FBI Pyramid: From the Inside (New York: Putnam, 1979), 351, and its makeover, Mark Felt and John O'Connor, A G-Man's Life: The FBI, Being "Deep Throat," and the Struggle for Honor in Washington (New York: PublicAffairs, 2006), 321. Pat Gray was a decent, if somewhat naive individual when it came to dealing with the Nixon White House as well as senior FBI officials. Fortunately, he has chronicled his eventful 361 days as acting director in his splendid memoir, In Nixon's Web: A Year in the Crosshairs of Watergate (New York: Times Books, 2008), 321. The book was written with his son, Ed Gray, in large measure as a response to Felt's identification as Deep Throat.
 The following year, Felt's autobiographical remake, A G-Man's Life, was released to little fanfare. While it was a better presentation than its predecessor, it added little to the Deep Throat discussion.
 Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, All The President's Men (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1974), 349. This book features Woodward's best writing about Deep Throat/Felt.
 Theatrical release of All the President's Men was 9 April 1976.
 Barry Sussman, editor for the Washington Post, has continually disputed Felt's importance in the Post's Watergate reporting. During most of the scandal, Sussman was the Post's special Watergate editor. See "Why Deep Throat Was an Unimportant Source and Other Reflections on Watergate," Nieman Watchdog, 29 July 2005.
 Max Holland, Leak: Why Mark Felt Became Deep Throat (Lawrence, KN: University Press of Kansas, 2012), 275.
 FBI Pyramid, 226.
 The Secret Man, 183; All the President's Men, 131. Woodward believes Felt not only helped with his Watergate reporting, but taught him how to develop trusted relationships with future targets of opportunity. Woodward learned this lesson well.
 Leak, 93, 127. The FBI never investigated the Canuck Letter. According to Felt, this alleged discussion [to pressure Nixon] occurred during a meeting between Gray and President Nixon in the Oval Office in early February 1973. This record for this meeting is not found on Richard Nixon's official schedule.
 Sussman, "Why Deep Throat Was an Unimportant Source and Other Reflections on Watergate." Sussman believes Felt stayed in the background because his contribution was unimportant.
First published in Winter/Spring 2012 issue of The Intelligencer: Journal of US Intelligence Studies
Adapted with permission.