John Dean, Deep Throat, and the FBI.

John Dean, Deep Throat, and the FBI.

John Dean, Deep Throat, and the FBI.

Gossip, speculation, and scuttlebutt about politics.
June 17 2002 6:55 PM

John Dean Says Deep Throat Was Not a G-Man

But mostly fails to persuade Chatterbox.

To commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Watergate break-in, Salon has published an e-book by John Dean, former White House counsel to (and chief Watergate witness against) Richard Nixon, called Unmasking Deep Throat. The book is largely a fiasco because the candidate whom Dean originally intended to "unmask," a Nixon White House staff assistant named Jonathan C. Rose (whose father, Chappie Rose, provided Nixon legal assistance on Watergate), threatened to sue, and, in follow-up research, Dean "learned in confidence from 'a highly reliable [but apparently second-hand] source' that Rose was not Deep Throat." Chatterbox does not know what to make of all this.


Dean's book contains the most comprehensive list Chatterbox has ever seen of candidates whom Bob Woodward has ruled out as his famous secret source. (Click here to read why Chatterbox, pace David Obst and Edward Jay Epstein, believes that Deep Throat is real.) Most notable on the list is L. Patrick Gray, whom CBS fingered plausibly as Deep Throat in 1992. Apparently Woodward nixed Gray in TV Guide sometime after the CBS report aired. (Chatterbox actually knew this once and managed subsequently to forget it.) The others Woodward has ruled out are: Al Haig (fingered today in the Miami Herald by Glenn Garvin), John Sears (promoted in Leonard Garment's book, In Search of Deep Throat), Diane Sawyer (accused by Nixon loyalist Rabbi Baruch Korff), and David Gergen (named by Taylor Branch in a 1976 Esquire article; apparently Woodward told Dean personally that Gergen wasn't Deep Throat). All five have denied being Deep Throat. Dean also claims that, prior to Nixon White House deputy counsel Fred Fielding being hired by the Reagan White House, Woodward assured Reagan officials that Fielding wasn't Deep Throat. But Dean's source on that isn't Woodward, but Fielding, rendering this information of little apparent value. (Woodward has stated that the real Deep Throat has lied in order to protect his identity.)

Notably absent from Woodward's list is W. Mark Felt, then the No. 3 man at the FBI. Felt is still Chatterbox's preferred candidate, in spite of his having denied it to this column three years ago. (Richard Nixon thought Felt was Deep Throat, and even Felt's children have apparent suspicions.) More broadly, Chatterbox continues to believe (with James Mann) that Deep Throat worked in the FBI. But a major argument running through Dean's book, and also through the just-released computer-assisted Finder's Guide to Deep Throat, by William Gaines' journalism class at the University of Illinois, with whom Dean pooled some research, is that Deep Throat was not a G-man, but rather somebody who worked in the White House. Their evidence:

  • On June 19, 1972, Deep Throat told Woodward that E. Howard Hunt was involved in Watergate, something that the FBI did not yet know, according to investigative records, though they were "suspicious." (Dean)

Chatterbox's counterargument: Written records may not indicate the FBI knew it, but it's hard to conclude that no one in the FBI knew it. This was one of the easiest links to make in Watergate—Hunt's phone number was found on the Watergate burglars, and Hunt had been working in the White House!

  • On Sept. 16, 1972, Deep Throat told Woodward that the Committee to Re-Elect the President had funded the break-in. Written records show the FBI didn't know this, either, though it was "maybe suspicious." (Dean)

Chatterbox's counterargument: But Dean writes that this information was in the Watergate burglars' indictment, which had been issued the day before. The indictment would have been a public document, easily available to everyone, including the Washington Post and the FBI.

  • On Oct. 8, 1972, Deep Throat told Woodward that the FBI had limited its investigation to the break-in and ignored other illegal intelligence-gathering activities. (Dean)

Chatterbox's counterargument: Different factions within the FBI were almost certainly at war over how aggressively to investigate Watergate. There were probably one or more back channels through which disloyal White House and CREEP employees could tip off people in the FBI (who were perhaps not part of the official investigation) as to what was going on.

  • The FBI "knew days after the burglary that a $25,000 check meant for Nixon's campaign fund was in the bank account of one of the burglars. It took the Post six weeks to learn about this, and the information did not come from Throat, All the President's Men states." Also, the FBI knew of Donald Segretti's involvement two months before the Post did. (Gaines.)