Jeffrey LewisDeep Throat and Arms Control

I’ve long been fascinated by Watergate, All the President’s Men and the identity of Deep Throat. Today, Bob Woodward—prodded by a forthcoming Vanity Fair article—confirmed that Assistant FBI Director W. Mark Felt was “Deep Throat.”

The possibility that Felt was Deep Throat was first noted in an excellent article by Jim Mann, also author of Rise of the Vulcans (later, Ronald Kessler noted Woodward’s suspicious 1999 lunch with Felt).

So what the hell does this have to do with arms control? Well, the discussion belongs properly to political science as a whole, the study of why governments act as they do.


Bureaucratic motives are often the strongest.

Mann’s analysis—flawless in retrospect—rested on bureaucratic and personal motives Felt had for leaking to Woodward:

During any Administration, institutions and bureaucracies are powerful entities within themselves, sometimes with more clout than the White House personalities who theoretically govern them.

And among these powerful bureaucracies are the U.S. intelligence and investigative agencies: the CIA and the FBI. In what follows I will explore some of these matters.

I cannot reveal who Deep Throat was, because I do not know. I do know, however, the part of the government in which Deep Throat worked, and I can speculate with some conviction about what Deep Throat’s institutional motivations may have been.

Woodward confirmed that analysis today. “Felt helped The Post at a time of tense relations between the White House and much of the FBI hierarchy,” Woodward said, “the Watergate break-in came shortly after the death of legendary FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, Felt’s mentor, and … Felt and other bureau officials wanted to see an FBI veteran promoted to succeed Hoover.”

Comments

  1. Stephen Moore (History)

    The Mann article is an interesting one, and his conclusion regarding the importance of institutional factors appears sound.

    As for Felt, I understand he was convicted in the late 70s for ordering illegal break-ins himself, though he was later pardoned by Reagan. Also, didn’t he testify before the Church Select Committee in the mid 70s to the effect that he thought the effectiveness of FBI investigative techniques was more important than concerns about their constitutionality?

    I ask because I wonder about the use to which the FBI independence Felt may have been defending with his leaks was being put. Obviously, a police force taking partisan political direction on its investigations is a dangerous thing, but I’ve also read of some nasty things the ‘independent’ FBI was up to under Hoover’s COINTELPRO operations.

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