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Thursday, June 02, 2005

Deep Throat Unmasked as Jew! 

Zemblan patriot J.B. (awright, awright, it was Joe Bageant) forwards a timely reminder that our current Chief Executive is not the first out-and-out whack job to soil the carpets of the Oval Office. From the Nixon White House tapes:
Nixon: Well, if they've got a leak down at the FBI, why the hell can't Gray tell us what the hell is left? You know what I mean?...

Haldeman: We know what's left, and we know who leaked it.

Nixon: Somebody in the FBI?

Haldeman: Yes, sir. Mark Felt. You can't say anything about this because it will screw up our source and there's a real concern. Mitchell is the only one who knows about this and he feels strongly that we better not do anything because--

Nixon: Do anything? Never.

Haldeman: If we move on him, he'll go out and unload everything. He knows everything that's to be known in the FBI. He has access to absolutely everything ...

Nixon: What would you do with Felt?

Haldeman: Well, I asked Dean ...

Nixon: You know what I'd do with him, the bastard? Well that's all I want to hear about it.

Haldeman: I think he wants to be in the top spot.

Nixon: That's a hell of a way for him to get to the top.

Haldeman: You can figure a lot of--maybe he thought--first of all, he has to figure that if you stay in as president there's a possibility or probability Gray will stay on. If McGovern comes in, then you know Gray's going to be out ...

Nixon: Is he Catholic?

Haldeman: (unintelligible) Jewish.

Nixon: Christ, put a Jew in there?

Haldeman: Well, that could explain it too.
The above specimen of tragicomedy trouvé comes from a 1999 Slate column by Timothy Noah, and it was through Noah that we found a long and fascinating speculation on the identity of Deep Throat by James Mann, a former colleague of Bob Woodward's at the Post. Mann, writing in the May 1992 Atlantic, concluded that Nixon's nemesis must have been a well-placed FBI official (Felt, who did indeed hope to succeed J. Edgar Hoover in the "top spot," gets prominent mention). The source of the conflict was a naked power grab by the executive branch:
When Hoover died, FBI officials like Felt did not have much time to think. On May 3, while Hoover's body was lying in state in the Capitol Rotunda, Assistant Attorney General L. Patrick Gray III appeared at FBI headquarters and asked to see Hoover's secret files. FBI officials refused, insisting that there were no such documents, and after a nasty face-off Gray left. A few hours later Gray was appointed by the Nixon Administration to be the FBI's acting director . . . .

The FBI had resisted several law-enforcement and domestic intelligence-gathering initiatives by the Nixon White House, notably the famous "Huston plan" -- the effort, led by the White House aide Tom Charles Huston, to expand intelligence-gathering through a network of informants along with a campaign of wiretapping, bugging, mail opening, and burglaries. Moreover, White House officials feared that if the FBI retained the independence it had had under Hoover, it would never go along with the Nixon Administration's continuing efforts to use the federal bureaucracy to reward friends and punish enemies.

In short, Hoover's death presented the Nixon Administration with a long-sought opportunity to gain political control of the FBI. Traumatized by Hoover's death, and anxious to preserve the Bureau's traditions, the FBI's leadership resented and resisted the Administration's efforts. By coincidence, the Watergate break-in occurred on June 17, less than seven weeks after Hoover's death and Gray's appointment. The FBI took charge of the federal investigation at the same time that the Administration was trying to limit its scope.

Therein lies the origin of Deep Throat . . . .

[T]hese White House efforts seemed to validate their worst fear: that the Nixon White House intended to use the FBI for political purposes.

FBI officials were furious. According to Mark Felt, on July 5 three top FBI officials asked for a meeting with Gray to protest White House obstruction of the Watergate investigation . . . Invoking Hoover's name, Felt made clear that he and his colleagues believed that the FBI's traditions and its future were at stake:
In fact, no one could have stopped the driving force of the investigation without an explosion in the Bureau -- not even J. Edgar Hoover. For me, as well as for all the Agents who were involved, it had become a question of our integrity. We were under attack for dragging our feet and as professional law enforcement officers we were determined to go on.
For a senior FBI official like Deep Throat, talking to Woodward and the Post about Watergate was a way to fend off White House interference with the investigation. The contacts with the press guaranteed that information developed by the FBI's Watergate investigative team would not be suppressed or altered by Nixon Administration officials. And, more broadly, the leaks furthered the cause of an independent FBI unfettered by political control.
The students of history in the Bush administration may have neglected to do their homework on Vietnam, but they clearly paid close and careful attention to the lessons of Watergate. With most institutional checks on his power either co-opted or dismantled, Mr. Bush is in a position to perpetrate the sorts of high crimes and misdemeanors Mr. Nixon could only dream of.

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