Deep Throat's mistake

Politics | Watergate figure Chuck Colson says informant may have as much to regret as the co-conspirators

Issue: "Simpsons: Fair or Foul?," June 11, 2005

Chuck Colson said at first he "did not believe it" when he learned-along with the rest of the nation-the true identity of Deep Throat. The noted evangelical author, speaker, and founder of Prison Fellowship said he, like other leading Watergate figures, long discounted the presence of an inside informant feeding scoops to Washington Post reporters from an underground parking garage.

"I always thought Deep Throat was a literary fiction," Mr. Colson told WORLD two days after W. Mark Felt, 91, a 30-year-plus FBI veteran and Hoover protégé, confirmed that he was the dirt-shoveler behind one of Washington's longest-held secrets. With the evidence piling up, Mr. Colson said, he can concede that Mr. Felt is the man. But, "I did not think that Deep Throat would be the deputy director of the FBI, that he would stoop to that," Mr. Colson said.

Scorn for Mr. Felt's role in turning over government data to Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein more than 30 years ago revived after the May 31 revelation. Former associates of President Richard Nixon suggested that Mr. Felt acted out of spite after being passed over for the FBI director's job. Nixon deputy attorney general William D. Ruckelshaus acknowledged that Mr. Felt would have had access at the time to at least 1,500 FBI files concerning interviews about the coverup and growing scandal. "If he were interested in performing his duty, he would have gone to the grand jury with his information," said Nixon insider G. Gordon Liddy.

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"Nixon aides would jump on Felt naturally," Mr. Colson told WORLD. "I don't care that he helped bring me down, and I don't agree with others who say he undermined the president."

Mr. Colson does believe Mr. Felt breached professional ethics, but he was more concerned to see a top government official treated as a hero for leaking government data. "This is a guy who could have your files and mine in his trust," Mr. Colson said.

"The principle being taught today in a relativistic environment is getting young people to believe that this is a noble act that he did," he said. "He could not have done the right thing. He broke his oath of office. He broke the law. He snuck off cloak-and-dagger style to convey privileged information."

Other Nixon aides, Mr. Colson acknowledged, "may be mad that he undermined the Nixon White House, but that's not me. I am glad if he got me to go to prison. That was a good thing for me."

Mr. Colson, special counsel to Mr. Nixon, served seven months in a federal prison for his role in Watergate. His specific crime was leaking to the media a secret FBI report on Daniel Ellsberg, the psychiatrist who provided the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times-the very sort of maneuver that turned Deep Throat into a legend.

"I learned one thing in Watergate: I was well-intentioned but rationalized illegal behavior," he said. "You cannot live your life other than walking in the truth. Your means are as important as your ends."

That topic is the subject of a book by Mr. Colson scheduled for release this month, The Good Life: Seeking Purpose, Meaning, and Truth in Your Life (Tyndale House Publishers).

But isn't it easy to feel bitter after learning that a colleague, someone Mr. Colson said he knew well and thought was "a straight arrow," had helped you to prison?

"No, no," Mr. Colson said. "I did what I did. I take responsibility for it. Whether he contributed is irrelevant. I am not angry, I am sad, for a country that would think this is a good thing. And I am sad for a man who is 91 years old and who will have to live out his days with this hanging over him."


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