All My Little Words

The Death of Deep Throat

Posted in Uncategorized by nickchristian on December 23, 2008

deep_throat-fullNo, not the spectacularly impressive sexual practice but former FBI agent Mark Felt, key source for Woodward and Bernstein’s investigation into the Watergate burglary.

For more than thirty year’s the identity of Deep Throat was speculated upon, with Felt generally thought to be the most likely candidate, but never confirmed. Most interesting to me, once you get past the stealth and the subterfuge and the circling of page 20 in Woodward’s paper to arrange a meeting, are Felt’s motivations.

This article from the Atlantic, published more than ten years before Felt outed himself (or was coerced into outing himself, depending on who you believe), astutely gets to the heart of the matter, even without the confirmation of Deep Throat’s identity. Felt, in tipping off Bob Woodward, was not acting out of moral outrage at overreaches of a power-hungry executive, nor out of loyalty to his country.

Instead he was motivated by… well, it would be too simplistic to say revenge but certainly his intent contained no small measure of malice. The culture of the FBI, until his death in 1972, was dominated by the personality of J. Edgar Hoover. Although it existed within the executive branch it operated almost entirely independently of the White House. Nixon, ever the paranoiac, sought to impose himself upon the organization and bring its activities back into line by appointing a loyalist to the post of FBI director.

To an institutionalised figure such as Felt, himself having been a strong candidate for the top job, this was less than welcome. In his position as No. 3 at the bureau Felt was privy to the investigation into Watergate and had access to all manner of secrets. To publicly blow the whistle by informing the grand jury of all he knew would have meant self-defenestration so he went to the press instead. And the rest is history.

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