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Deep Throat: Traitor or hero?

Fri, Jun 3rd, 2005
Posted in Commentary

So, now we know who Deep Throat was.

W. Mark Felt, the number two person at the FBI during the Nixon Administration revealed last week that he was the source of information leaks to Carl Burnstein and Bob Woodward of the Washington Post in 1972 and 1973.

The writing of the two Post reporters helped lead to the Watergate investigation that ultimately resulted in Richard Nixon resigning the presidency and leaving office in disgrace. Many within the Nixon Administration were charged with crimes and served time in prison, including Attorney General John Mitchell, Nixons Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman, as well as Presidential Advisor John Erlichman. Nixon was pardoned by his successor, President Gerald Ford.

At 91, Felt has kept his secret for more than 30 years. As the source of information about the break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington as well as information about the Nixon Administration, Felt kept the Post team on track as it took on those in power at the White House. He was dubbed Deep Throat, after the sensational pornographic film playing at that time, because of Felts husky voice.

From various press reports, it is not totally clear what motivated Felt in 1972 to contact Woodward and Burnstein. Some indicate that Felt was upset that he had been passed over as the person to replace J. Edgar Hoover as head of the FBI; others say that Felt feared that Nixon was aiming to cover up an investigation in the Justice Department, and that Felt was motivated by patriotic altruism.

On the Today Show last Wednesday, Pat Buchanan, a former speech writer for President Nixon, called Felt a traitor for his disloyalty, particularly outraged that Felt would turn over information to a reporter rather than a special prosecutor.

Regardless of Mr. Felts motivation, his actions, whether courageous or cowardly, led to a critical moment in American history.

The Watergate Hearings the summer of 1974 were spellbinding daytime television as administration staffers were subpoenaed to testify about what did the president know and when did he know it.

Nixon resigned in 1974, rather than face almost certain impeachment hearings that would have shown that the president was complicit in the execution of a felony - namely, the cover up of the Watergate break-in.

Traitor or hero? Courageous or cowardly?

Perhaps there are elements of each in Mr. Felts actions. You be the judge.

The Nixon Administration was exposed for what it was, a power grabbing elite who had little respect for the constitution or its balance of powers.

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