Thursday, June 2, 2005

The former attorney for Clinton scandal whistleblower Linda R. Tripp — who, like “Deep Throat,” exposed White House misdeeds — said his client’s harsh public treatment stands in stark contrast to the veneration of W. Mark Felt, whose aid to the press helped bring down President Nixon.

“I think that what happened to Linda Tripp — demonization is too kind a word,” said David Irwin, who represented Mrs. Tripp during President Clinton’s impeachment trial. “I thought she got the brunt of a lot of people’s frustrations.

“There is no question that Linda Tripp, like Mark Felt, was not happy with what was going on in the White House,” Mr. Irwin said. “It was so unlike what she considered the good old days of the [first] Bush White House. I think there is a corollary there.”

The family of Mr. Felt, 91, the No. 2 man at the FBI in the early 1970s, announced this week that he was the infamous “Deep Throat” whose aid to The Washington Post led to the exposure of the Watergate scandal that eventually forced the resignation of Mr. Nixon.

Press members have largely praised him as a hero for exposing the corruption of the Nixon administration. The Post, which hid Mr. Felt’s identity for more than three decades, wrote in yesterday’s editions that Mr. Felt was motivated by fears that Mr. Nixon would try to “steer and stall” the FBI’s investigation of the Watergate burglary and because he was passed over by Mr. Nixon to lead the FBI after the death of J. Edgar Hoover.

G. Gordon Liddy, a former Nixon aide who served four years in prison for helping to plan the break-in of the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel, said what Mr. Felt did “certainly does not make him a hero.”

“As a law-enforcement officer, if he had evidence that a crime was committed, he was duty-bound to take that to a grand jury instead of leaking it to a single news source,” Mr. Liddy told Fox News yesterday. “He knew it was wrong, and that’s why he didn’t want to go public. He behaved dishonorably.”

Though some conservatives suggest Mr. Felt’s actions were illegal — akin to leaks of grand-jury testimony during Mr. Clinton’s scandals that prompted a criminal investigation — one prominent conservative lawyer disagreed.

Joseph diGenova, a former U.S. attorney in Washington and a Republican counsel on Capitol Hill, said Mr. Felt’s error was in taking his information to the press rather than to Congress.

“The truth is, whether or not W. Mark Felt violated the law is something that we’ll probably never know. We don’t know the nature of what he was leaking,” Mr. diGenova said, adding that he thinks what Mr. Felt did was “acceptable.”

“But if he wanted to protect the [FBI] and expose criminal wrongdoing, I never figured out why he didn’t go to Congress,” he said, noting that both houses of Congress were controlled by Democrats at the time. “That would have been clearly a better way than going to a reporter. For someone of his stature, the responsible choice was to go there.”

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