Wednesday, June 01, 2005

NOTES ON DEEP THROAT. My favorite candidate was always Al Haig. There have been reports over the years that Haig did much to keep things on an even keel while Richard Nixon was going through his final freakout. According to one account whose origins I have long since forgotten, Haig even went so far as to make the top military officials promise to check with him before carrying out a Nixonian order to stage a coup against Congress.

So yesterday's revelation that Deep Throat was actually Mark Felt, the number-two official at the FBI, was anticlimactic. For one thing, it had long been rumored to be Felt. For another, I knew nothing about him until I read the Vanity Fair article (PDF) yesterday afternoon. The buzz factor for Felt was pretty low.

I was in high school when Watergate played out. Nixon's resignation came just before I began college. For liberals right around my age, Nixon gave us what George W. Bush gives the right today: moral certainty. We were absolutely, utterly convinced that Nixon was the most evil person ever to occupy the presidency. Today, Nixon's actual public policies look positively enlightened compared to those of Bush, but there's still little question that Nixon's evil streak was unsurpassed. How did you like his dark mutterings about the Jews that were reported yesterday? Kind of sends a chill up your spine, doesn't it?

The most repulsive performances I saw yesterday were turned in by the Kennedy School's David Gergen, who served many presidents, including Nixon, and Chuck Colson, the Watergate figure who's best known for having found God while he was in prison. On CNN's NewsNight, they both denounced Felt for having gone to the media rather than to his superiors at the FBI and the Justice Department. Colson didn't surprise me; Gergen did. I guess it was a good illustration of the limits of a timid bureaucrat in a moment of crisis. Mark Felt, whatever else he was, was no timid bureaucrat.

Yesterday afternoon, Wendell Woodman, a freelance political columnist based at the State House, in Boston, blasted out an e-mail containing a column he wrote in 1995 in which he speculated that Felt was Deep Throat. The column was preceded by an introductory note stating that Woodman had actually fingered Felt as far back as the early 1970s.

Here is the column - and you've got to love the Florida voting-fraud angle. Some things never change. I've fixed a few spellings of names.

No, Diane Sawyer was not "Deep Throat," as Rabbi Baruch Korff, an old confidante of President Nixon, suggested Monday for the amusement of AP.

Diane may be Deep Flattered. But "Deep Throat" was Mark Felt.

The Associated Press attributed the rabbi's guess to the fact that Diane was an assistant to White House Press Secretary Ron Ziegler in 1972. AP promptly added Diane into the sauce with former FBI director L. Patrick Gray and then-National Security deputy Alexander Haig as Throat candidates.

Author Bob Woodward of the Washington Post and "All The President's Men" insists the source who helped him and fellow reporter Carl Bernstein break the Watergate story was a guy.

That would be Mark Felt.

After three Miami television stations projected the results of the September, 1970 primary elections in Florida's Dade County "down to the last digit" as soon as the polls closed, Henry Petersen, who headed the U.S. Justice Department's Criminal Division, was instructed to begin an investigation.

Throughout 1971 and into 1972, the Nixon White House - notably Attorney General John Mitchell and Nixon aides H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman - received regular briefings. Richard Nixon, who was sure that vote fraud in Illinois and Texas had cost him the presidency in 1960, was a fanatic on the subject and in 1972 ordered Petersen to accelerate the probe.

As soon as FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover died on May 2, 1972, a 27-year-old Justice Department employee named Craig C. Donsanto signed Petersen's name to a "courtesy" letter telling Democratic Congressman Claude Pepper of Miami that all hell was about to break loose. Pepper learned that Democratic National Committee offices based at the Watergate ostensibly were in cahoots with a California computing firm anxious to corner the market on the new computer voting industry and that Dade County had been a guinea pig.

Promising him assistance in his career, Pepper prevailed on Donsanto to stamp a "National Security" embargo on the FBI file. That file is still classified. But two Miami reporters, Kenneth and James Collier, managed to obtain copies of it - at about the time Bob Graham was elected Governor of Florida in 1978.

One of the three TV stations implicated in the 1970 fraud case was WPLG-TV of Miami, an affiliate of the Washington Post and Newsweek, and the property of Post owner Katharine Graham, who is Bob Graham's brother-in-law. The call letters WPLG were a tribute to her late husband, Philip L. Graham.

The Watergate burglars (from Miami, you will recall) did not break into the Watergate to tap a telephone. It doesn't take six people to do that. They were looking for evidence of vote fraud and conspiracy.

Thanks to Donsanto's counterfeit letter to Pepper, the offices were germ-free. They didn't even leave milk and cookies for the six burglars.

Thanks to a grateful Claude Pepper, Craig Donsanto quickly became chief of the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section and, by 1984, was Special Prosecutor in the Voting Fraud Section, responsible for all federal voting fraud cases in the United States. Gives you a warm feeling, right?

Although Petersen's case was derailed by the treachery in his office, those who were party to those matters viewed the Watergate debacle as a race between Nixon and the Post to see which would nail the other first.

New to his job as Acting Director of the FBI at the time of the burglary, L. Patrick Gray was forced to rely on the judgment and expertise of the man who had been J. Edgar Hoover's aide and confidante - Mark Felt.

As a junior departmental attorney whose new Godfather was Claude Pepper, Donsanto scored more career points for himself at Justice by feeding everything he had on the case to Mark Felt.

The currency of choice is Washington is information, favors.

Perhaps Mark Felt did feed some of that to Gray, but certainly Gray would not have passed it along to the Post from his tenuous role as "Acting" director of the FBI. That identifies the crafty Mark Felt as "Deep Throat." That conclusion is not a stretch (indeed, it's unavoidable) once we rid ourselves of the nursery rhyme about six burglars trying to tap a telephone.

When in 1982 the Colliers invited Washington Post Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward to view a six-hour videotape of voting fraud in Dade County and inquired "what Katharine Graham knew and when she knew it?" Woodward replied, "Don't start a war with me on this."

As late as 1983, the State Attorney for Dade County, a lady named Janet Reno (ring a bell?) was urging the Governor of Florida to name a special prosecutor to press the so-called Votescam case. But the Governor, a future U.S. Senator named Bob Graham (ring a bell?) refused her requests.

By 1984, expecting a challenge from Gov. Graham for her U.S. Senate seat in 1986, Republican Sen. Paula Hawkins sponsored an order to create a special select Senate committee on voting abuse, and prevailed on then-Attorney General William Smith and two of his deputies to view the video.

Everything is under lock-and-key, at least in Florida.

Bob Woodward's source on a private Oval Office conversation between President Clinton and a member of his cabinet (related in his book, "The Agenda: Inside the Clinton White House") will be revealed 74 years from now, he promises. In another book, "Veil", he related a 1986 deathbed confession of CIA Director William J. Casey about Iran-Contra thusly: "I believed."

Why a comatose patient fresh from a craniotomy would pass that along to the man who brought down Nixon just because he snuck by a committee of CIA security men at Georgetown Hospital is curious. If he was hoping that Woodward would pass it along to the Roman Catholic Church, he got his wish. It's on page 507.

As to the other matter, "Deep Throat" was Mark Felt.

Woodman wasn't the only one to guess correctly - as others have noted, the Washingtonian settled on Felt as the likely candidate as far back as 1974. But this is impressive nevertheless.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Deep Throat revelation is fascinating on so many levels. Not in the least, it supports those who believe the FBI and NSA routinely "listen in" to just about everyone and everything, warrant or no warrant.

Given that, I have to wonder what the impact will be on the Bush Administration: namely, will the fact that DT was an G-man encourage others with knowledge of the BA's wrongdoings to come forward? And will the media obsession with DT take attention away from Bush and his unAmerican activities -- or thrust them even more into the spotlight?

Mike_B

Anonymous said...

Fascinating stuff. As I said privately, I too liked the Al Haig angle, wanted to believe it.

Felt's denials over the years were pretty good stuff too. Minor equivocation pointing to shame at the betrayal of trust as motive for keeping the secret so long?

The Washingtonian got it right in 1974 !?

Interesting that this story, in process 2 years, breaks during the confidential source flap.

John Dean defends his book, is compelled to question Felt's access to the White House (as Deep Throat obviously had). The 1974 Washingtonian articles answered that 31 years ago ...

"We asked a former high FBI aide about this. He said, 'Felt would have had good White House contacts before Watergate. Deke DeLoach was the Hoover aide who always was closest to the White House. When DeLoach retired in 1970, much of the White House liaison responsibility went to Felt. There was a lot of direct contact between the FBI and the White House—there always has been.' So it's not difficult to visualize a Mark Felt on the phone every day with his White House contacts, talking about how the FBI investigation was coming and how the White House was reacting."
Washingtonian [Part 2, Aug.74]

Slate, Slate

Dan Schorr & Chuck Coulson debating on "The Connection" on WBUR now ...

Coulson and Dean saying it couldn't be Felt is amazing, since the Tapes say Haldemann told Nixon it was Felt ...At least 3 years ago, the Tapes were released that Nixon / Haldeman knew all along.

"'Somebody in the FBI?' the president asks.

'Yes, sir. Mark Felt,' Haldeman says." [PressDemocrat]

Coulson is spinning that Deep Throat's actions were equally culpable to Coulson's own conviction for releasing FBI files ... But he didn't release files, he provided warm/cold hints only, guiding them away from dead ends and towards the truth with the famous "Follow the money" and "all the way up" hints.

--- Cheers,

Bill R

Anonymous said...

Fascinating but depressing to once again learn that the corruption of the system extends to both parties. Rhetoric aside, if the "clean hands" theory of courtrooms were applied, Washington would be a whole lot quieter.

efg said...

I was a Watergate junkie, but never considered Felt at the time, for two reasons: (1) The FBI and the Justice Dept were compromised. A former attorney genereal (Mitchell) and an acting FBI director (who's name escapes me) pled guilty to felonies. (2) Felt himself was convicted of approving illegal searches and seizures (see Eileen McNamara's column in today's Globe) http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2005/06/01/throat_soreness/ - which I had forgotten.

efg said...

BTW, most of the stuff in Woodman's column is just so much ranting, of the 1950's "well, you went to Harvard, and there were commies at Harvard, so you must be a commie" school.

Anonymous said...

When in doubt about Felt,Nixon thinks: Catholic or Jew ?

"Nixon is particularly after one Mark Felt, who is in a top position at the FBI and is thought to be Nixon's nemesis and the source of unflattering leaks. "Is he a Catholic?" Nixon asks Haldeman, who replies that Felt is Jewish. "Christ, put a Jew in there?" Nixon exclaims, and Haldeman adds, "Well, that could explain it, too." The rambling dialogue continues, with Nixon saying, "It could be the Jewish thing. I don't know. It's always a possibility."

tony schinella said...

Interesting that he would bring this up since it was then-Rep. Claude Pepper who the Colliers claimed rigged his election! Everyone should read their book, "Votescam: The stealing of America." I got to interview Jim a couple of times on my WMFO talk show and he had some pretty interesting stories to tell.

Thanks for passing this on Dan.