Revealing Snitch's Motivation
By Wes Vernon
As America approaches the 40th anniversary of the Watergate break-in, which brought down the Nixon presidency, no historical discussion of the scandal will be complete without including the extensive research done by author Max Holland.
Leak: Why Mark Felt Became Deep Throat centers on a little-known but significant factor that drove much of the drama: the pure personal pique of one man. Mark Felt, then the FBI’s No. 2 official, was miffed that President Nixon had not appointed him to replace the legendary J. Edgar Hoover upon the latter’s death nearly seven weeks before the break-in.
Washington has long been a magnet for those imbued with the worst instincts of the Machiavellian back-stabber. Even by that standard, Felt’s deceitful maneuvering against the man the president had picked for the job, the decent but altogether too trusting L. Patrick Gray, leaves one breathless.
As a veteran of the FBI, the somewhat obsequious Felt had ingratiated himself to Hoover. With a feigned transfer of that loyalty to the newly appointed Gray, the man who would become “Deep Throat” actually set out to destroy his new boss. It rankled him that Gray had been selected from outside the bureau’s ranks for the top job (pending confirmation).
Felt accomplished his destructive goal in several ways, the centrality of which was leaking to the media details of the FBI’s ongoing Watergate investigation. Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein were among the chief beneficiaries of that steady stream of information.
Because the specifics of the probe had not yet been made public, spreading the incomplete findings to the public would make it appear to the White House that Gray was incapable of controlling the agency—and also leave the impression that the FBI was complicit in a cover-up. Felt’s goal was that Gray would be denied the permanent appointment as director and, while making his exit, would recommend his “loyal aide,” Mark Felt.
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