In the early morning of June 17, 1972, four smartly dressed burglars were arrested while breaking into the offices of the National Democratic Committee. The ensuing scandal became to be known as Watergate.
Two reporters for the Washington Post, Robert Bernstein and Bob Woodward were instrumental in bringing down the presidency of Richard Nixon. They did not do it alone; they had an anonymous source known in the press as Deep Throat.The identity of Deep Throat had always been a mystery and many individuals were proposed over the years as being the Post’s anonymous source. It wasn’t until 2005 that Mark Felt, then 91 years-old, was revealed as Deep Throat, the source of Woodward and Bernstein’s revelations.
Felt, the number 2 man at the FBI, had learned of the break-in at 7 o’clock that very morning and was privy to every piece of information the FBI uncovered it its investigation of the break ins and its finances. Felt suspected White House involvement after being told that pursuing lead that could establish links between a Mexican bank and the Plumbers could jeopardize a CIA operation. (It was later revealed that White House chief of staff H. R. Haldeman had instructed the CIA to halt any FBI investigation into Watergate finances.)
Woodward had used Felt as an anonymous source in previous stories and a week after the break-in, Felt informed Woodward of the White House’s E. Howard Hunt connection to the Plumbers. Felt knew that Hunt ran a secret team inside the White House involved in illegal wiretapping because he and the FBI had refused to approve similar operations when requested to do so by the White House. (Ironically, Felt was himself accused of illegal wiretapping is his investigations against the Weathermen. In 1981, he was pardoned for his role in COINTELPRO by President Ronald Reagan.)
After the FBI’s refusal to play ball with the White House, Nixon and his team created a group made up mostly of ex-CIA agents known as the Plumbers. They had a slush fund to gather covert information of Democrats and used bribery, blackmail, tax audits and legal actions to silence opponents.
By mid-October ‘72, Haldeman had figured out that Felt was leaking information to the press, but because rousing Felt could cause him to reveal a lot more, they chose to leave it alone. In January of 1973, Felt’s boss at the FBI confronted him about the allegations that he was Woodward and Bernstein‘s source, but Felt flatly denied it. That June, Felt retired from the FBI.
Some believe that Felt’s motives weren’t so patriotic, but rather that he was disgruntled from being passed over for the top FBI position following Hoover’s death. That perhaps this was not a case of two young reporters reestablishing democracy in America, but rather, a case of the FBI’s Old Guard using the Washington Post to get back at Nixon.
But wait, there’s more…
The story of the 4 burglars breaking into the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate complex is well known. What is less well known is what the burglars were after that night. It turns out that Nixon’s people had gone behind President’s Johnson back to deliberately sabotage the Paris Peace Talk.
That’s right, Nixon committed Treason.
With the climate the way it stood in 1968, there was a very good chance that the Peace talks would have succeeded. However, Nixon’s team interceded and persuaded the South Vietnamese to boycott the talks entirely.
FBI Director Hoover informed Nixon that the Democrats had obtained wiretap that could contain proof of Nixon’s involvement in sabotaging the Peace Talk. This would surely cost Nixon the elections. Nixon his National Security Advisor, Henry Kissinger to find the potentially damaging wiretaps. And THAT is what the Watergate burglars were looking for on that night. Nixon HAD to know what the Democrats could prove about the Paris Peace talk.
The Lyndon Johnson tapes: Richard Nixon’s ‘treason’ (BBC)
LBJ’s ‘X’ File on Nixon’s ‘Treason’
The Secret Man: The Story of Watergate’s Deep Throat
Porn film namesake for the codename Deep Throat
“I’m the Guy They Called Deep Throat” Vanity Fair article