February 9, 2005


Should We Jail Deep Throats ...
(John W. Dean, February 6, 2005, LA Times)

I have little doubt that one of my former Nixon White House colleagues is history's best-known anonymous source — Deep Throat. But I'll be damned if I can figure out exactly which one.

We'll all know one day very soon, however. Bob Woodward, a reporter on the team that covered the Watergate story, has advised his executive editor at the Washington Post that Throat is ill. And Ben Bradlee, former executive editor of the Post and one of the few people to whom Woodward confided his source's identity, has publicly acknowledged that he has written Throat's obituary.

Who is Deep Throat? Does It Matter? (Mark Feldstein, August/September 2004, American Journalism Review)
Over the past 30 years, attempting to ID Deep Throat has become a kind of Washington parlor game – perhaps, as Bernstein jokes, because "it's the only secret that has been kept this long in the history of the Republic." Among the leading suspects:

Gen. Alexander Haig Nixon's former chief of staff not only chain-smoked cigarettes and downed whiskey the way Woodward described, but also had the access and riverboat gambler personality to engage in such high-stakes political gamesmanship. In addition, claimed authors Len Colodny and Robert Gettlin in their book, "Silent Coup," Haig also had the motive – fear that Nixon and his aide Henry Kissinger were soft on Communism – and a longstanding relationship with Woodward dating back to the reporter's time in the military. But both Haig and Woodward have publicly denied that, and Haig appears to have been in Southeast Asia at the time of a key Woodward meeting with Throat.

David Gergen Gergen was a longtime and politically adaptable White House adviser who worked not only for Nixon but also Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. Gergen's media savvy, however, was not matched by any known involvement in Watergate that would have put him in a position to know sensitive details about the case. And his apparently heartfelt threat to sue Esquire magazine for suggesting he was Throat went beyond the customary boilerplate denials of other suspects.

Patrick Buchanan The feisty former presidential candidate and one-time Nixon speechwriter seems almost to have encouraged speculation that he was Throat, perhaps the strongest hint of all that he wasn't. Besides, the take-no- prisoners Buchanan was a diehard Nixon loyalist lacking both the motive and subtle personality necessary to commit such a sophisticated deception.

L. Patrick Gray The month before the Watergate break-in, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover died. Nixon appointed outsider Gray to the job, but the presidential loyalist soon became ensnared in Watergate crimes and was left by the White House to "twist slowly in the wind" – giving him both access and a motive for retaliatory leaking. Woodward reportedly lived just four blocks from Gray, making it convenient for him to check the balcony of the reporter's apartment, where Woodward placed secret signals for his source.

W. Mark Felt A longtime top FBI official, he also had access to secret information that Throat passed on to Woodward. Felt also had a motive: Nixon passed him over for the FBI's top job. By one account, reporter Carl Bernstein's young son once spilled the beans that Felt was indeed Throat, but both Bernstein and Felt denied it.

Why Did Bob Woodward Lunch With Mark Felt in 1999?: Was it to ask if he could unmask Deep Throat? (Timothy Noah, May 2, 2002, Slate)
As Chatterbox noted yesterday, the best guess going about the identity of Deep Throat, Bob Woodward's crucial but anonymous Watergate informer, has long been W. Mark Felt, assistant director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In his haste to write yesterday's item, Chatterbox failed to chase down a tip he'd received (apparently first published in the Globe tabloid) that Woodward actually had lunch with Felt within the last few years. Today's Washington Times explains (in its "Inside the Beltway" column) that this information comes from a new book by Ronald Kessler, The Bureau: The Secret History of the FBI, due to be published next week. Like James Mann, who published the definitive Deep Throat piece 10 years ago in the Atlantic, Kessler worked at the Post during Watergate (he left in 1985), though Chatterbox doesn't know whether Kessler, like Mann, will speak out of school about what Woodward told colleagues at the time. Here, according to the Washington Times, is how Kessler relates the story of the Woodward-Felt lunch:

In the summer of 1999, [Bob] Woodward showed up unexpectedly at the home of Felt's daughter, Joan, in Santa Rosa, California, north of San Francisco, and took him to lunch, Joan Felt, who was taking care of him at her home, told me.

She recalled that Woodward made his appearance just after a mini-controversy broke in the press late July 1999 about whether Bernstein had told his then-wife, Nora Ephron, that Felt was Deep Throat. Woodward had been interviewing former FBI officials for a book he was writing on Watergate.

However, now confused because of the effects of a stroke, Felt was in no shape to provide credible information. Joan said her father greeted Woodward like an old friend, and their mysterious meeting appeared to be more of a celebration than an interview, lending support to the notion that Felt was, in fact, Deep Throat.

"Woodward just showed up at the door and said he was in the area," Joan Felt said. "He came in a white limousine, which parked at a schoolyard about 10 blocks away. He walked to the house. He asked if it was OK to have a martini with my father at lunch, and I said it would be fine."

Mr. Felt is supposedly quite ill.

James Bierbower; Lawyer in High-Profile Cases (Patricia Sullivan, February 10, 2005, Washington Post)

James Joseph Bierbower, 81, a well-known Washington lawyer who represented Nixon campaign aide Jeb Stuart Magruder during the Watergate trials and EPA official Rita Lavelle during a Superfund inquiry, died of pneumonia Feb. 5 at Charlotte Hall Nursing Home in St. Mary's County. He had Alzheimer's disease.

He practiced law for 49 years in Washington, representing a bevy of capital characters. Most infamous was Magruder, a White House aide who admitted that he perjured himself, recanted and testified against others in the scandal.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 9, 2005 8:39 AM

I've seen talk on D-Magazine's blog that perhaps Chief Justice Rehnquist is deep throat. I guess that's as plausible as the others.

Posted by: kevin whited at February 9, 2005 11:54 AM

Does anybody really believe there was a Deep Throat, besides the one in the porn industry? I don't doubt that Woodward is planning to hang the title on some poor sap, as soon as he's safely dead. Without proof, though, I am skeptical out the receptacle, as Don King likes to say.

Posted by: Casey Abell at February 9, 2005 12:00 PM

Psst Fred Fielding. He smoked Marlboros and drank scotch.

Posted by: h-man at February 9, 2005 12:57 PM

I always thought it was Nixon's secretary. How better to mask a female informant's identity than to call "him" "Deep Throat". I guess I was wrong.

Posted by: Dave W. at February 9, 2005 1:06 PM

Clearly Deep Throat is Pope John Paul II.

Posted by: David Reeves at February 10, 2005 3:31 PM

Clearly Deep Throat is Pope John Paul II

Posted by: David Reeves at February 10, 2005 3:53 PM

Deep Troat was probably some young White House intern, who was all fired up about making a name for himself and rising to the heights of political stardom. Imagine how he felt (and has felt for 30+ years) when Woodward said, "you know kid, you're rat s**t in this town if you ever get connected with this stuff. I've got an idea."

Posted by: Phil at February 11, 2005 12:10 AM