Back in 2005, after Bob Woodward revealed who "Deep Throat" was (supposedly), I wrote the following essay on him. Last week Woodward was back in the news, pretending that he was being threatened by a member of the Obama Administration who told him he would regret acting like a fool. But Woodward is more than a fool. He's a tool.
Here is that essay, in full:
Spy vs. Spy vs. Spy vs. Deep Throat
The problem with the world of secrecy (that is, the spy world) is that all is never what it is supposed to be, that all is never all, that you can never be quite sure what someone's motive might be. What is leaked may or may not be truth. Backgrounds of individuals help you to categorize a person and identify what "camp" he or she may be in. When an intelligence scandal breaks, though, there is more to an individual than just the few sentences in a news story. In fact, you can't ever trust the news source reporting the story to give you all of the story.
Political researcher Dave Emory has suggested another dimension to the difficulties of analyzing the movements of intelligence players. It was his theory of "agents, assets and assholes." That is, there are some people out there who are agents. That is, they work for an intelligence agency and draw a check. Then there is a murkier category, the asset. During the Cold War, for example, any American who went behind the Iron Curtain (with the peculiar exception of Lee Harvey Oswald) would be debriefed when he or she returned to the U.S. An oil executive (like, say, George H. W. Bush early in his career) who was negotiating a contract with the government of Yugoslavia would undoubtedly be called in upon his return to the U.S. to tell an agent what he saw. Students who went abroad, like Bill Clinton or Gloria Steinem (who in a 1967 news story actually admitted her CIA connections), would be important sources of intelligence about dissident student groups overseas, especially during the Vietnam War. Then there are the assholes, who may not have any connection to any intelligence agency but travel the same roads. And these categories overlap. An asshole may become as asset, an asset an agent. Sometimes an individual on assignment may be officially discharged from an intelligence unit but still working for it, albeit under cover of private employment.
Then there are the rivalries within the intelligence community. One hears about turf wars between the CIA and the FBI. But what about the Army Security Agency, the Office of Naval Intelligence, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the Secret Service, or any other number of intelligence units in the U.S.? What about private intelligence companies that may or may not connect with official government intelligence units? Private intelligence agencies with political agendas have been around at least since Henry Ford's love affair with the Nazis and his desire to crush unions in the 1920s and 30s, and these have multiplied over the years with the greater ability to store information on individuals. Now multiply this multiplicity by the number of countries around the world. And intelligence agencies love to put their own people into other intelligence agencies in order to know what other intelligence agencies are doing. There are spies who double on their own agencies.
Most of this is funded with your tax dollar, by the way.
So here is the story we are now told to believe: A senior figure in the FBI leaked information to Bob Woodward, a young ace reporter for the Washington Post, and this information brought down the Nixon White House, which was an evil cabal of corrupt political figures who were overstepping their bounds.
Already there are problems. John Dean, the White House lawyer who "turned" and spilled the beans on Nixon's shenanigans, says that Mark Felt could not have known about some of the things for which he was attributed leaking to Woodward.
So who is Woodward?
Well, lo these many years later he is an established journalist with many books to his credit. He has never written anything quite so "investigative" as what he wrote about Watergate, but most books seem to have a smattering of little behind-the-scene discoveries that helps push publicity and sales.
Bob Woodward's history should have been of interest to anyone who was trying to find out who Deep Throat was. Where did he work prior to his job at the Post? Who might he have known who could have given him this information? But the media has for the most part stayed away from Woodward's life before Watergate.
An exception was Deborah Davis, who wrote KATHARINE THE GREAT, an unauthorized biography of Katharine Graham, publisher of the Washington Post. To understand Woodward, one needs to understand the Washington Post. There is a history of intelligence surrounding the Post that routinely escapes notice from the rest of the media. Graham's husband Phillip, during WWII, had been involved with "cable interception, code-breaking, [and] enemy disinformation." Chalmers Roberts, Mrs. Graham's first national affairs editor, "had been a communications specialist in the Pentagon." Joseph Alsop, there at the Post when Katharine Graham took the reins, had a military history with General Claire Chennault's "Flying Tigers" in the Asian Theater during the war. He was an extreme anti-Communist with connections to the reactionary milieu that gave birth to the various incarnations of what would become the World Anti-Communist League, itself a connection of reactionary and outright fascist intelligence officers from around the globe.
There are many, many more connections between the Washington Post and the U.S. intelligence community, but let's focus on one: Ben Bradlee, editor of the Post at the time of Watergate, had worked with codes during WWII (intelligence), and then after the war worked in Europe for the anti-Communist propaganda agency, the U.S. Office of Information and Educational Exchange. He spent much energy in that capacity denouncing the Rosenbergs and justifying their executions in American propaganda distributed throughout Europe in newspapers, pamphlets, etc. Through FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) disclosures it was learned that Bradlee was ordered by "the head of the CIA in Paris" to go to New York and meet with the prosecutors of the Rosenberg case [Davis]. So Bradlee, who assigned Woodward to the Watergate break-in story, was no stranger to the world of intelligence, or of the uses of leaks to promote the agenda of a clandestine agency.
And the perception of the Washington Post as part of a "liberal" establishment is at best an incomplete picture, at worst the wrong picture altogether. Nothing is ever as simple as it seems.
In short, from the publisher down, people at the Washington Post had numerous connections to intelligence agencies, to government propaganda operations and similar ventures, either through former employment or through "networking." [Emory has derided the term "conspiracy theory" for the bias connected with it. Instead, he prefers the term "networking." After all, in the end it is all a business.]
So what was Woodward's past? After he had graduated from Yale (a prime recruiting ground for the intelligence services after WWII) he enlisted and became a communications officer in the Navy, handling "coded cables on a guided-missile ship," a duty under the auspices of the Office of Naval Intelligence. Transferring to duty at the Pentagon, "he became, he conceded to a TIME magazine reporter, a member of an ultra-secret intelligence unit that was involved in highly sensitive issues at the White House [Davis]." Upon discharge he went to work as a reporter for the Washington Post.
You didn't see that in the movie "All The President's Men," did you?
There's plenty more, and if you're the curious sort, you may want to try to find a copy of Davis' book. Katharine Graham certainly used all the forces she could muster to quash the publication and distribution of that book. But you may be able to search out a copy.
The bigger question than "Who is Deep Throat" is why our free press didn't seem particularly curious about the background of all those connected to Bob Woodward and the Post? If Deep Throat was such a great mystery and given to so much speculation over the last thirty years, how come no one noticed that Woodward had an intelligence history through the Office of Naval Intelligence? Why didn't anyone consider Bradlee's work as a government propagandist when speculating on the motives of whoever was leaking this information that would eventually sink the Nixon Administration and force an exit from the disastrous war in Vietnam?
Maybe Watergate wasn't the greatest moment of American investigative journalism after all. Maybe it was just a part of the intelligence community showing Nixon who was boss.