Week in Review: 'Deep Throat' and Others

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Senior news analyst Daniel Schorr reviews the week's news with Scott Simon. Topics include the revelation that former FBI man Mark Felt was "Deep Throat" and the role of confidential informants, and the desecration of the Quaran at Guantanamo Bay.


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

Mr. NICK JONES (Grandson of Mark Felt): The family believes my grandfather, Mark Felt Sr., is a great American hero who went well above and beyond the call of duty at much risk to himself to save his country from a horrible injustice. My grandfather's pleased that he is being honored for his role as Deep Throat with his friend, Bob Woodward.

SIMON: Nick Jones reading a family statement on Tuesday in Santa Rosa, California. W. Mark Felt Sr., former associate director of the FBI, confirmed this week that he was Deep Throat, the unidentified source whose revelations to reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of The Washington Post helped trace a trail to President Richard Nixon and to the cover-up of the Watergate scandal that ultimately led to Mr. Nixon's resignation. NPR senior news analyst Dan Schorr joins us.

Good morning, Dan.

DANIEL SCHORR reporting:

Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: And with the--I must say matchless--advantage of your prominence in the reporting of that time and those events, specifically, how much credit does Deep Throat deserve in that story?

SCHORR: Interesting. I think that Felt was one of three men whose combined impact helped to bring Nixon down. The others were James McCord, a former CIA person, one of the convicted burglars, who--what--he blew the cover-up open by writing a letter to Judge John Sirica, talking about the fact that they were being paid hush money for their silence. The third one was John Dean, former White House counsel, jumped ship, told all at the Senate Watergate Committee, including how he had warned Nixon of the cancer on his presidency. Dean also, incidentally, unveiled the Nixon enemies list, on which I had the privilege of appearing.

SIMON: Yes. And you were--you had the privilege of appearing and Mark Felt, apparently, didn't. Which raises this question: James McCord and John Dean were both facing prosecution, so they had a motivation to come public.

SCHORR: No, I know. As a matter of fact, McCord had already been convicted.

SIMON: Hoping for a reduced sentence, I suppose we would say.


SIMON: But what was Mark Felt's motivation to go to Bob Woodward? He was the number two man at the FBI.

SCHORR: Right. Well, I can only imagine, but I think two things seem fairly clear. First of all, he counted on becoming director of the FBI after the death of J. Edgar Hoover and was passed by by President Nixon, who went to the money-raising pal of his, J. Patrick Gray, who, incidentally, was never confirmed. And the other thing I think is this: As a loyal FBI person, he did not like to see the cover-up that was going on, which in the end was going to make the FBI look incompetent. Between those two, I think, he had his reason for doing this thing.

SIMON: Now this revelation about Deep Throat comes at a time when the use of unidentified or anonymous sources has been criticized. There is the Newsweek story of a few weeks ago, later retracted, about Koran abuse at Guantanamo. A few months ago, on the other side of the ledger, The New York Times was criticized for relying on anonymous sources in its reporting about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. What...

SCHORR: Yeah, you can add CBS when it came to the president's experiences in the National Guard, also a--there was a source there that turned out not to be fully reliable. You're right. We are in a time when the whole question of anonymous sources is up for review by the public. On the whole, the public really doesn't understand why if there's something they're supposed to know it can't be told to them quite openly. Only if you're involved in trying to get this information do you see how tough it can sometimes be. I do not, however, have the impression that there is much adverse comment on this as there are--as there were in some of the other cases you cited.

SIMON: Want to move to events that occurred overnight when the Pentagon released a report last--yesterday detailing five occasions in which US interrogators or guards desecrated the Koran at Guantanamo Bay.


SIMON: This report concludes a three-week investigation that was occasioned by the Newsweek story that was retracted; a broader report stemming from FBI concerns is also expected. As you can judge it, what are we learning so far about Guantanamo Bay?

SCHORR: Well--and you can add, by the way, that in this investigation, 21,000 pages of documents were used. What you can learn from it is that, first of all, the Pentagon has to be questioned. If you place them against the report of Amnesty International, which referred to the anger of the Pentagon to an American gulag, then you're getting two reports that hardly meet each other. Whether we'll ever know the real truth, heaven knows.

SIMON: Want to turn now to events in Iraq where insurgent attacks against civilians have prompted the interim government there to launch what they call Operation Lightning. That's 40,000 Iraqi military and police that are searching every district in Baghdad for insurgents. The Interior Ministry of the new Iraqi government estimated this week that 12,000 people have died in attacks by the insurgency over the past 18 months, mostly Shia. The Iraqi government believes, at the same time, it's turned a corner. Is their confidence ratified by events?

SCHORR: No, I don't think so. But what's happening is that they are having greater success in capturing some of the terrorists, but by far not all who are there. Also, they announced they got--they are doing pretty well now at building police forces. I mean, they are in better shape than they were, but hardly in better shape to say that a corner has been turned.

SIMON: France and the Netherlands rejected the European Union constitution this week. Fifty-five percent of French voters voted no; even wider margin, almost 63 percent, in the Netherlands. The constitution eventually, if it's to be ratified, would have to be ratified by all 25 members of the EU.

SCHORR: That's right.

SIMON: What's your reading on what happened and why two popularly elected governments apparently misread their constituency?

SCHORR: Well, the European Union has been at sixes and sevens now for some time, its original core group of six now expanded to 25. And among the 25 were the Baltic states, the Balkan states, and soon maybe Turkey, and result of that is that they find themselves in a position where they cannot carry out easily any new policy because there are so many people of different sorts who have to approve it. And so what's happened is the constitution for this moment is dead. I don't think that the European Union's going forward. On the other hand, I don't think it's necessarily going far backward.

SIMON: I--can I retreat to another Watergate and Deep Throat question while we have the time?

SCHORR: Anytime. My favorite thing.

SIMON: I understand. By the way, we also want to mention that anybody who wants--for more information on some of the people who figured in the Watergate scandal, NPR's political editor, Ken Rudin, has an article, Beyond Deep Throat: The Cast of Watergate, that's on our Web site, npr.org. I'm sure you're in there. I want to ask a question that I've read in accounts that people around the country are asking. Is it right that Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein should make so much money from their Watergate reporting, $5 million for their papers, and W. Mark Felt makes nothing until now.

SCHORR: Well, Mark Felt isn't finished yet, and they're waiting for the Hollywood people to come and offer him options on his life story. I mean, that's America. Some make more money than others. Who am I to complain?

SIMON: Well, well said. OK. Dan, nice talking to you.

SCHORR: My pleasure.

SIMON: NPR senior news analyst Daniel Schorr. And, as I say, for more information on Watergate, come to our Web site, npr.org.

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