The Watergate Affair

Article excerpt


Lest anyone forget, the Watergate affair was not about a botched break-in of the Democratic National Committee. It was about Richard Nixon's illegal assault on the Constitution. As it turned out, the disgraced former president tried to eviscerate the Fourth Amendment, among other things.

This nation owes a debt of gratitude to W. Mark Felt, the retired FBI official who, the public has just learned, was the mysterious "Deep Throat" - the source of critical information for reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein ("Former FBI official reveals he was 'Deep Throat,' " Page 1, Wednesday). If you ask me, a monument should be erected in Mr. Felt's honor somewhere between the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials. His courage and wisdom helped preserve democracy for future generations. Let the fundraising begin.


Laguna Beach, Calif.


Mark Felt was wise to keep his identity a secret. As we have seen over the past few years, people who choose to inform the public about a sitting president risk their careers and their reputation. Had Deep Throat gone through regular governmental channels to expose Watergate, the Nixon White House would have used the now familiar tactic of making the story about the accuser rather than the accusation.


Knoxville, Tenn.


Former Nixon aides and other critics of Mark Felt are saying that one of the lowest things one can do in the world is to "rat" on your friends, which strikes me as a silly schoolyard comparison. You don't tell the teacher that Jimmy used too many paper towels in the little boys' room, but if others are involved in serious crimes and you know about it, that's a different matter. Were John Gotti's men who turned on him and testified against him "rats"?

Any whistleblower is, almost by definition, going to cause his peers to feel betrayed. If nothing else, they have cause to be embarrassed that he did something to uncover wrongdoing while they supported it with their complicity.

Still, that seems to be the big complaint against Mr. Felt - that he was disloyal to the FBI and/or to Richard Nixon. I don't buy that definition of loyalty. At that point in time, the FBI was being compromised. J. Edgar Hoover, who was too feisty and independent for any president to control, had died, and his replacement was L. Patrick Gray, a virtual Nixon puppet who dealt with the Watergate scandal by keeping the White House briefed on the investigation and destroying potentially incriminating documents. …