Deep Throat Revealed (One Last Time)

Gossip, speculation, and scuttlebutt about politics.
June 24 1999 6:12 PM

Deep Throat Revealed (One Last Time)

Apparently Chatterbox, the Washington Post's Richard Cohen, and Jack Shafer (then with Washington's City Paper, now with Slate) aren't the only journalists who took note of James Mann's brilliant-but-mostly-ignored 1992 Atlantic piece identifying the FBI as the place where Deep Throat worked. (See "Deep Throat Revealed (Again).") It has been brought to Chatterbox's attention that the Post's Watergate Silver Anniversary Web site maintains a Deep Throat page that gives lengthy, respectful consideration to the FBI theory in general, and to Mann's Atlantic piece in particular. The Post's Deep Throat page also cites a CBS documentary from 1992 called Watergate: The Secret Story that offers up an alternative FBI theory: Deep Throat was L. Patrick Gray, who succeeded J.Edgar Hoover as acting FBI director right before the Watergate break-in in June 1972. Chatterbox isn't sure he buys it, but he finds the evidence interesting enough to pass along.

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The CBS documentary, hosted by Mike Wallace, does a nice job of knocking down the most hackneyed Deep Throat theories fingering Al Haig, Henry Kissinger, and Melvin Laird. All three, it says, were out of the country on days when, according to Woodward, he met with Deep Throat. Then CBS turns to W. Mark Felt, a prominent suspect in Mann's piece (and, unbeknownst to Chatterbox, also the man Richard Nixon, no mean authority, accused of being Deep Throat). CBS's problem with Felt--who denies he's Deep Throat--is that Woodward described Deep Throat as a heavy smoker, and Felt gave up smoking in 1943. Chatterbox doesn't think this dismisses Felt as a suspect; it's possible the heavy-smoker bit was a phony novelistic detail that Woodward got wrong or invented.

The thrust of Mann's Atlantic piece is that the FBI lifers had an interest in helping Woodward because their new boss, L. Patrick Gray, was bowing to White House pressure to limit the investigation. However, it's possible that even as Gray was knuckling under to the White House, he was advancing the Watergate investigation by an alternative route: leaking to Woodward. According to the CBS documentary, Gray "started out as a Nixon loyalist, but according to our sources, as Gray was dragged into the Watergate scandal, he became increasingly disgusted with the whole business."

What's the evidence that Deep Throat was Gray? Here's what Mike Wallace says in the documentary:

What's most baffling to those who have tried to figure out Deep Throat's identity is how such a high-level government official could arrange so many clandestine meetings for hours on end in the middle of the night in an underground parking garage. Who could possibly have done that? L. Patrick Gray lived in a bachelor apartment in this building that has an underground garage to which he could have descended, unseen, to meet Bob Woodward, who lived only four blocks away during much of the Watergate crisis.

Woodward and Deep Throat had worked out a set of bizarre signals to arrange their meetings that required Deep Throat to check the balcony of Bob Woodward's apartment every morning. L. Patrick Gray could easily have done that on his way to work or when he used to jog sometimes in the empty streets of Washington before dawn.

But was he the kind of man who would have befriended a young reporter? Gray liked the role of mentor. He and Woodward had similar backgrounds in the Navy. And both have a well-known fascination with government. [Chatterbox finds this last argument a real stretch. Everyone in Washington, D.C., has a well-known fascination with government.] In Gray's language and personal style, he fits Woodward's description of Deep Throat in detail after detail.

Through a lawyer, Gray denied to CBS he was Deep Throat.

[Update, 8/4/99: After much pestering online and by phone, Chatterbox has finally gotten The Atlantic to post on its Web site Jim Mann's watershed Deep Throat piece. Click here and wonder no more about Deep Throat's place of employment.]

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