Monday, March 19, 2012

“Leak”: A New Look at Watergate’s Deep Throat

The Watergate scandal was a formative episode in American political culture that powerfully reinforced public skepticism towards government and fostered a heroic image of the intrepid reporter aided by his truth-telling source. But the reality, as usual, is more complicated than the received narrative. In a fascinating new book, “Leak: Why Mark Felt Became Deep Throat,” Max Holland probes deep into the record of Watergate to illuminate some of those complications.

The question that Holland sets out to answer is the nature of “Deep Throat’s” agenda. What drove FBI official Mark Felt to disclose sensitive investigative information about the Watergate burglary and the ensuing coverup to Bob Woodward of the Washington Post? What were his motivations and what was he hoping to accomplish?

Holland pays close attention to what Felt told Woodward (and when), what Felt could have told Woodward but did not, and what he told Woodward that was not actually true.

His conclusion, spelled out at the beginning of the book, is that Felt’s actions are best understood in the context of the struggle over who would succeed J. Edgar Hoover as director of the FBI. Felt hoped it would be him. Read More