Lying to protect Mark Felt from being exposed.
Lukas: Do you resent the implication by some critics that your sources on Watergate—among them the fabled Deep Throat—may have been people in the intelligence community?
Woodward: I resent it because it's untrue. As you know, I'm not going to discuss the identity of Deep Throat or any other of my confidential sources who are still alive. But let me just say that this suggestion that we were being used by the intelligence community was of concern to us at the time and afterward. When somebody first wrote the article saying about me, "Wait a minute; this is somebody in an intelligence agency who doesn't like Nixon and is trying to get him out," I took that seriously.
The CIA is an agency with professional covert manipulators who try to alter events by deceiving people and directing them, running them like an intelligence agent. I have revisited this question of disinformation—I'd rather not go into how it was done—but I've satisfied myself and others that that was not the case.
In fact, Woodward was being used by the intelligence community, albeit to a beneficial end. In addition to being a crime-fighting agency, the FBI is an intelligence agency, as Woodward well knew. In his Felt memoir, Woodward notes that in 1970 the Nixon administration wanted to coordinate efforts by the CIA, the FBI, and military intelligence
to intensify electronic surveillance of "domestic security threats," authorize illegal opening of mail, and lift the restrictions on surreptitious entries or break-ins to gather intelligence.
[White House aide Tom Charles] Huston warned in a top-secret memo that the plan was "clearly illegal." Nixon initially approved the plan anyway. Hoover strenuously objected, because eavesdropping, opening mail and breaking into homes and offices of domestic security threats were basically the FBI bailiwick and the bureau didn't want competition.
Illegal spying may not have been intelligent behavior on the FBI's part, but it was quite clearly intelligence. In denying that Deep Throat came from this world, Woodward lied.
I am, however, prepared to absolve Woodstein of another supposed sin: They did not misidentify Deep Throat as being on the White House staff. The allegation is that a Deep Throat quote in All the President's Men appeared in a November 1973 story attributed to a White House aide. But it's a bum rap. On page 333 of the book, we read that the November 1973 Post story "quoted anonymously Deep Throat's remark that there were gaps of 'a suspicious nature' which 'could lead someone to conclude that the tapes have been tampered with.' " Yet the November 1973 Post story, it is said, was attributed to unnamed "White House sources." Not true. The story's first paragraph cites "White House sources" confirming that the tapes are inaudible, but the Deep Throat "quote" (actually, it's a paraphrase) appears further down and merely cites "five sources":
Of five sources who confirmed that difficulties have risen concerning the quality of the tapes, one said the problems are of a suspicious nature and could lead someone to include [sic] that the tapes have been tampered with.
Had the story said "the five sources," it could fairly be said that it was saying the sources mentioned in the first paragraph were the same sources mentioned here. But it didn't. Defendants acquitted. Next case.
Timothy Noah is a former Slate staffer. His book about income inequality is The Great Divergence.
Photograph of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein by Gerald Herbert/Associated Press.