Saturday, June 11, 2005

Deeply Felt 

From James Ridgeway of the Village Voice, a reminder that Deep Throat, in his day job, presided over thousands of illegal break-ins and buggings:
Mark Felt's rise to the stature of a hero is ironic, because the former FBI goon-squad leader is a sleazebag and because the Bureau treats its present-day whistle-blowers like scum . . . .

Felt played a major role in directing and implementing the ruthless wrecking of people's lives. He led a goon squad in black-bag operations, invading homes and offices of friends and families of the Weather Underground and thousands of innocent citizens it decided were Communists. Hoover's FBI was celebrated as our premier law enforcement agency. In fact, it was a political intelligence operation, and a lousy one at that . . . .

A jury found Felt guilty of illegal break-ins, but President Reagan pardoned him, citing lack of "criminal intent." And Reagan later commended him and others because they "acted on high principle to bring an end to terrorism that was threatening our nation."

In particular, the FBI had a long-term obsession with the Socialist Workers Party. When a 15-year-old high school student wrote a letter to the group requesting information as part of a social studies class project in 1973, the FBI, which was reading the SWP's mail, made her a "subversive activities" target. An agent visited her principal and told him the kid was being investigated for her ties to the commies. It took years to erase the smear job against the teen. That's Felt's world.
And Murray Waas, following up on Paul Daly's allegations from earlier in the week, confirms that Felt, in all likelihood, was merely the front man for a band of FBI renegades. Although Felt was an obvious suspect from the beginning, an internal FBI investigation concluded that he could not have been Deep Throat:
"They looked at specific information that was leaked to the Post," Daly told me, “and they looked at whether Felt had actually seen the actual teletypes that contained the material. And there was no paper trail that he had. That is why they cleared Felt."

Another retired FBI agent who was also suspected of being a potential leak and was investigated similarly said: "I was under suspicion, but there was just too much that was appearing in print that I wasn't privy to. The agents [conducting the investigation] were frustrated because there did not seem to appear to be a single person who had access to everything."
Aware that investigators could easily ascertain who'd been privy to what, the Deep Throat team avoided detection by pooling their secrets:
According to Daly, Long explained how he, Kunkel, and Bates worked closely with Felt to decide what information should be leaked to keep the White House from interfering with the FBI.

During the crucial conversation with Long, Daly told me, Bassett, the assistant FBI director who conducted the investigation, slyly smiled and said: "That son-of-a-gun. . . . That explains it."

Daly told me he took that comment to mean Bassett was referring to the way Felt had escaped being found out in the probe.
Our venerated colleague Avedon Carol alerted us to a useful post at Xymphora linking to several Felt skeptics:
It's absurd that the number two guy in the FBI had to meet in underground parking garages with an completely unknown junior reporter for the Washington Post . . . . Felt was picked because his family wanted to make some money and his senility meant that he wouldn't have to face any of the many difficult questions that come to mind.
Among the juicy bits you'll find there is a story by Phil Brennan (of the right-wing crank site NewsMax) claiming that Felt shopped his revelation to multiple venues before he found a taker at Vanity Fair, and promoting a theory endorsed by G. Gordon Liddy, among others, that the real target of the Watergate burglars was not DNC chairman Larry O'Brien, but a prostitution ring operating out of a hotel across the street. According to Mr. Liddy, one employee of the call-girl operation was a young woman named Maureen Biner -- who later came to national prominence as Mo Dean, wife of former White House counsel John.

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