'Deep Throat' Comes Forward

Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr comments on the news that former FBI official Mark Felt is the person known as "Deep Throat." Felt cooperated with an article in Vanity Fair magazine that names him as the famous, but previously anonymous, Watergate source. Schorr noted in 2001 that President Nixon's advisers suspected Felt.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

NPR's senior news analyst Daniel Schorr is with us.

Now, Dan, you're no stranger to the Watergate story. And as we heard, Mark Felt's name has come up in the past. In fact, we have this tape from you in the year 2000. Let's take a listen.

(Soundbite of 2000 broadcast)

DANIEL SCHORR (NPR Senior News Analyst): Myself, I always thought the most plausible Deep Throat--with access to the information and a motive for leaking it--was one of three top officials in the FBI, starting with Associate Director Mark Felt.

NORRIS: Dan, seems like you now have a chance to say, `I told you so.' What led you to Felt?

SCHORR: Yeah. But I'm really too much of a gentleman to say, `I told you so.' But I wasn't the only one to know. There was Jim Mann and various--there were several people by this time who were pretty sure that it was Mark Felt.

NORRIS: What do you think his motive would have been to work with Woodward and Bernstein?

SCHORR: Well, two. I think he was very angry because he had been passed over for director of the FBI after J. Edgar Hoover died, and he was angry about that. Secondly, the Watergate cover-up was working so well that Felt apparently was afraid that the FBI would get a black eye because they weren't able to penetrate that cover-up. So he penetrated it all by himself.

NORRIS: And apparently, the White House had their own suspicions about Felt.

SCHORR: That's right. You can tell from the White House tapes, which are still being released. And there was one back in 1972 when Nixon went to his little private office in the Executive Office Building and there he met with his chief of staff, Bob Haldeman, who told him, in fact, that it was Felt and Nixon saying, `Now why the hell would he want to do that?' and the answer is, `I think he wants to be in top spot.' And then they decided they couldn't do anything about Felt because he knew so much that if they went after him, he would spill everything. And so they let him sit there after they had decided that he was a traitor.

NORRIS: So that's why they didn't act on that suspicion.

SCHORR: And that's why they didn't act on it.

NORRIS: Why do you think this secret has held for so long, particularly in a city like Washington?

SCHORR: Well, in a city like Washington, it's held in the first place because apparently Felt--he didn't want to say. I called Felt about eight years ago and got a grandson on the phone saying his father was sleeping. I said, `I wanted to ask him if he was Deep Throat.' He said, `The answer is no, he was not the source of any of these leaks.'

So for a long period, Felt--maybe because he was a loyal FBI type who didn't want to make a lot of trouble. And then there was the fact the only other person who could have told for sure was Bob Woodward, and Bob Woodward was making practically a career of not telling.

NORRIS: You know, it's interesting that this story breaks at this moment in time when, you know, we're really discussing sourcing in Washington and beyond in the journalistic community and the importance of leaks.

SCHORR: Well, I can only give you my own very personal view of this. I think this republic has been saved by leaks at various times. For example, would Clinton have been impeached had it not been for an original leak? Would Reagan have not been in trouble with the Iran Contra affair were it not for a big leak? And then Nixon, of course. The presidents and the White Houses and the governments have all kinds of ways of hiding things, and the only way that you can penetrate that is if somebody, as a kind of a whistle-blower, is willing to leak. And I think that's very valuable for our republic.

NORRIS: Dan, help us understand how much currency this secret has carried all these years in Washington. Were there a lot of reporters like yourself who've spent years trying to find out who is Deep Throat?

SCHORR: I think anybody who covered Watergate, had any connection with Watergate, came up with a favorite person for Deep Throat. I just happened to be on the right side.

NORRIS: Dan, thanks for talking to us.

SCHORR: Sure.

NORRIS: Senior news analyst Daniel Schorr.

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