Younger readers will have to forgive us 40-and-50-something fossils. The Felt-as-Throat revelation has sent us all hitting the books, reliving all the glorious slime of the Nixon era.
Of course, the slime of yore has direct relevance to the slime of today: While re-reading Curt Gentry's authoritative J. Edgar Hoover: The Man and the Secrets
, I came across the allegations that high-ranking FBI official William Sullivan leaked derogatory information about his boss to none other than Robert Novak -- who, then as now, was grateful for whatever crumbs of dirt the powerful might sprinkle on his plate. The more things change...
I haven't time today to write all that I hope to, but here are a few further "deeply Felt" thoughts...Is Felt really the guy?
Throat scholars who favored other candidates may seem like sore losers when they point out that Felt -- a man in his 90s with whom communication has become difficult or impossible -- may be playing the role of "fall guy" to protect the real
Throat. After all, his family will probably benefit financially from Woodward's upcoming book on the subject.
JFK assassination writer Jim Koepke says that he spoke to a self-identified "Deep Throat" while researching his book Chasing Ghosts
. Koepke has recently identified his source as Mark Felt. Make of that what you will; I'll take Koepke at his word until someone gives me reason not to do so. The idea of Mark Felt revealing his Ultimate Secret to a JFK buff is
a little odd, but stranger things have happened.The Throat behind Throat.
Many questions linger. What about the many details that argued against Felt? Woodward identified DT as a heavy smoker; Felt did not smoke. More importantly, DT had access to highly secretive information -- such as the 18 1/2 minute tape gap, and the subpoenas against the Post reporters -- which seemed unlikely to be within Felt's range of knowledge, especially after he left the bureau in 1973.
The bulk of the evidence indicates that Felt really did speak to Woodward, just as Woodward has described in his recent Washington Post
piece. However, this presumption now means that we must take the identification question one step further. From Woodward and Bernstein's interview with Don Imus:
WOODWARD: You remember the 18.5 minute gap. And it turned out to be correct. He had good information. He had -- I mean, remember, he was a Hoover man. He was...
IMUS: Well, did he have his own Deep Throat?
BERNSTEIN: You got it.
IMUS: So he-so he must have had -- there must have been a mole in the White House, right?
WOODWARD: No, not necessarily. I mean, the...
BERNSTEIN: We wish there would have been.
WOODWARD: Yes. Good point.
The FBI has all kinds of information, as we know. And enough of this has come out about, you know, files and data and so forth, and a lot of it's official, a lot of it's unofficial. Newspaper clippings, gossip, you know, what the neighbor said and so forth, and somebody in that position has a staggering amount of data.
The reference to newsclips is a obviously inane, and the tape gap revelation (not to mention the other material) cannot be put down to gossipy neighbors. So how did Felt find out about this stuff after he left the FBI? Obviously, either a White House mole told him -- a Deep Throat behind
Deep Throat -- or he received data derived from electronic eavesdropping devices.
The latter is the most interesting possibility. Anyone studying the parapolitical history of this era quickly comes to understand that everyone was bugging everyone else
. Although Hoover denied the allegations, there were persistent reports at the time that the FBI's offices in Quantico had even found a way to listen in on CIA telephone conversations.Motive.
Some of the current Felt coverage makes him out to be a man outraged by the Nixon administration's willingness to spy on Americans. Anyone who believes that
claim is a fool. In the late 1970s, Felt was convicted of using illegal methods to spy on left-wing groups. He was pardoned by Ronald Reagan, who may not have extended such generosity if he knew that Felt was DT.
Felt pretty much ran the FBI during Hoover's final year-or-so, when the Bureau committed most of its most vicious assaults on the American citizenry's right to privacy. At that time, Hoover was active only for a few hours in the morning, after receiving his daily "vitamin shot," which almost certainly contained a dose of amphetamines. Clyde Tolson, the ostensible number two man at the Bureau (and J. Edgar's paramour), was in even worse health.
Before Felt's ascension, the Bureau was run, for all practical purposes, by William Sullivan -- a brilliant and devious fellow close to the CIA's ultra-paranoid James Jesus Angleton. But Hoover came to consider Sullivan a Judas after he (Sullivan) made a speech giving the lie to Hoover's asinine but ineradicable belief that the anti-war demonstrators were manipulated by the American Communist Party. (Sullivan was perfectly correct, of course; the CP was miniscule and moribund).
Hoover suspected -- probably correctly -- that Sullivan's true loyalty was to the CIA. Or rather: To the Angleton faction within the various branches of the intelligence community.
One should see many of these events in the light of the long-running CIA-FBI "war," which had grown particularly acrimonious in the Nixon period. Hoover refused to share any information with CIA -- an obstinate attitude which he eventually extended to all other branches of the intel community. The Director wanted to keep to himself all the data derived from his extensive wiretaps and from his network of informants. A penchant for collecting dirt on friend and foe had kept the aged Hoover in office; knowledge is power, and Hoover did not intend to share what he knew.
Instead, he hoped to turn the FBI into a semi-CIA by increasing the scope and number of the FBI's offices overseas. When Sullivan opposed this plan, the Director felt the chill of steel slicing into his back.
Enter Mark Felt, die-hard Hoover loyalist who hoped to inherit his job. A position above Sullivan's was created for him -- and one of Felt's most important tasks was to keep tabs on William Sullivan. He did so via wiretaps, and even by using Sulllivan's secretary as a snitch.
Why didn't Hoover simply fire a man he considered an adversary? In Ovid Demaris' The Director
, Mark Felt is asked this very question. Felt hems and haws, and then mutters vague words about the difficulty of firing anyone who works for the government. Difficult or no, Hoover would surely have managed the trick -- if he had been in a position to do so.
We have already made reference to William Sullivan's connection to James Jesus Angleton. Angleton had formed a circle of like-minded individuals operating within various branches of the intelligence community, the military and foreign services. These men appear to have taken seriously Angleton's very
odd view of the world: He felt that the Sino-Soviet split was false, and that Henry Kissingerer was a Soviet agent.
Angletonon had the goods on Hoover
: A photograph -- obtained via an early spy camera capable of taking a wide-angle image through a very small hole -- of J. Edgar Hoover and Clyde Tolson engaged in fellatio. Angleton once showed a copy of this photo to a rather mysterious operative named Gordon Novel, at a time when the FBI was pressing Novel to cease with his plans to sue Jim Garrison. (The story is told in Anthony Summers' Official and Confidential
. I was privy to the route by which Summers attained this information, and I have reason to believe that the "photo" tale is not just a Novel yarn -- for one thing, another CIA man also claimed to have seen the same image.)
For those unsatisfied by Felt's explanation, the existence of this photograph does much to explain why Hoover could NOT fire Sullivan.Tune in tomorrow...!
, alas, is all I have time to write at the moment. I hope to return with the rest of the story tomorrow. Topics should include Mark Felt, Hoover and the notorious "Huston plan," as well as the lingering reasons to suspect a CIA connection to Woodward and Watergate. Call me stubborn, but I still believe that the "Deep Throat" behind "Deep Throat" may have been someone in CIA -- after all, the agency was certainly keeping tabs on Nixon. The questions is: Which faction of CIA wanted to bring down the President -- Colby's or Angleton's?