Jim Hougan

Jim Hougan

Jim Hougan was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1942. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin he became Washington editor of Harper's Magazine.

He is the author of three nonfiction books: Decadence: Radical Nostalgia, Narcissism, and Decline in the Seventies (1975), Spooks: Private Use of Secret Agents (1979), about the American intelligence community; and Secret Agenda (1984) about Watergate.

With his wife, Carolyn Hougan, he has written five thrillers under the pseudonym John Case: The Genesis Code (1998), Trance State (2002), The Eighth Day (2003), The First Horseman (2004), The Murder Artist (2004). Other books by Hougan include Kingdom Come (1995) and The Magdalene Cipher (2006).

Jim Hougan has also reported for National Public Radio’s All Things Considered and produced documentary films for Frontline, 60 Minutes, A&E, and the Discovery Channel.

Primary Sources

(1) Jim Hougan, Secret Agenda (1984)

According to Time magazine, only a handful people in the White House were privy at this early date to the existence of the tape gaps. They were Richard Nixon, Rose Mary Woods, Alexander Haig, Charles Colson, Stephen Bull (Alexander Butterfield's assistant) and three of the President's attorneys: Fred Buzhardt, Leonard Garment and Samuel Powers.

If Time is correct, and if Woodward and Bernstein have told the truth, then four of these eight must have been Bernstein's sources. Declaring Nixon and Woods "nonstarters," Time eliminated attorney Samuel Powers from consideration, saying that his tenure at the White House was too brief. Stephen Bull was then ruled out because he did not match Woodward's description of Throat. There, however, the magazine balked, unwilling to go any further. But of the four candidates with whom its readers were left, three could be eliminated at once. Colson, for example. The idea that Colson might be Deep Throat is as comical as it is surreal. Not only had he planned to "shove it to the Post, " but he would hardly have told Woodward-as Throat did-that he, Charles Colson, was the official to whom Howard Hunt was reporting about his undercover operations. Colson, in any case, can be eliminated as a candidate for Throat on the grounds that his government career ended in the midst of the Watergate affair, whereas Woodward tells us that Throat continued in federal service for years afterward. This same reason rules out Leonard Garment, and as for Fred Buzhardt, he cannot have been Deep Throat because, according to Woodward, "If [Throat] were to die, I would feel obliged to reveal his identity." Since Buzhardt is dead and we still do not know who Throat is, we must conclude that he is someone else.

Which is to say Haig, since only he is left among Time's eight candidates. But who is to say that the magazine was correct when it asserted that only eight people knew of the tape gaps during the first week in November i973? The White House was full of tremulous whispers in the fall of that year, and no one can say for certain just who knew what or when they learned it.

(2) Jim Hougan, Secret Agenda (1984)

In considering the identity of Bob Woodward's most important and most secret source, "Deep Throat," it should be said at the very beginning that any conclusion must be speculative. Only Woodward and Deep Throat-if there is a Deep Throat-can be certain of the latter's identity. And if, as many of Woodward's colleagues in the Washington press corps believe, Throat is actually a composite of several sources, then the secret of their separate identities may never be known.

Still, it is possible to reach some conclusions based upon what we know about Woodward and what we are told about Throat. If, for example, Deep Throat is a public figure who served in the Nixon administration in a highly visible capacity, then only one person comes close to satisfying Woodward's description of his source. If, on the other hand, Throat is (or was) a relatively obscure bureaucrat, then the problem is more complex.

One's interest in the subject is more than idle curiosity. As the guiding light behind much of the Post's Watergate reportage, Throat has a historic responsibility with respect to the Nixon administration's downfall. One would like to know who he is. The Post's editors insist that they are only protecting a valuable source. They would have us believe that Throat is an altruist who seeks no personal gain and who wants to shun the tribulations that sometimes attend whistle-blowers. The suggestion, then, is that Throat is a patriotic civil servant who, while outraged by the administration's disregard of constitutional concerns, fears the retribution that has been meted out to other whistle-blowers. But, surely, this is a specious argument. Throat belongs in a category different from that of GSA employees and disaffected CIA officers who have protested cost-overruns and underestimates of enemy troop strengths. The whistle that he blew was heard 'round the world, and a grateful nation has offered to bestow its accolades upon him even as publishers dangle the lure of seven-figure advances for his story. Clearly, Deep Throat's anonymity has nothing to do with job security. It may be, therefore, that Throat remains anonymous because if he was identified our perception of him and of the Post's Watergate reportage would change. That is, it may be that Throat's position within the Nixon administration was such that he would stand revealed as a Machiavellian figure moved more by his own ambitions than by any concern for fair play in national politics. In which case, Woodward and the Post would be seen as mere tools in a power struggle. So there is reason to be skeptical. While Woodward and Bernstein prefer to believe in Deep Throat's altruism, we should not trust their judgment on that matter: the Post's reporters, after all, have an important stake in the selflessness of their source.

Two routes may be taken in an effort to identify Deep Throat. The first is a study of Woodward and Bernstein's All the President's Men. While Woodward's description of his source is deliberately vague, and while the circumstances of their meetings are intentionally obscured, analysis of the book will enable us to narrow the field of candidates to a single one-providing only that we may assume that Deep Throat was a prominent figure in the Nixon administration, because, of course, we can only compare the characteristics of those who are known to us: if Throat is someone of whom we have never heard, Woodward's description will not help us to identify him. It would then be necessary to examine Woodward's own background to learn where he might have met someone who, while perhaps unknown to the public, was in a position to know, and had the motive to reveal, so many of the Nixon administration's most embarrassing secrets.

(3) Jim Hougan, Deep Throat, email (31st May, 2005)

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.

(4) Jim Hougan, Deep Throat, Bob Woodward and the CIA (8th June, 2005)

Until Woodward outed Felt, the only candidate who fit the bill was Bennett.

In 1972, when Mark Felt was reading transcripts of Yeoman Radford's conversations, Bennett was the new owner of the Robert R. Mullen Company. This was a CIA front with offices in Washington and abroad. Among Bennett's employees was the seemingly retired CIA officer, E. Howard Hunt. Politically hyper-active during the Nixon Administration, Bennett was also the Washington representative of the Howard Hughes organization (which was just entering negotiations with the CIA over plans to recover a sunken Soviet submarine from the Pacific Ocean's floor). It was Bennett who suggested that Hunt might want to interview ITT lobbyist Dita Beard, and it was Bennett who volunteered his own nephew to work as an infiltrator at the DNC. One might go on, but the point is made: Bennett was a very well-placed source, if not a co-conspirator.

Today, Senator Bennett is a Mormon elder and one of the richest men in Congress. That he was also a key source of Bob Woodward's during the Watergate affair is memorialized in a Memorandum to the Record written by Martin J. Lukoskie, Bennett's CIA case-officer in 1972. (4) According to Lukoskie, Bennett "established a 'backdoor entry' to the Edward Bennett Williams law firm which is representing the Democratic Party (and the Washington Post...)" Bennett's job was to "kill off any revelation" about the Mullen Company's relationship to the CIA. But he was also responsible for dissuading reporters from the Washington Post from pursuing a 'Seven Days in May' scenario" that would have implicated the CIA in a conspiracy to "take over the country."

Perhaps Bennett ought to have had a word with Donald Stewart, as well.

The relationship between Bennett and the Post was later clarified by Lukoskie's CIA boss, Eric Eisenstadt. In a memo to the Deputy Director of Plans, Eisenstadt wrote that Bennett "has been feeding stories to Bob Woodward of the Washington Post with the understanding that there be no attribution to Bennett. Woodward is suitably grateful for the fine stories and by-lines he gets and protects Bennett (and the Mullen Company)." (5)

Hunh! It's enough to make you wonder, though not, apparently, enough to make the press wonder. But this is what the Deep Throat mystery is all about. It's not just a parlor game to canonize yet another celebrity. Rather, it's a question of deciding whether or not the Post's coverage was manipulated by a cabal of spooks who were working to destroy an unpopular president.

This is, of course, a conspiratorial point of view. Most of the press has embraced Mark Felt as the celebrity de jour and, toward that end, the only motive they impute to his behavior is a love of country. And that is what's likely to be taught in the schools.

More cynical observers, however, will point to the fact that FBI Director Hoover died a few weeks before the Watergate break-ins, and will suggest that his second-in-command, Mark Felt, went after the Nixon Administration because he was disappointed at not being named to take Hoover's place.

That's possible, of course, but even if Felt didn't get to be Director, he got the next best thing. That is, he got the files. Within hours of Hoover's death, Felt took charge of the Hoover's Official and Confidential files---including one that was headed "Black-Bag Jobs." The fate of other files in Hoover's executive suite, including the Director's Personal and Confidential files and the so-called "Do Not File" files, remains a mystery. (6)

Now that we know that Mark Felt is Deep Throat, it would be grand to ask him about the Director's missing files, his view of Yeoman Radford's spying, and his reasons for going to the press, rather than to the Justice Department, with his concerns about Watergate. It's clear, however, that his family has no intention of making the old man available. He is, after all, 91-years-old and not entirely well.