- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 4, 2005

For many of us accused of being Deep Throat during the last 30 years, the identification of Mark Felt as a key source of information for Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s Watergate stories was a relief and a surprise.

There was a time when I could not hold a press conference without being asked to confess I was Deep Throat or to speculate on someone else in the Nixon administration.

As recently as earlier this year in a book on social life in the White House, Col. Stephen Bauer came to the written conclusion I was a friend of newspapermen and therefore must have been Deep Throat.

Almost everyone who had a senior position in the White House was given the Deep Throat label. The man most named was Gen. Al Haig because he smoked cigarettes and drank scotch whiskey, part of the description given the anonymous news source by the two reporters for The Washington Post.

Mr. Felt now says he feels he was a hero, but those of us on the White House staff felt the Watergate source was disloyal and unethical. One used the word “traitor.”

To me it is interesting that the term Deep Throat never was used by the reporters in their articles in The Post, but became a key term in their book and movie, “All the President’s Men.” About that time there also was a pornographic movie titled “Deep Throat,” and I often wonder if the sexy name was applied to sell the book and movie or to serve as a code.

If the term Deep Throat had not been used, one might logically wonder if the public would have been as interested in identifying the news source. In giving interviews to several television stations after the Felt revelation, I was asked by two young men from the camera crews, “What was Watergate?” They had not been born when the scandal broke.

Many have forgotten the original Watergate story revolved around a break-in at the Democratic headquarters in the Watergate Building. Six Cubans were arrested as they bungled their way through Larry O’Brien’s files. The break-in was authorized by Jeb Magruder, young head of the Nixon 1972 presidential election headquarters.

Some said the burglars were looking for negative material on O’Brien, and others saw John Dean tied to the crime. My theory was Mr. Magruder was trying to show he could use more modern methods of gaining political intelligence than the legal ones used by those of us who were his predecessors.

Some asked if President Nixon knew of the break-in, but there was no evidence he did. The problem came from the White House cover-up, not the break-in. Deep Throat stirred the pot as he provided leads for Messrs. Woodward and Bernstein. But looking at the breadth of the stories they wrote, I believe they also had to have other sources. In the long run, the “smoking gun” tape forced the president from office, not Deep Throat’s tips.

Most of us on the White House staff did not know Mr. Felt but were close to his boss, Pat Gray, appointed by Nixon to head the FBI as successor to J. Edgar Hoover. Mr. Woodward and Mr. Bernstein also were young reporters generally unknown to most of us. Mr. Woodward once told me we rode in the same Hay Adams Hotel elevator, and he was afraid I would recognize him as he went to interview another source. I did not.

There remain many unanswered questions about Mr. Felt. When and how did he become a source for two unknown young reporters? Mr. Woodward and Mr. Bernstein did a remarkable job of reporting, but they, too, were sometimes inaccurate. Despite the name of their movie, not all the president’s men were involved — not even close.

I remember vividly that when Nixon fund-raiser and commerce secretary, the late Maurice Stans, was exonerated of felony charges and convicted of two minor misdemeanors, he called me and asked, “How do I get my good name back?” We never found the answer.

In uncovering the Watergate scandals, Mr. Woodward and Mr. Bernstein were far ahead of the rest of the media; and when the press discovered the depth of the story, it turned on Ron Ziegler, White House press secretary, virtually driving him out of his office. It was a bitter time.

But for many young Americans, Mr. Woodward and Mr. Bernstein inspired a new ambition to become investigative reporters. Interest in various specialties in reporting has changed now, but the interest the two reporters inspired in journalism has not diminished.

In a democracy, that is a good thing.

Herbert G. Klein is a national fellow of the American Enterprise Institute, retired editor-in-chief of Copley Newspapers and former Nixon White House director of communications.

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