In the last couple of hours I've gotten half-a-dozen emails, and a couple of phone-calls, about Mark Felt's belated declaration (in the upcoming Vanity Fair) to the effect that he's Deep Throat. I've just done an interview with Fox (James Rosen/Britt Hume), and it looks like this is the story de jour.
That said, it's possible, maybe even likely, that you have no absolutely interest in Wategate. If so, put this down as parapolitical spam, and stop reading.
Anyway, here's my take on Felt's declaration:
1. He was badgered into it by family and friends. Felt is 91 years old, and counting. A reporter who recently interviewed him found the interview an incoherent waste of time, and killed his own story.
2. Felt has always denied that he was Deep Throat until, as we're told, members of his family recently pointed out to him there might be a buck in it, and that his children and grandchildren have bills to pay. (And there is a buck in it: Bob Loomis told me, 20 years ago, that Throat could probably get a $4-million advance from Random House for his life-story.)
3. Felt wrote a book about his career in the FBI. In it, he goes out of the way to say that he met Woodward on a single occasion. This was in Felt's FBI office, and the upshot of it was that Felt told Woodward that he would not cooperate with him in his pursuit of "Watergate."
4. After a careful study of Throat's relationship to the Washington Post and to the White House, first in Secret Agenda and subsequently while working with Len Garment, it became clear that no one in or around the Nixon White Hoouse was in a position to know all of the things that Throat is alleged to have told Woodward. For example, Felt had no way of knowing about the 18-and-a-half minute gap in Rosemary Woods' tape. This strongly suggests that Throat was a composite.
5. Just as importantly, if Felt was Throat, he betrayed the people for whom he was a source. This is so because the biggest story that anyone could have broken in the Summer of 1972 was Alfred Baldwin's decision to come forward and tell what he knew. An employee of James McCord's, Baldwin told the U.S. Attorney's office and the FBI that he had monitored some 250 telephone conversations from "the Listening Post," his room in the Howard Johnson's motel across the street from the Watergate. The significance of this information was that the public and the press believed that the Watergate break-in was a failure, and that the burglars were arrested before they could succeed in placing their bugs. Because of that, the public believed, no telephone calls were ever intercepted. Baldwin gave the lie to that, and Felt knew it. For him to have withheld that information from the Washington Post would not only have been a betrayal - it would not have made sense if Felt's alleged intention (as Throat) was to keep the story alive. (The Baldwin story was eventually broken in the Fall of 1972 by the Los Angeles Times.)
6. What we have here, then, is the sad spectacle of an old man being manipulated.
For the record, it seems to me that if anyone proposes to identify Deep Throat, or to identify the lead singer in the choir of sources subsumed by the identity of Throat, they must meet a very basic criterion. That is, they must demonstarate, at a minimum, that their candidate met repeatedly and secretly with Bob Woodward. (Throat is obviously Woodward's creation. I don't think Bernstein would know him from a bale of hay.)
The only person who meets that criterion, to my knowledge, is Robert Bennett. Now one of the most powerful men in the U.S. Senate, Bennett was President of the Robert R. Mullen Company in 1972-3. This was the CIA front for which Howard Hunt worked. (It was also the Washington representative of the Howard Hughes organization.) As I reported in Secret Agenda, Bennett's CIA case officer, Martin Lukoskie, drafted a memo to his boss, Eric Eisenstadt, reporting on his monthly debriefing of Bennett after the Watergate arrests. According to Eisenstadt, Bennett told him that he, Bennett, had "made a backdoor entry to the Washington Post through Edward Bennett Williams' office," and that he, Bennett, was feeding stories to Bob Woodward, who was "suitably grateful." (Williams was the Post's attorney, and attorney, also, for the Democratic National Committee.)
Woodward's gratefulness was manifest in the way he kept the CIA, in general, and the Robert R. Mullen Company, in particular, out of his stories. (I obtained the Lukoskie memo under the Freedom of Information Act. Eric Eisenstadt's reaction to that memo, which I also obtained under FOIA, was considered so secret that it was delivered by hand to then - CIA Director Richard Helms.
What bothers me the most about all this, and what inspires me to write this unforgiveably long email to so many about something so few care about, is the gullibility of "the press" - by which I mean Talking Heads like Jeffrey Toobin - who have bought Felt's story hook, line and sinker.
That Woodward and Bernstein have taken a no-comment stance toward Felt's story is interesting and probably predictable. On the one hand, if I'm right about Bennett being Throat, they have a serious problem where their source is concerned - not just that he was a composite, but that their relationship to him was predicated on a quid pro quo concealing the CIA's involvement in the Watergate story.