Hooray for W. Mark Felt, former deputy director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who was “Deep Throat,” the source who provided the Washington Post‘s Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein with information that led to their breaking the Watergate story.
Felt is a hero of the first order. It’s hard to recall in these times of demands for blind loyalty that a single individual inside government is all it takes to topple a corrupt presidency.
It’s also instructional in these times when the press is skewered for making mistakes that the Post wasn’t completely accurate. It incorrectly reported one element of grand jury testimony. In the wake of the charge that Newsweek incorrectly reported U.S. military interrogators’ desecration of the Koran, a story that was later confirmed by FBI reports that show the abuse was ongoing, those eager to crucify press mistakes—rather than press hubris, which deserves all the skewers it attracts—should be hoisted on their own petards for criticizing imperfect reporting that nevertheless reveals truths. Anyone claiming to be holier than others needs deflating; that’s not a defense of the press, it’s a call for the spirit of good journalism and good blogging to strive to reveal the truth.
The hard truths about the tendency of government officials of all stripes to abuse power need to be reported and acknowledged. It should not be necessary for someone like Felt to keep the secret for 30+ years in order to avoid repercussions from colleagues who were on the wrong side of the law or morality.