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Friday, December 19, 2008

Deep Throat, Stanley Pottinger and the CIA

Mark Felt, the FBI man who will go down in history as Watergate's "Deep Throat," has died. Perversely, I was hoping that CIM News (mentioned in the story below) would do a Deep Throat piece; alas, they did not. In that spirit of perversity, let us note that some die-hards still hold to the crazy idea that Mark Felt was not the real Deep Throat.

I'm one of those die-hards.

Newcomers to this site may not have seen this important letter by Jim Hougan, author of Secret Agenda, the best book on Watergate. (Puh-lease do not bring up Silent Coup.) Although careless readers of that book thought that Hougan had fingered Haig as DT, Hougan reprinted hard evidence that Robert Bennett of the CIA had given important information to reporter Bob Woodward. In return, Woodward kept the CIA out of his stories, even though Hunt and the other "plumbers" were all Agency veterans.

In an earlier post, I argued that Felt both was and was not Throat:
I have no trouble accepting the claim that Felt and Woodward met, and that information was passed. On the other hand, Felt did not live near Woodward's apartment, which renders the whole "signaling" scenario more unlikely than ever.

Many still argue that Woodward worked with a number of sources. A reader has told me that Woodward was dating a woman who worked at Robert Bennett's Mullen Company, the CIA cut-out which channeled money to the burglars. Bennett himself is a confirmed Woodward source who steered the Post reporters away from the all-important CIA connection. (See the appendices to Jim Hougan's Secret Agenda.)

Those advanced Throat students who discounted Felt did so for one primary reason: The nature of the information. How could Felt grab hold of all that juicy inside-the-White-House material? The source must have been someone inside the administration itself.
"Someone"? Scratch that. Some thing -- by which I mean: A bug.

The CIA had bugged the White House
. That last sentence -- one of those little facts of history they don't teach you in school -- explains many mysteries of that era. And the CIA is still keeping it under wraps. (Read Hougan's book if you want to know more.)

Today's Washington Post obit on Felt contains one further indicator that the CIA was the real power behind Felt/Throat. Read this carefully:
But in 1978, he was drawn back into the public view when he and another top FBI official, Edward G. Miller, were indicted for nine illegal break-ins in New York and New Jersey that had happened in 1972 and 1973.

Felt said he approved the break-ins of the relatives of fugitives with the Weather Underground, a radical leftist movement, believing he was acting with the approval of the FBI director. When he was arraigned, several hundred FBI agents greeted him at the courthouse in a show of solidarity.

It was during that period that Felt came closest to losing his secret identity. Under questioning by grand jurors, he cavalierly mentioned that he was often suspected of being Deep Throat. A grand juror immediately asked him if he was. Felt, according to assistant attorney general Stanley Pottinger, turned pale and denied it. According to Woodward's book, Pottinger went off the record, reminded Felt he was under oath, and offering to withdraw the "irrelevant" question if Felt preferred. Withdraw it, Felt snapped.
Woodward has acknowledged that Pottinger knew the truth about Felt, and did his best to help the agent hide that truth. Why was Pottinger -- then an Assistant US Attorney General, later an author -- in the know? In his book The Secret Man, Woodward did not reveal much.
Woodward also says he learned in 1976 that an assistant attorney general, Stanley Pottinger, had more or less figured out Felt's secret identity, but kept mum about his discovery.
Somehow, Pottinger became the only outsider to join the seven-man club of people who "officially" knew DT's identity, or so Woodward now says. A lot of people had guessed that Felt was Throat, but no other guesser was allowed to join the exclusive club of knowers. Which leaves us with three questions:

1. How did Pottinger know?

2. What was his motive for hiding the truth?

3. Why does no other Post reader bother to ask questions 1 and 2?

John Stanley Pottinger has long been suspected of having strong links to the American intelligence community. Bear with me, because we're going to take a quick trip through scandals past...

From Wikipedia's piece on The October Surprise theory:
Abolhassan Bani-Sadr, first elected President of Iran after the 1979 Iranian Revolution, claimed in a December 17, 1992 letter to the U.S. Congress, that he had first learned of the Republican "secret deal" in July 1980 after Reza Passendideh, a nephew of Khomeini, attended a meeting with Cyrus Hashemi and Republican lawyer Stanley Pottinger in Madrid on July 2, 1980. Though Passendideh was supposed to return with a proposal from the Carter administration, Bani-Sadr said Passendideh proffered instead a plan "from the Reagan camp." "Passendideh told me that if I do not accept this proposal, they [the Republicans] would make the same offer to my [radical Iranian] rivals. He further said that they [the Republicans] have enormous influence in the CIA. ... Lastly, he told me my refusal of their offer would result in my elimination."
The New York Times of June 3rd, 1984, revealed that Pottinger was under investigation for participation in an effort to smuggle forbidden arms to Iran. Cyrus Hashemi was the head of that operation, and Pottinger was his lawyer. That news blip was one of the first public references to what later became known as the Iran-contra scandal -- and Pottinger played a key role.

That's not all. Earlier:
Gloria Steinem dated J. Stanley Pottinger for nine years. Pottinger was in charge of sabotaging civil rights enforcement at the Justice Department (he was assistant attorney general) under President Nixon and President Ford. According to Donald Freed & Fred Landis in their book "Death in Washington", J. Stanley Pottinger also helped to cover up the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Orlando Letelier. Pottinger also publicly defended Gloria Steinem against charges of CIA involvement-- which Steinem had already admitted.
Letelier was killed in a car bombing in Washington DC in 1976. Those of you familiar with the Letelier murder know that it was ordered by Augusto Pinochet, the right-wing dictator running Chile, probably with help from the CIA, which had installed Pinochet. Letelier was a key figure in the previous (elected) left-wing Chilean government who had moved to Washington to continue the struggle for his country's freedom.

The killer was CIA-trained assassin Michael Vernon Townley, whose bio is pretty damned hair-raising.

But in 1976, Townley's guilt was hidden (for a while, at least) by a cover story that the Chilean left had committed the crime in order to turn Letelier into a martyr. Every major organ of the Ameircan media blared that nonsense.

The fake story was put out by the Justice Department and the CIA -- then headed by George Bush the elder. I believe that the cover story was decided upon at the lunch meeting between Bush and Pottinger discussed in this document.

I could go on, but perhaps I need not. In short and in sum: Many people believe that Pottinger was helpful to the Agency during his legal career. There is an animal known as an "Agency lawyer," and some folks would consider Pottinger an exemplar of the species.

His history may explain why the questioning of Mark Felt fell to him -- and why, during that questioning, he made sure to cover up Felt's role in Watergate.

Felt had no way of knowing some of the information fed to Woodward. But the CIA did.

Felt, in my view, was used as a cut-out -- otherwise, Woodward would have had to tell his partner Carl Bernstein and editor Ben Bradlee about the CIA's role in bringing down Nixon. The Agency sure as hell did not want that.

Later, the Agency used its friends and assets to protect Felt. Later still, Woodward made sure that the simplistic equation Mark Felt = Deep Throat stuck in the public mind. That equation hides a deeper truth.
Comments:
I saw Deep Throat once.

It's a crappy movie.
 
Hougan posits his Woodward-as-tool theory by setting a two-part counter-narrative in motion -- 1)Woodward had a formative early immersion in naval intelligence that brought him into Nixon COS Al Haig's orbit and 2) he conspired with Robert Bennett, then head of CIA cut-out Mullen Corporation and on-again-off-again boss of E. Howard Hunt, to keep the CIA out of the Washington Post stories.

There are many other subplots (and subtexts) in Secret Agenda (a prostitution honey-trap ring, CIA profiling of political elites, mysterious bit players like Lou Russell and John Leon).

But Haig and Bennett are the crucial institutional players that put flesh to an otherwise unreported and largely unacknowledged political force that put unremitting pressure on Nixon's paranoid, mad-as-a-hatter White House. Bennett, now Sen. Bennett, a Mormon, had also been hired by the Howard Hughes organization after a coup had replaced Larry O'Brien, JFK's 1960 field director, as the Hughes DC lobbyist. O'Brien's offices were invaded by the CREEP squad led by Hunt in the event we call the Watergate break-in. The tangles only multiply. But, if we nothing else, we know that the Woodward portion of Woodstein kept Bennett and the spooks out of the story line. This is why your blog is invaluable.
 
Woodward = CIA. I always laugh when it's suggested the Dems brought down Nixon.
 
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