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Friendship with Felt Unseated President Nixon

Posted June. 03, 2005 06:52,   


From “Coincidental Meeting” to Friendship-

After graduating from Yale University, I (Woodward) joined the Navy as a lieutenant. In 1970 I visited the White House as a messenger and sat beside a gentleman in the waiting room.

I was still unsure of my future after the Navy, so I asked him for advice. He introduced himself and gave me his phone number.

Before I secured a position with the Washington Post and was working at a small newspaper, I called him whenever I could and even visited him at his home in Virginia. He gave me lots of fatherly advice. He said newspapers had “no depth.” I thought then that he would be of help to me (in writing deep articles).

In 1971, I frequently called Felt. He informed me one day that Vice President Agnew had received a $2500 bribe. I investigated all day but could not confirm it. It was found to be true two years later, and Vice President Agnew resigned.

In 1972, the governor of Alabama, who was a presidential candidate, was shot and injured. The shooter was arrested on the scene. I called Felt and he told me “the shooter also tried to kill someone else.” This story made the first page.

Watergate’s Deep Throat-

In 1972, I called Felt while tracking down someone named Howard Hunt, who was mentioned in the perpetrator’s notebook during the Watergate scandal. He said, “I hate phone calls at the office,” and adding that “(the Watergate burglary case) was going to heat up,” he abruptly hung up.

I called again. He was on edge. He said, off the record, “Hunt is an important witness.”

I tried calling him again but he did not answer. I tried visiting him. He said, “No more phone calls, no more visits to my home,” and worked out a notification system that spies often used.

He instructed, “Keep your drapes closed. When they are open, I will take it as a sign to meet.” I proposed a different idea. I would keep a red flag in a flowerpot, and when I needed to meet him, I would move the pot from its original place in front of the balcony to the back of the balcony. Our meeting place was to be an underground garage at 2:00 p.m. on the day I moved the flowerpot.

When he wanted meet, he would circle page 20 of the New York Times that was delivered to my door and the hands of a clock would be drawn to indicate the time of the meeting that day.

What Were Felt’s Motives?-

With a story as complex, competitive, and fast-breaking as Watergate, there was little time to consider the motives of our sources. The veracity of the information was the only important thing.

Why Felt had leaked information in spite of the risks is something I did not wonder about until later. Leaking FBI information is an illegal act. Felt believed he was protecting the FBI by making some part of the files public, to build political pressure to make Nixon answer for his actions. He had nothing but contempt for Nixon’s White House for their efforts to manipulate the Bureau for political reasons.

After the death of Hoover, he was shocked when an outsider, a Nixon supporter, was appointed as the director of the FBI. Felt thought he should have been Hoover’s successor.

He directed spies during World War II, so he liked games. Maybe he regarded me as one of his agents. In fact he taught me a lot of things like confidentiality, as if I were a spy.

He always gave me the same answer when I asked him (about his motives): “I have to do this my own way.”

Woodward said in another interview with the Washington Post online, “Some of the information Felt gave me was at times, false.”

Jong sikKong pisong@donga.com kong@donga.com