Here’s this morning’s Washington Post obituary (co-written by Bob Woodward) on W. Mark Felt, aka, “Deep Throat,” the Post’s famous anonymous source on the Watergate story, who didn’t so much mind what Nixon did, as much as he minded how he did it.
And here’s the conclusion from my review of Bob Woodward’s The Secret Man, Woodward’s account of the Deep Throat saga published in 2005, which explains what I mean about Felt:
The going criticism of Woodward’s book, though, is that he doesn’t really shed any conclusive light onto Felt’s motivations—he simply ponders the whys and hows. And despite a later section of the book where, indeed, Woodward does burden the reader with his own existential (and boring) discussions with his wife about the ethics of it all, I actually got a perfect sense of what Felt was up to. Woodward sums it up in his conclusion: “The crimes and abuses were background music. Nixon was trying to subvert not only the law but also the Bureau. So Watergate became Felt’s instrument to reassert the Bureau’s… supremacy.” It wasn’t what Nixon did that bugged Felt. It was how Nixon did it.
Woodward is right on two counts. Not only did the White House derail the FBI’s investigation into Watergate and, more importantly, cut off the investigation into related White House espionage, but it created—through the ratfucking squad of Nixon’s Plumbers—a B-movie, surrogate version of the FBI. Nixon’s paranoia about the Democrats compelled him to create his own “intelligence” agency.
Felt, who Woodward shows to be a consummate counterintelligence agent dating back to his work outing Nazi spies in WWII, was obviously offended at both Nixon’s clampdown on the FBI (shredding files of the FBI’s investigation into Howard Hunt, for example) and at the slimy decision to pay thugs like G. Gordon Liddy to do secret agent work against the Democrats that it couldn’t ask the FBI to do.
I think, ultimately, super-spy Felt was offended at what has long been the bottom line analysis of Watergate: It was just a “third-rate burglary.”