Thursday, June 02, 2005

Woodward and Deep Throat

This is what some of us have been waiting many years for. It is Bob Woodward's take on the 70's encounters with Deep Throat. It is a must read for anyone who's interested in politics, intrigue, the United States, or currently breathing without a respirator (if you are on a respirator, get someone else to read it to you).

How Mark Felt Became 'Deep Throat'
As a Friendship -- and the Watergate Story -- Developed, Source's Motives Remained a Mystery to Woodward

By Bob Woodward
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 2, 2005; A01

In 1970, when I was serving as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy and assigned to Adm. Thomas H. Moorer, the chief of naval operations, I sometimes acted as a courier, taking documents to the White House.

One evening I was dispatched with a package to the lower level of the West Wing of the White House, where there was a little waiting area near the Situation Room. It could be a long wait for the right person to come out and sign for the material, sometimes an hour or more, and after I had been waiting for a while a tall man with perfectly combed gray hair came in and sat down near me. His suit was dark, his shirt white and his necktie subdued. He was probably 25 to 30 years older than I and was carrying what looked like a file case or briefcase. He was very distinguished-looking and had a studied air of confidence, the posture and calm of someone used to giving orders and having them obeyed instantly.

I could tell he was watching the situation very carefully. There was nothing overbearing in his attentiveness, but his eyes were darting about in a kind of gentlemanly surveillance. After several minutes, I introduced myself. "Lieutenant Bob Woodward," I said, carefully appending a deferential "sir."

"Mark Felt," he said.

I began telling him about myself, that this was my last year in the Navy and I was bringing documents from Adm. Moorer's office. Felt was in no hurry to explain anything about himself or why he was there.

This was a time in my life of considerable anxiety, even consternation, about my future. I had graduated in 1965 from Yale, where I had a Naval Reserve Officers' Training Corps scholarship that required that I go into the Navy after getting my degree. After four years of service, I had been involuntarily extended an additional year because of the Vietnam War.

During that year in Washington, I expended a great deal of energy trying to find things or people who were interesting. I had a college classmate who was going to clerk for Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, and I made an effort to develop a friendship with that classmate. To quell my angst and sense of drift, I was taking graduate courses at George Washington University. One course was in Shakespeare, another in international relations.

When I mentioned the graduate work to Felt, he perked up immediately, saying he had gone to night law school at GW in the 1930s before joining -- and this is the first time he mentioned it -- the FBI. While in law school, he said, he had worked full time for a senator -- his home-state senator from Idaho. I said that I had been doing some volunteer work at the office of my congressman, John Erlenborn, a Republican from the district in Wheaton, Ill., where I had been raised.

So we had two connections -- graduate work at GW and work with elected representatives from our home states.

Felt and I were like two passengers sitting next to each other on a long airline flight with nowhere to go and nothing really to do but resign ourselves to the dead time. He showed no interest in striking up a long conversation, but I was intent on it. I finally extracted from him the information that he was an assistant director of the FBI in charge of the inspection division, an important post under Director J. Edgar Hoover. That meant he led teams of agents who went around to FBI field offices to make sure they were adhering to procedures and carrying out Hoover's orders. I later learned that this was called the "goon squad."

Here was someone at the center of the secret world I was only glimpsing in my Navy assignment, so I peppered him with questions about his job and his world. As I think back on this accidental but crucial encounter -- one of the most important in my life -- I see that my patter probably verged on the adolescent. Since he wasn't saying much about himself, I turned it into a career-counseling session.

I was deferential, but I must have seemed very needy. He was friendly, and his interest in me seemed somehow paternal. Still the most vivid impression I have is that of his distant but formal manner, in most ways a product of Hoover's FBI. I asked Felt for his phone number, and he gave me the direct line to his office.

I believe I encountered him only one more time at the White House. But I had set the hook. He was going to be one of the people I consulted in depth about my future, which now loomed more ominously as the date of my discharge from the Navy approached. At some point I called him, first at the FBI and then at his home in Virginia. I was a little desperate, and I'm sure I poured out my heart. I had applied to several law schools for that fall, but, at 27, I wondered if I could really stand spending three years in law school before starting real work.

Felt seemed sympathetic to the lost-soul quality of my questions. He said that after he had his law degree his first job had been with the Federal Trade Commission. His first assignment was to determine whether toilet paper with the brand name Red Cross was at an unfair competitive advantage because people thought it was endorsed or approved by the American Red Cross. The FTC was a classic federal bureaucracy -- slow and leaden -- and he hated it. Within a year he had applied to the FBI and been accepted. Law school opened the most doors, he seemed to be saying, but don't get caught in your own equivalent of a toilet-paper investigation.

(Full Story)

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