Nixon Officials React to 'Deep Throat' News

Melissa Block talks with some of the players from the Watergate drama about yesterday's revelation that W. Mark Felt was the source known as "Deep Throat." William B. Ruckelshaus, Jeb Stuart Magruder and Charles W. Colson all served in the Nixon administration. Magruder and Colson both spent time in jail on charges relating to Watergate.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

The unmasking of Deep Throat is the hot topic around many water coolers today.

BLOCK: Yesterday The Washington Post confirmed that Mark Felt, former number-two man at the FBI, was Woodward and Bernstein's source during the Watergate scandal. Their reporting led to President Nixon's resignation.

NORRIS: We checked in today with some of the men involved in Watergate, aides to President Nixon and high-ranking government officials.

BLOCK: Jeb Stuart Magruder was deputy director of the Nixon presidential campaign in 1972. He would later serve seven months in prison for perjury and conspiracy to obstruct justice in the Watergate cover-up. Magruder says the identity of Deep Throat was only part of the Watergate story.

Mr. JEB STUART MAGRUDER (Former Nixon Deputy Campaign Manager): Actually, Mark Felt didn't break the case, nor did Woodward and Bernstein. Judge Sirica broke the case by sentencing Liddy, Hunt, McCord and ...(unintelligible) to these long prison terms. And McCord said, `I'm not going to spend all this time in jail. I know that Dean and Magruder were involved.' And he wrote Sirica a letter, and that ended Dean and I. And then we brought down Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Mitchell and then the president.

BLOCK: Were you surprised to learn that Deep Throat had, in fact, come forward and revealed who he was?

Mr. MAGRUDER: No. I mean, my guess is that he wanted to get some of the credit while he was still alive.

BLOCK: There are some from the Nixon administration, Pat Buchanan being one of them...

Mr. MAGRUDER: Yeah, right.

BLOCK: ...a speechwriter at the time...

Mr. MAGRUDER: Yeah.

BLOCK: ...saying that this was basically a treacherous thing to have spoken to reporters at the time about what was going on.

Mr. MAGRUDER: Well, of course, that's Pat. You know?

BLOCK: Meaning?

Mr. MAGRUDER: Meaning Pat's never changed. I mean, Pat's been a hard-liner from the word go.

BLOCK: With the benefit of decades now of hindsight--and I know this must be an odd position to put yourself in, since you were convicted for your role in the conspiracy--do you think that Mark Felt did the right thing by talking to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein?

Mr. MAGRUDER: I'm not sure whether it was the right thing. I think he felt compelled to blow the whistle and felt that was the best way to do it.

BLOCK: You know, Mark Felt's family is speaking of him as a great American hero. How do you see him?

Mr. MAGRUDER: Well, I'm not sure `great American hero'--that's a little, I think, overdone. I think he did what he thought he should do, so I think he was a person of some character.

BLOCK: Thirty-some-odd years now since this all took place with this revelation now of who Deep Throat was.

Mr. MAGRUDER: Right.

BLOCK: Has it prompted some soul-searching on your own part, some reflection on the time that's passed and what happened back then?

Mr. MAGRUDER: Well, I mean, I reflected long and hard while I was going through it and went to prison, and when I went out I became a minister. And I've had to reflect on Watergate forever.

BLOCK: Yeah. And this most recent revelation then--I'm just curious what the last 24 hours have been like for you.

Mr. MAGRUDER: Well, too many phone calls (laughs).

BLOCK: And in between those phone calls, any time for thought?

Mr. MAGRUDER: Well, you'd like me to say that I had a lightning-flash experience.

BLOCK: Not if you didn't have one.

Mr. MAGRUDER: But I didn't have one. Yeah. I mean, it was just the end of a chapter.

BLOCK: Jeb Magruder is now a retired Presbyterian minister in Columbus, Ohio.

President Nixon's special counsel, Charles Colson, resigned in the fallout over the Watergate scandal. He served seven months in prison for obstruction of justice on charges related to Watergate. Here's his reaction to the Deep Throat news.

Mr. CHARLES COLSON (Former Special Counsel to President Nixon): Well, I was very surprised because I knew Mark well, dealt with him often, trusted him completely and never thought he would violate that confidence. I'm disappointed and kind of saddened for him that he will go out of this world and be remembered not as a very dedicated and articulate public official but as Deep Throat.

BLOCK: You said you felt betrayed, in a sense, that Mark Felt had violated confidences. But if he was revealing illegal activities, what's wrong with that?

Mr. COLSON: Well, there's a place to reveal them. I mean, he's the deputy director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; he ought to reveal them, absolutely. But he ought to reveal them either to a grand jury or to a prosecutor or to the president himself. If he had gone in to see the director of the FBI, Pat Gray, and said, `We need to go see the president; there's criminal activity going on in the White House,' I can guarantee you they would have gotten an appointment because the president of the United States, if he thinks the Federal Bureau of Investigation is going to investigate him, is going to act.

BLOCK: And you feel--you have no problem assuming that if he had gone through channels, that the information would have been acted on and appropriate punishment would have been taken?

Mr. COLSON: I can guarantee you because the president of the United States could not sit there and ignore the FBI coming in and telling them that they had evidence of criminal activity going on in the White House. He couldn't possibly do that. No one would be so foolish as to do that.

BLOCK: Are you saying that the president was not aware of a cover-up and was not involved in a cover-up?

Mr. COLSON: Well, at the time that a lot of this was being written, the president--yes, he was involved in it, of course. Was he aware that it was a criminal conspiracy? I'm not sure. I told him that a couple of times, and the tapes show that, but I think he brushed it off. I think he said, `Oh, no, it hasn't gotten to that stage.'

BLOCK: You were yourself indicted in the Watergate cover-up. I wonder if this closes a chapter for you in any way with the revelation of Deep Throat.

Mr. COLSON: Oh, no, goodness. I've gone beyond that. I don't even--I don't think about Deep Throat except when something like this happens. No, no. I closed that chapter a long time ago. That was a part of my life--I'm grateful for it because out of it came my conversion to Christ and the work that I do in the prisons, and it's the most rewarding thing in my life. I've often said `Thank God for Watergate.' So I don't look back and say, `Oh, goodness, this is healing this wound.' The wounds are gone. The wounds have been healed.

BLOCK: Charles Colson, former special counsel to President Nixon. He spoke with us from Naples, Florida.

Finally, to William Ruckelshaus. He was acting FBI director for several months in 1972. Then he was deputy attorney general. He resigned during the infamous Saturday Night Massacre rather than carry out the president's order to fire special prosecutor Archibald Cox. Ruckelshaus says he's not surprised Deep Throat came from within the FBI. He says Mark Felt was in a perfect position to be the source.

Mr. WILLIAM B. RUCKELSHAUS (Former Deputy Attorney General; Former Acting Director, FBI): As the number-two man of the FBI, he would have received all of the interviews that various FBI agents were making of witnesses or potential defendants or whatever, anything having to do with the Watergate. And so he would have been right in the center of the investigative information coming into the government.

BLOCK: Was he someone you had suspected over the years that would have been Deep Throat?

Mr. RUCKELSHAUS: Well, I sort of resisted trying to suspect--in fact, I was accused of it myself several times, but not because I--not anybody who understood it because I didn't have access to that information until I became director of the FBI.

BLOCK: You mean you were accused yourself of being Deep Throat?

Mr. RUCKELSHAUS: That's right.

BLOCK: You were on the list.

Mr. RUCKELSHAUS: I was on the list, but not by anybody who knew how that information flowed.

BLOCK: As you think back on what Mark Felt did at the time, do you think he did the right thing by giving information to Woodward and Bernstein?

Mr. RUCKELSHAUS: It all depends on motivation, and I have no idea what his motivation was. If his motivation was because he felt the investigation was being corrupted by the White House and therefore interfered with and he didn't feel a resignation would be successful in bringing this information out or going to a grand jury would work, and this was the only avenue he had to keep the investigation alive--if that was his motivation, then what he did was the right thing.

BLOCK: Former Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus, speaking with us from Seattle, with his thoughts on the man who was Deep Throat. We also heard from former Nixon special counsel Charles Colson and deputy campaign director Jeb Stuart Magruder.

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