Fictoid #5: Deep Throat

  Is "Deep Throat" is a fictoid?

On June 1, 2005, Mark W. Felt Jr., a retired FBI official, claimed that he was "Deep Throat." Yes, Felt certainly had been a source for Bob Woodward (and many other reporters) during the Watergate era.  In my book Between Fact and Fiction-- published in 1975-- I wrote about Woodward's "Deep Throat": "The prosecutors at the Department of Justice now believe the mysterious source was probably Mark W. Felt, Jr, who was then an associate deputy director, because one statement the reporters attribute to Deep throat could only have been made by Felt." 

The traceable information that aroused the interest of the Watergate prosecutors concerned data from a few FBI 302 files that sent Woodward and Bernstein after Donald Segretti, which turned out to be, if not a wild goose chase, irrelevant to the Watergate crime.  The issue here was the FBI's curious role in feeding Woodward and other reporters stories on Watergate. (See my 1974 article in Commentary.)  The FBI-- or Felt-- had reason to orchestrate such a diversion since at the time the FBI itself had conducted a series of illegal break-ins ordered by Mark Felt (who later was prosecuted and convicted for the crime.)  The prosecutors eventually concluded Felt provided this information"to get rid of [FBI head L.Patrick] Gray." Woodward now confirms that the prosecutors were correct: Felt provided information to Woodward.  But is Felt the source described in Woodward's book as Deep Throat-- or is Felt merely a part of a composite character.


Consider, for example, Woodward and Bernstein explosive Washington Post on November 8, 1973  that there had been "deliberate erasures" on one of the White House tapes. In All The President's Men, Woodward says that he "moved the flower pot" on his sixth floor balcony (that was a signal to Deep Throat), met Deep Throat in an underground garage, who then told him that the tapes contained "gaps" that indicated it had been tampered with.

     But the person who provided that information could not have been Felt according to records examined by Nixon's biographer Jonathan Aitken.  In November 1973, only six people knew about the gaps in the tape-- Richard Nixon; Rose Mary Woods (Nixon's personal secretary); Alexander Haig (The White House chief of staff); Haig's deputy, Major General John C Bennett and two trusted Nixon White House aides, Fred Buzhardt and Steve Bull.  Not only was Felt not privy to that White House information, but he was no longer in the FBI, having left that October (after having run a series of illegal FBI break-ins that would result in his own conviction.)

    Felt also repeatedly denied being the source of this information, and states in his 1979 autobiography that he met Woodward only once-- and in his office. If so, Felt cannot be the "Deep Throat" character who met with Woodward over and over again in the underground garage.  He is merely a component of the Deep Throat package.

Part of the "mystery" enjoyed by Woodward, is that there are no corroborative witnesses to any of these meetings between Woodward and Deep Throat (no more than there was a corroborative witness to Woodward's putative death bed interview with CIA Director William Casey). Not even Woodward's co-author, Carl Bernstein, was present at any of these meetings supposedly took place in an empty underground parking garage.

It is also of interest that Woodward never mentioned Deep Throat in any of the newspaper stories he wrote in the Washington Post between 1972 and 1974. In these stories he consistently attributes his information to multiple sources. Consider, for example, his (and Bernstein's) 1972 revelation that at least "50 people" who worked for the White House and the Nixon campaign were involved in spying and sabotage. In the Washington Post (October 10, 1972, p A1), he attributes the information to multiple "FBI reports." In 1974, in All The President's Men (p.135), he puts the exact same information in the mouth of Deep Throat. In the scene in the book, first, he tussles with Deep Throat on the floor of the underground garage at 3 AM, grabbing his arm, then Deep Throat tells him:"You can safely say that 50 people worked for the White House and the CRP to play games and spy and sabotage and gather information."

In fact, Deep Throat did not exist in the early versions of the book, according to Woodward's book agent, David Obst, who explains: "In the original draft of their book, Deep Throat was not mentioned. In the second draft he suddenly appeared and it was a better book for the addition, a much more exciting one."

This is not to suggest Woodward did not have many real sources for his Washington Post reporting. But fusing them into a single composite character is the same operation novelists perform. A composite character, since he does not exist (and cannot sue) is fiction.

 Any further examples of uncorrected fictoids?

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