The special prosecutor may be going after Karl Rove — and Scooter Libby — for making false statements to the prosecutors.
In other words: lying.
Bloomberg News quoting ‘people familiar with the case’ says that while Rove told special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald that he first learned Agent Plame’s name from columnist Robert Novak, the news service reports Novak “has given a somewhat different version to the special prosecutor.”
Rove also told prosecutors a version of his conversation with Time Magazine reporter Matthew Cooper that doesn’t match up to Cooper’s testimony.
Several news organizations noted that Rove testified that Cooper had called him on July 11, 2003 to, at least nominally, talk about welfare reform. Cooper reportedly switched topics quickly to Wilson and the uranium from Niger mentioned in President Bush’s 2003 State of the Union address.
But Cooper reportedly testified that he never talked about welfare reform in that conversation with Rove.
As to Libby — the chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney — Bloomberg reports that he told prosecutors he first learned Plame’s identity from Tim Russert of NBC News. The organization also says Russert testified to the grand jury that Libby’s testimony is not true.
The New York Times, meanwhile, reports that Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald is simultaneously also investigating how Rove and Libby drafted a statement for CIA Director George Tenet to make on the Joe Wilson Op-Ed — specifically to see if that and other “damage control” by Rove and Libby might have led to the disclosure of Valerie Plame’s work.
And to see what information or documents Rove and Libby might have had access to as they prepared the Tenet statement.
And that main-lines back to the Wall Street Journal story that John Harwood broke on this newscast Thursday night...
An internal State Department document, prepared for an under-secretary of state, and seen by the then Secretary of State Colin Powell, mentioned Valerie Plame’s CIA work — and to remind readers that her work was classified. The portions pertaining to her were marked “T.S.” for Top Secret and “S/NF,” a designation meaning in essence ‘classified — do not share with foreign intelligence services, even friendly ones.’
I sat down with the husband of the outed CIA agent tonight. The following is a rush transcript Video: Wilson responds of my interview with Joseph C. Wilson IV, former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq:
AMB. JOSEPH C. WILSON, WIFE’S IDENTITY LEAKED TO THE PRESS: Keith, nice to be with you.
OLBERMANN: There’s a lot of new and seemingly small details in this story in the past week or so. Obviously, you have a vested interest in following this story. What part isn’t really small? What part arched your eyebrows?
WILSON: Well, certainly, the conflicting testimony between Mr. Russert and Mr. Novak and Mr. Libby and Mr. Rove. I think that’s of some interest.
But I would go back to what I’ve tried to say all along, and that is, is that this is really a national security issue. And what’s been dismaying the last couple of weeks, of course, is the extent to which the Republican National Committee has tried to turn this into a partisan issue. In 1999, former President Bush said those who would expose the identities of covert sources are the most insidious of traitors. Here we are, just six years later, and not a single Republican of national stature has even stood up to say that what Mr. Rove now it’s documented he has done was wrong.
OLBERMANN: There is an irony related to that in the newest developments, that the memo that pertained to your wife’s CIA work was marked, in essence, Top secret, shut up about this, yet the prosecutor is reportedly more focused on the prospects of a perjury case or perhaps a conspiracy case.
In terms of the prosecution here, do the particulars matter to you, do they matter to your wife, what, if any, charges are filed here?
WILSON: Well, I think Mr. Fitzgerald is going to obviously have the last word on that, and I haven’t spoken to him in almost a year-and-a-half, so I have no idea where he’s headed in his investigation. But irrespective of whether he — he indicts or declines to indict, we know have, thanks to Mr. Cooper and his notes, documentary evidence that Karl Rove gave him — gave up my wife’s identity. He can call her “Wilson’s wife,” but when you say, “Wilson’s wife,” I have only one wife, and that is Valerie Wilson.
OLBERMANN: Having watched the entirety of the investigation move slowly over the year-and-a-half, or slightly more, with details leaking out here and there, do you have a sense of specifically a chain of events of what happened and who made it happen, who actually ruined your wife’s usefulness in the war on terror?
WILSON: Well, I’ve been told — and I did not do any sleuthing myself, but I’ve been told by people who were looking into this last year or the year before last that there was a meeting held in the middle of March in the White House, in the vice president’s offices, possibly chaired by Scooter Libby, in which it was decided to do a, quote, “work-up” on me. That’s what I was told then.
Now, obviously, there’s this State Department memorandum of June 7, which was then updated for the secretary’s trip to Africa, and people are talking about the possibility that the name leaked out of that particular memo.
It would be appropriate, I would think, for the secretary of state to want to know how this trip came about and what happened, so that he wouldn’t be blind-sided by questions about it. What was not appropriate, I don’t believe, was putting Valerie’s name in the memo, since, as I’ve said repeatedly, and as the CIA has said repeatedly, she was not part of the decision process that led to my going out there.
OLBERMANN: So you think perhaps the mentioning of her name in that memo was leaving — leaving a door unlocked or leaving a trail opened up to somebody or leaving the prospect of something accidentally leaking out that wasn’t quite so much of an accident?
WILSON: Well, I don’t think there’s any question that it was not an accident. When you’ve got a memorandum that says “Top secret, no foreign” — that’s “NF,” not for foreign distribution—then people with those clearances know precisely what it means, and they all sign non-disclosure agreements with the government when they go to work for the government. It means that you don’t share this information with anybody who doesn’t have a need to know.
OLBERMANN: On another matter related to this, on Monday, the president said that if anybody in his administration was guilty of a crime in revealing your wife’s work, they would no longer be working in his administration. What do you make, what did you make of that statement in the context of Mr. Bush’s previous statements and his press secretary’s previous statements about people who might have been involved in the government and might have been involved in leaking your wife’s identity?
WILSON: When the compromise of Valerie’s identity first took place and it was traced back to the senior administration officials, that was a breach of trust between the White House and our clandestine service. When the president changes his tune on this — and in June of 2004, he said that he would fire anybody who was involved in the leak, and he backtracks on that, I think it’s a breach of trust with the American people.
This president has said that he’s a man of his word, his word is his bond, he’s a straight shooter. And now — now it appears that he’s not. It appears that he’s willing to go back on that word. And I think that compounds the breach of trust with the clandestine services, as well as with the American people.
OLBERMANN: Do you and your wife, or either one of you, ultimately hold the president responsible for what happened here?
WILSON: Well, I think the president had a responsibility to enforce his own orders that people cooperate fully with the Justice Department. Remember now, it’s almost — it’s been two years, two years in September. The president gave an order that everybody should cooperate fully with the Justice Department. This issue had to be litigated up to the Supreme Court, Matt Cooper and his family had to be put through agony, Judy Miller, “The New York Times” reporter, is languishing in jail, and all because the president has apparently been unable or unwilling to enforce his edict that people cooperate fully.
OLBERMANN: Do you believe his responsibility goes back further than that statement? Does it go back to the — in some way — to the leak itself? Is he responsible for the leak?
WILSON: I would hope not. When the president assembles his senior staff, part of the responsibility of the senior staff is to protect — protection of the office of the presidency. This is bigger than just the man, this is the office. And I would certainly hope that he was not in any way knowledgeable of—of a tawdry leak from his political hatchet men.
OLBERMANN: That’s largely the big picture. Give me the more focused one. Have you and your wife gotten your lives back in the last two years?
WILSON: Well, it’s not very easy when you hear the likes of Ken Mehlman ranting, just spouting lies on news programs, or the likes of our distinguished congresspeople, such as Peter King, saying that Valerie got what she deserved. After all, she served this country for 20 years.
Without telling you where she served, I can tell you that she was in some of the areas of real high priority to the United States. I myself served my country for 23 years, including as charge in Baghdad during the first Gulf war for the first President Bush. First President Bush made me an ambassador to African countries. President Clinton asked me to be his special assistant on African affairs.
It’s hard for us to see why our good names are besmirched the way they are by Republicans, headed by the RNC, when, after all, my opinion piece said nothing but the truth. There was no evidence of uranium sales from Niger to Iraq. There was no evidence of an interest that had been pursued by either party. There are no — there was no evidence turned up by the Iraq Survey Group. It didn’t happen. It wasn’t going to happen. It would not have happened.
OLBERMANN: Regardless of what the special prosecutor chooses to do or not do, have the two of you considered civil suits against anybody who might have been involved in the leak of your wife’s name and work?
WILSON: Well, we’re keeping all of our options open. We’ve decided that we would not do anything until the special prosecutor finished his work. We’re not big believers in frivolous suits. We didn’t like what happened with Judicial Watch and all the various attempts that were made to get at the Clinton administration through the use of civil suits. We have absolute faith—and I admit our prejudice as former — as government employees. My wife is still a government employee, and I’m a retired government employee. We admit our prejudice in having full faith in the institutions that have made this country great for 229 years.
OLBERMANN: My last question. Obviously, the people who have pooh-poohed this whole thing — and you mentioned some of the — some of the politics involved in this — they tend to dismiss the whole thing by saying, Wilson has been proven wrong. Dick Cheney didn’t send him to Niger. He was sent there because his wife suggested it. It struck me the other day — let’s just assume for the moment that those premises are correct. How would they have changed the facts of what you did or did not find in Niger, even if your wife had made the — had the responsibility of making the decision to send you there?
WILSON: Well, first of all, the premise is not correct. If you go back and you look at the original article, it says very clearly it was the office of the vice president that expressed an interest, that led to the CIA sending me there. So that was the first lie in these RNC talking points. And if you can’t believe that, why should you believe everything else?
In actual fact, it wouldn’t make any difference at all whether my wife was involved in a trip that was essentially pro bono. But the fact is, as the CIA has said repeatedly since June 22 of 2003, she was not involved in the decision-making process.
OLBERMANN: The former acting U.S. ambassador to Iraq, author of “The Politics of Truth” and the man who inadvertently started the special prosecutor’s investigations of Karl Rove and others, Joe Wilson. Great. Thanks for your time, sir.
Terrorists hoist on their own petard (Keith Olbermann)
NEW YORK — In the eerie weeks here, immediately following the 9/11 attacks, as the pyre still burned where the World Trade Center had stood, and the city could not shake its sense not merely of what had happened, but more over of what must certainly be yet to come, one question grew louder and louder.
Why on earth hadn’t the terrorists pulled off a follow-up?
We weren’t talking about the anthrax letters, which were at one extreme — too isolated to really further frighten an entire city. Nor were we talking about the other extreme — another horrible ‘spectacular.’
We were all wondering when there’d be a smoke bomb at Penn Station, or just a bomb scare phone call to Grand Central’s station-master. Low risk, high yield — just enough to reverse the sense that every day that passed without incident made us a little safer and a little less prone to panic.
“That’s the question we were asking ourselves every day in the Situation Room at the White House,” Roger Cressey — the former coordinator of counter-terror policy on the National Security Council staff — told me on tonight’s show.
Thursday’s events in London may have given all of us an answer.
If terrorists choose to follow up a painful, heart-rending attack in a city not steeled to such inhumanity, it turns out they are running a risk that those whose minds cannot conceive or countenance terror, will not see at first glance. That risk is this: follow a “success” with a botch job like the one in London, and the perpetrators necessarily leave a trail a mile wide — and remind us that even blind, uncomprehending religious fanaticism isn’t enough, if your damn bomb doesn’t blow up when it’s supposed to.
It’s easy to write this from New York when it’s the people of London who have to get on the “tube” in the morning. But there’s still enough of that late-2001 sense of informed foreboding here that it’s not meant callously. July 7th was a nightmare. But July 21st may turn out to be the day the terrorists began to blow themselves up — hoist themselves, as the Middle English phrase goes, “on their own petard.”
Consider what London bought with its panic and tears — and apparently not a single civilian injury — during this second terror attack. Though the information is unconfirmed, London police sources and U.S. officials told NBC News that two of the four bombers have already been arrested. Certainly police got detailed descriptions of all of them. At least one of the bombs fell, unexploded, to the street, as the cowardly terrorist realized he wasn’t amid the nubile residents of his imaginary Valhalla, but rather, about to be beaten senseless by angry Londoners, and ran away.
These creatures — and one has to assume they were considered the best four agents left available to carry out the follow-up attack — left the proverbial trail a mile wide. By nightfall in London, investigators had enough forensic evidence to match the explosives to the 7/7 blasts, to indicate why the bombs didn’t explode, to identify the backpacks, to secure fingerprints on the devices, and to pursue a suspect seen running into a hospital with wires still sticking out of his shirt.
Even if the reported arrests are premature, investigators will, as Cressey pointed out, get names and neighborhoods and relatives and supporters and travel records. They will have the explosive material to study, and trace to its origins.
These attacks, right now, look like a hurricane hitting a drought area, injuring no one and filling up the reservoirs.
And perhaps just importantly, these attacks prove the fallibility of the terrorists and of their conspiracies. Ironically enough, it was the British cold war spy turned novelist, John LeCarre, who may have explained the ultimate meaning of the day’s events, in words he put in the mouth of his protagonist George Smiley in the novel Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy .
Smiley, explaining to a protégée of the wiles of the Soviet spymaster ‘Karla,’ hears his junior colleague sigh, “So Karla’s fireproof.” Smiley snaps at him. “He’s not fireproof. He’s a fanatic.”
And fanatics, Smiley goes on to reassure him — and, unintentionally, reassure us — will inevitably make mistakes because they assume their cause is so just and their destiny so preordained that fate will make the mistakes magically disappear.
Fate makes no such deals.
Nobody knows that better right now, than the fanatic who tried to blow up Shepherd’s Bush Underground station and managed only to knock himself unconscious — and to awaken in the hands of people who live in the real world.
Watch Countdown with Keith Olbermann each weeknight at 8 p.m. ET & 12 midnight ET
Welcome aboard, Mr. Roberts (Keith Olbermann)
NEW YORK — Who knows if President Bush really did rush his nomination of Judge John G. Roberts to the Supreme Court in order to knock the Karl Rove story off the front page. But if he did — he did a poor job of it.
Unfortunately for the conspiracy theory and/or the conspiracy, the first 18 hours of Democratic reaction to the Roberts candidacy seems to be almost benign.
No hair-on-fire, “Save America!” response means no controversy.
No controversy means no headlines.
No headlines means — we rejoin the Karl Rove story already in progress.
Given the nominee’s ambiguity on Roe v. Wade, and the limited paper trail that just two years at the bench provides, one might have expected a little more hand-wringing. But merely on Countdown last night, we heard former Clinton Chief of Staff Leon Panetta virtually endorse Roberts, Al Gore’s 2000 attorney Kendall Coffey fairly gush about him, Senator Schumer meekly remind the opposition party that the Supreme Court nominee is supposed to justify himself to the Senate, and Craig Crawford suggest that the Democrats may actually be smart enough to hold fire on this one and keep the good thing they’ve got going on Rove.
Everything I’ve heard since suggests the party leadership wants very much to give Roberts no more than a black-and-blue mark, and take no more than five minutes doing so.
The most relevant fact — one that got lost in last night’s attempt to present a new high court nominee the way that NBC presents the winner of The Apprentice — is that just because the Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas hearings of three and four presidencies ago were knock-down, drag-out fights, that doesn’t mean the Supreme Court is inherently interesting to people.
Mr. Bush did not drag a superstar in front of the cameras last night. Not a woman, not a Hispanic, not a Political Hack. He brought out someone with almost a generic name and identity, complete with a generic wife, standing in just the right position so we could see her generic smile.
Contrast this to those ABC poll numbers from Monday. 53 percent of the country is supposedly following the Rove case very closely. Only 47 percent of Republicans think the White House is being fully cooperative with the Special Prosecutor (only 25 percent of the country, overall).
Karl Rove is the Natalee Holloway of non-tabloid journalism. His story will stick around, whether or not politicians or reporters want it to, because people will watch.
Hell, we even did Karl Rove Puppet Theatre last night.
Watch Countdown with Keith Olbermann each weeknight at 8 p.m. ET & 12 midnight ET
Karl Rove: Soft on terror (Keith Olbermann)
SECURED UNDISCLOSED LOCATION — Karl Rove is a liability in the war on terror.
Rove — Newsweek’s new article quotes the very emails — told a Time reporter that Ambassador Joe Wilson’s trip to investigate of the Niger uranium claim was at the behest of Wilson’s CIA wife.
To paraphrase Mr. Rove, liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers; conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared to ruin the career of one of the country’s spies tracking terrorist efforts to gain weapons of mass destruction — for political gain.
Politics first, counter-terrorism second — it’s as simple as that.
In his ‘story guidance’ to Matthew Cooper of Time, Rove did more damage to your safety than the most thumb-sucking liberal or guard at Abu Ghraib. He destroyed an intelligence asset like Valerie Plame merely to deflect criticism of a politician. We have all the damned politicians, of every stripe, that we need. The best of them isn’t worth half a Valerie Plame. Andif the particular politician for whom Rove was deflecting, President Bush, is more than just all hat and no cattle on terrorism, he needs to banish Rove — and loudly.
Because it’s starting again. I was in the checkout line in a supermarket last night when one of New York’s countless little old ladies barked out something at the cashier: “Miss? Who does this bag belong to?” Uncomprehending, the checkout woman blinked at her. The older woman pointed at a gym bag that had been left near the store’s entrance, on a ledge below the delicatessen cabinet. Gefilta fish is an unlikely terrorist target to say the least, but the woman was absolutely right. “We’re supposed to report unattended bags. There could be a bomb in there.”
Silly, right? As silly as it would’ve been before last Thursday in London if somebody on the Underground had said to a fellow passenger, “There’s a bag of something here that doesn’t seem to belong to anybody.”
You may not have lived through a Time of the Bags in your hometown, but I did, and I don’t want to go through it again. In the jittery New York of October, 2001, I once came within seconds of getting Yankee Stadium evacuated, because there it was, resting against the railing of the visitors’ dugout: a small backpack surrounded by hundreds of reporters who were all carrying their own backpacks. I asked several of my colleagues about it - none saw it placed there nor knew to whom it belonged. I called out loudly; nobody responded. The two or three other reporters with whom I’d been chatting suddenly announced I was in charge.
I did the calculations: the Stadium was filling up. There were hundreds on the field, thousands already in the stands. The bag had a Super Bowl logo on the side - if designed to fit in with the environment, it was ideal. As my colleagues’ faces got whiter and whiter, I said I’d give it 30 seconds and one more shout. I saw a policeman about 20 feet to my left. The process wouldn’t take long. I gave one final shout seeking the identity of the owner. A goateed ESPN guy ambled over. “I’m pretty sure that’s, what’s his name, he’s down the other side of the dugout.”
We didn’t call the cop. We called What’s His Name. He was from the Bay Area and though an otherwise intelligent man, he simply hadn’t yet had to consider exactly what was meant by the phrase “unattended bag.” He sheepishly reclaimed it.
Not an hour later, I was finishing up dinner with one of my colleagues who had shared my Near Bag Experience. He had a press seat way out in leftfield and didn’t want to take his bag with him. So he promptly stuffed it under a desk in the Yankee Stadium press room. He’s a friend, and I swore at him as you can only swear at a friend. He took the bag with him.
We’re back in those times, thanks to the London attacks. Needless to say, the 2001 bag at Yankee Stadium was no more threatening than the 2005 bag at the Associated Supermarket. But if we’re going to have to live our lives looking for them, I damn well don’t want political morons in positions where they can deliberately screw up counter-terrorism measures. I know we already have to live with the idea that they’ll do it accidentally.
Any time I’ve criticized the current administration here or on the air, I’ve gotten the same idiotic emails from the same idiotic people who’ve never been touched by terrorism. They brand me a liberal who doesn’t understand that terrorists want the next unattended bag to be filled with WMD. Their position is incredible on its face; in the light of the confirmation of the Karl Rove revelation it would assume the quality of farce, were it not so deadly serious.
And the bottom line is this: in the metaphoric department of the war on terror, Karl Rove not only leaves bags unattended — he does it intentionally.
Watch Countdown with Keith Olbermann each weeknight at 8 p.m. ET & 12 midnight ET
It's deep and I don't think it's unreadable (Keith Olbermann)
NEW YORK - If you know the Watergate story at all, you doubtless recognized that Bob Woodward had largely been scooped six weeks ago by one murky admission from his own source, the most famous anonymous pipeline in journalistic history.
Thus, you will probably not expect jaw-dropping excitement from his brief book on the subject — and you will not be disappointed. The Secret Man: The Story of Watergate’s Deep Throatis formally published today; it had been in preparation long before that “secret man,” Mark Felt, waved, with some unidentifiable mix of satisfaction and confusion, towards the cameras and flashbulbs, out the door of his daughter’s home on June 1.
Possibly the only real news comes in its appendage — Carl Bernstein’s “A Reporter’s Assessment” — in which Woodward’s former reporting partner makes the gentle but firm case that the Woodward-Bernstein ‘decision’ to confirm the Vanity Fair article identifying Mark Felt was made at the behest of Washington Post managing editor Len Downie: “I recognized that this was an example of the boss, having already made a decision, taking the time to bring along the subordinate. He didn’t want just our acquiescence, he wanted our full agreement.”
Woodward’s own lengthy recounting of his conversations and visit with Felt in 2000 and later had ended just pages before, with his own poignant ruminations that he might not have been entitled to fulfill his promise to identify his source even after the individual’s death. The Felt family’s interaction with Vanity Fair, and the Post’s own eagerness, rendered those ruminations moot.
The Secret Man is a quick read — 249 pages counting all the way through to the index, with not more than 220 words per page. There are few bombshells left to go off — those that weren’t exploded in the immediate aftermath of Felt’s more-or-less self-identification have become, in the context of his worsening memory, duds. But it is not without nuggets.
To the great relief of those who have so painstakingly analyzed the quality of the information Felt gave Woodward, there is the briefest of admissions that it wasn’t always the coin of the realm. Felt (pp 75-76) advises Woodward that the White House was obsessed with something seemingly officially titled “Offensive Security.” Woodward will never hear the term again: “Decades later, reviewing everything Felt said to me, it is apparent he was wrong on a number of things.” Woodward later notes this included Felt’s dramatic warning that “everyone’s lives are in danger.”
Woodward even suggests that in his 33 years of denials, Felt might have employed a little Bill Clinton-like parsing. He quotes Felt’s impassioned cry to internal FBI accusations that he was Woodward’s source (“I never leaked information to Woodward and Bernstein or to anyone else!) and analyzes it: “I wondered if he was trying to be literally true - he had never leaked to ‘Woodward and Bernstein.’ He had never met Carl. His dealings were only with me.”
There is also insight to the parallel irony of Woodward’s end of the Hunt For Throat — that Woodward, who made his bones unraveling a cover-up, later has to protect both himself and his source with a stonewall that would’ve made Richard Nixon applaud. In the early ’80s, Woodward writes (p 149-151) that when he was metropolitan editor for the Post, one of his columnists, Richard Cohen, came to him and revealed he was convinced Felt was Deep Throat, and intended to write about it. Woodward says he first “discouraged” Cohen, then said he had to protect his source, then “misled him,” then tried his best to “steer him away.”
Finally, when Cohen insists that the initials Woodward used internally at the paper to identify Throat (M.F. - for ‘My Friend’) and Mark Felt’s initials were no coincidence, Woodward throws the niceties overboard. “It’s not him, I said, adopting the well-tested Watergate strategy that when all else fails, lie. I lied, and insisted to Cohen that he had it wrong… A real, safe truth between friends, I indicated, suggesting that I was helping him from writing something monumentally stupid. Cohen didn’t do the column. I felt bad, but it had been an easy decision.”
Lastly amidst the gold dust is Woodward’s recounting (pp 189-190) of a 1998 interview with former FBI agent Bob Lill, which will do much to support the conclusions that Felt might have been Woodward’s sole contact at the FBI, but - whether or not Woodward knew or knows it — he was not the only supplier of the information Woodward received. “When the CIA tried to halt the FBI investigation, Lill said, the FBI agents on the case were going to refuse. ‘A Teletype went back saying, if we are prevented from following these leads as a group we would consider resigning.’ In all there were 15 to 20 agents who felt this way. ‘There was certainly a unanimity among us that we can’t back off. This is ridiculous. This smacks of a cover-up in itself, and we’ve got to pursue this…"
Even without much new to report, there is color.
Woodward notes (pp 9-11) that just past the time of the apex of Deep Throat’s contributions to Watergate coverage, Mark Felt had himself thrown a huge red herring into the FBI’s internal efforts to identify Woodward’s primary source. Felt had circled a paragraph in a memo headed for the desk of acting FBI Director L. Patrick Gray that detailed a conversation between FBI agent Angelo Lano and Assistant U.S. Attorney Donald E. Campbell. “Mr. Campbell advised that late yesterday, 2/20/73, reporter Woodward contacted Mr. Campbell, said he had a source of information at the White House and ‘ran’ the essence of the article past Mr. Campbell. Mr. Campbell told SA Leno he made no comment concerning Woodward’s story.”
Woodward notes that Felt had hand-written “in neat uppercase script” a misdirection that displayed “the very best counterintelligence tradecraft. Not only had he initiated the leak inquiry, but Felt appeared to have discovered the leaker.” Felt’s notation seemed to finger Campbell, or a White House source, or maybe both. It read, simply, “LAST PAGE OF ATTACHED MEMO - HERE IS ENTIRE ANSWER.”
Woodward repeats his story of first meeting Felt by chance in a waiting area of the White House - and, in passing, refers to himself twice (p 26) as “gutless” (an assessment he’d repeat a third time much later in the text). He then retraces the early investigative work on Watergate, doing a good job of reinforcing the often forgotten context: that the break-in was a part of an ad hoc White House policy to harass and impede political opponents. Woodward repeats his claim (p 59) that “John Dean called Felt and complained about leaks, demanding new steps to silence leakers. Felt refused. He was playing a dangerous game, and it would only get more dangerous.”
For the benefit of future Watergate Tour Bus Services, Woodward precisely locates (p 64) the famous parking garage at which he and Felt met (“just over Key Bridge in Rosslyn, Virginia. The garage was behind and underneath 1401 Wilson Boulevard — a large, tall building. The garage entrance that I used is now 1820 North Nash Street” — one can see the historical plaque’s inscription being chiseled even now). He also details the ‘flowerpot’ signaling method, and rather matter-of-factly tosses off the satisfying detail (p 67) that Felt “did miss several meetings I later requested.” This will relieve historians of the image of the operational head of the FBI spending part of every day in his last year on the job checking to see which of several flowerpots on an apartment balcony, a construction flag flutters in the breeze.
It also turns out that even the most carefully-managed of clandestine relationships will produce an embarrassing moment. At a colleague’s insistence, Woodward recounts (pp 71-72) that he set up a formal interview of Felt in Felt’s FBI office. “A most uncomfortable charade proceeded. I said I wanted some confirmation on some matters that Carl and I had discovered… I don’t think he was rolling his eyes, but mine were spinning… Never has so little been said… Felt and I never discussed the meeting, but he mentioned it in his 1979 book as evidence that he had never helped me.”
Woodward repeatedly returns to the nagging motif of Felt’s motives. Upon the self-destruction of Gray at the FBI on April 28, 1973, Woodward insists (p 97) “Felt thought he would finally become director… Felt had his secretary spend a half-hour getting his biographical information and photos together.” In fact, Felt would be out of the bureau in just over a month. Later (pp 103-107), Woodward divides his source’s motives into four categories: a belief that he was pushing information past the White House blockade, that he was “increasingly contemptuous” of the Nixon administration’s “efforts to manipulate the FBI for political reasons,” that he revered J. Edgar Hoover and was offended when outsiders like Gray took over after Hoover’s death, and, finally and most intriguingly, “Felt liked the game. His first real Bureau expertise was as a World War II spy hunter. Converting all that knowledge and tradecraft to become an agent runner was perhaps natural. I suspect that in his mind I was his agent.”
Woodward (pp 98-103) depicts a Post management shaken and almost paranoid after Felt’s warning about lives being in danger. He sees mortal threats elsewhere: “Carl and I had lunch with one of Dean’s associates who could speak authoritatively for Dean. The associate confirmed that Nixon had threatened Dean and that the cover-up costs would be $1 million.” Dean remembers no threat - and he remembers everything - and it was he, of course, who offered the estimated cost figure to Richard Nixon.
As the Watergate saga nears its end game and Woodward and Bernstein’s All The President’s Menis published, the pace of Woodward’s current recap becomes more leisurely. Felt has to deny it, of course. Woodward (p 115) phones Felt with seemingly too much enthusiasm: “I was dying to know what he thought… When he heard my voice, he hung up.” Woodward speculates Felt might publicly denounce him, or “take his own life.” Instead, to Woodward’s apparent delight (p 117), Felt tells The Wall Street Journal that he thinks Deep Throat is a “composite.” “He was the first person I know of to float the theory — another false trail and superb cover for Deep Throat.”
Ultimately, after the almost excruciating chronicling of Felt’s conviction as part of the investigation into the FBI’s illegal pursuit of the Weather Underground group, his pardoning, and his decline, Woodward presents (p 215) a fitting summary of the entire story. Unfortunately for the reader’s satisfaction level, it comes four pages before he stops writing:
“…the FBI was at war, though not with the usual suspects. The war was with Nixon and his men. So Felt took to the underground parking garage. He never really voiced pure, raw outrage to me about Watergate or what it represented. The crimes and abuses were background music. Nixon was trying to subvert not only the law but the Bureau. So Watergate became Felt’s instrument to reassert the Bureau’s independence and thus its supremacy. In the end, the Bureau was damaged, seriously but not permanently, while Nixon lost much more, maybe everything - the presidency, power, and whatever moral authority he might have had. He was disgraced.
“By surviving and enduring his hidden life, in contrast and in his own way, Mark Felt won.”
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Karl Rove on Maple Street (Keith Olbermann)
NEW YORK — In the ravings of Karl Rove against liberals (and the ravings of liberals against Karl Rove), I am reminded of yet another in my endless supply of pop culture references: The Twilight Zone episode called "The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street."
As political allegory, it was pretty simple, but also very effective.
Something, or someone, starts screwing with the lights and the electricity on an ordinary suburban street. Within minutes, the residents have concluded that aliens from outer space have invaded. As alliances and rivalries dissolve and re-form with incredible swiftness, these neighbors accuse each other of collusion with the invaders. One of them finally starts shooting. The director pulls back to a nearby hill, where sit two real aliens, one of whom sagely reminds the other that there's no need to actually attack any of these stupid humans — you can just scare them a little bit and then wait for them to tear themselves apart.
Think of how we responded — politically — to 9/11. First there was overwhelming non-partisanship. Years of deteriorating relations between the parties vanished; were even apologized for. And within three years the Republicans were insisting that a Democratic presidential victory would mean more terrorist attacks. This year our "leaders" started the Nazi references — Senator Byrd first, Senator Santorum next, most recently Senator Durbin.
And last night, Karl Rove slimed Durbin (and, of the Nazism invokers, only Durbin) and uttered the unforgettable line: "Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers."
Two minor points. First, Rove's name goes on the list. I suggested here yesterday that if you start talking about the other party the way politicians did just before the Civil War, you're out. Senator Byrd? Retire. Senator Santorum? Quit please. Senator Durbin? The analogy was far too over the line to get back. Resign.
And Karl? Start Roving.
Second minor point. As a veteran of eight years in therapy, and a fascinated student of the process, it should be noted that people who publicly deride it tend to actually be those who know they need it most. Latent On-the-Couch-iality or something. Somewhere from deep inside Mr. Rove is screaming "get me a shrink."
Perhaps he'll listen to that voice — perhaps all our politicians will — before it's too late. Because the larger point here takes us back to Rod Serling's apocryphal "Maple Street." Substitute "terrorists" for "aliens" and Maple Street becomes the current American political scene. If there really is a functional al-Qaeda on the continent, it hasn't needed to attack us since 9/11 because we're all the Claude Akins and Jack Westons from the episodes accusing each other of collaboration.
In this vital area at least, the terrorists have already won. Nobody has to tear our country down; our leaders are doing it for them.
And before you say — yeah, but the Republicans/Democrats started it — go get a copy of that episode of "The Twilight Zone" and see if, by the end of it, you can remember which neighbor started the trouble — or if, after the shooting starts, that distinction even remotely matters.
Enough with the Nazi references! (Keith Olbermann)
LOS ANGELES - A message to Dick Durbin, Rick Santorum, and Robert Byrd - as they combine to delay my reports to you about the night I inadvertently offered Bill Clinton my New York City subway pass, and my experiences behind the scenes at "The Tonight Show," and my private eight minutes with Mary Carey.
The message is this: Boys, just don’t say "Nazi" ever again in your life.
There’s no place for the reference in this culture. Not about the Republican tactics, not about the Democratic tactics, not about Guantanamo Bay.
The Republicans are not the SS, and the Democrats are not the Gestapo, and Gitmo is not Buchenwald.
Apologize profoundly and profusely, burst into tears if you will, but the analogies are wrong, offensive, and deeply hurtful. And I speak as a European of protestant descent.
More over, this particular moment in our history is no time to pour more ice into the crevices of our national political discourse. We have enough of the makings of fighting in the streets, enough of the rancor that preceded the caning of Senator Sumner on the floor of the Senate in 1856, without people throwing the devils of the 20th Century into the mix.
In fact, it would be a really good idea, for the sake of the country, and to steer out of this skid of Party First and Country Second that now pervades both sides, if the three distinguished gentlemen resigned, or at least announced they would not run again. Because apologies or not, they are at best, carrying the disease of branding other American leaders - no matter how wrong-headed some of those "others" might seem to you - with the same kind of vitriol that enabled the rise of the Nazis in Germany.
Stop it, stop it now, stop it for good.
As to the other items: Jay Leno likes to visit with his guests beforehand, Bill Clinton was as amused by my faux pas as I was, and Mary Carey is a bunch smarter than she lets on. Details later - a plane awaits me.
Watch Countdown with Keith Olbermann each weeknight at 8 p.m. ET & 12 midnight ET
I never left ESPN, I just had a lot of vacation time! (Keith Olbermann)
SECAUCUS - So maybe you heard. I’m going back to ESPN.
Not full-time, mind you. Countdown will continue. But after eight years of what some might call estrangement (and others might call thermonuclear conflict), I will be joining my old SportsCenter tag-team partner Dan Patrick one hour a week on his ESPN Radio Show.
See? You can rebuild burned bridges. Or, in my case, a burned river.
Let me make it clear (as I wrote nearly three years ago in my old Salon column ) that I assume full responsibility for the unpleasantness. In retrospect, I was entitled to my opinions about the place, but I’m not exactly sure where I got the impression that every one of them needed to be expressed publicly. This time, I’m following a new policy: I’m going to always remember to let ESPN run ESPN.
A lot of folks who read or hear of this will focus on the interregnum (which, showing again that time and fate are ironic masters, became public exactly eight years ago this Thursday), and I not only understand that, but I’m willing to address it as needs be. But I’m focused on the sheer unadulterated joy of getting the privilege of working with my old buddy Dan on a regular basis.
Even throughout the Cold War, my friendship with Dan endured. I was, if I remember correctly, his first guest on his first show, and have made frequent appearances since. Fortunately, my boobiness in the interim never broke that connection.
Dan used to say, not always with a smile, that he spent more time with me than his wife. This was a poor choice on his part, but I, for one, appreciated the company. We know each other since the days when he succeeded me as CNN’s sports correspondent in New York in 1984, and just the other day I came across an old tape from my subsequent job in television in Boston. I interviewed Dan as part of a “media piece” on the ’84 NBA finals, and it probably marks the first time we actually were on the air together. The very brief transcript is as follows:
Keith: What’s your name?
Dan: Dan Patrick.
Keith: And who do you work for?
Dan: Cable News Network.
Keith: What’s that?
Dan: (Giggles, then stares daggers at me)
We were dark-haired, beaming youths at the time. Now we’re grizzled gray-haired veterans. Well, I’m gray-haired.
We’ve been running this shtick pretty much non-stop for 21 years. We made it into a kind of leitmotif on SportsCenter from 1992 through 1997. The basic premise - apparently a frequent one in the annals of on-air teams from newscasters to chainsaw-jugglers - was that while doing what appeared to the audience to be our full-time jobs, we were actually both out there to see if we could make the other one crack-up on the air. We have even done this before on ESPN Radio, in the dawn of its history in ’92 and ’93.
Don’t get me wrong. I love doing Countdown and the world of news is my primary focus. But Dan and I had so much fun, and worked well enough as a team, that when he was once called home for a family emergency, I wrote his scripts in his style. We even made this into a book, and, for the life of us, eight years after that, I can’t really remember what I wrote in my voice, what he wrote in my voice, what he wrote in is voice, and what I wrote in his voice. So, given a chance to work with him again, I jumped at it.
One other note on this news while I have you. It will be written in many quarters that I left ESPN in ’97 after the network suspended me for a week for doing a television interview promoting that book, without telling them first. Nope. That happened all right, but, if anything, the suspension had actually made the chances I might stay even greater than they had been. Simply put: I left because I wanted to live in New York and work just once a week for an hour with Dan, and that didn’t fit the company’s personnel policy. We actually parted so harmoniously that about three months later, the Executive Vice President at the time said that if it were contractually possible for me to do so, he’d be happy to have me contribute occasional stuff to ESPN Classic. The parting was amicable - it was later that I started to screw it up.
Anyway, all’s well that ends well. I get to live in New York and go on the air with Dan for an hour a week, and I’d have to say the eight-year wait was worth it. Every Friday starting in a few weeks, we’ll again be trying to make each other chortle, guffaw, or possibly spit something onto the microphone. You’ll have to listen closely for the sound of that, but rest assured we’ll be trying to accomplish it.
Now all I have to do is get back up to speed on sports. Which league was it that didn’t play this past winter?
Watch Countdown with Keith Olbermann each weeknight at 8 p.m. ET & 12 midnight ET
It seems inarguable that the Michael Jackson case hinged on the accuser’s mother - not how she was portrayed by the defense, but how she conducted herself. The comments from Juror #5, “I disliked it intensely when she snapped her fingers at us. That’s when I thought ‘Don’t snap your fingers at me, lady,’” should be inscribed above every courtroom in the country - or at least in every prosecutor’s office.
The Jackson verdict is incredible - not because he was found not guilty - but because we saw a jury, in the highest-profile case imaginable, buying into none of the hype we were relentlessly throwing at it (and everybody else). Not influenced by the irredeemable ickiness of the defendant, nor the protests of his supporters, nor the attempt to smear the accuser; influenced, if they are to be taken at their words, by the laws that require us to believe the testimony and those giving it.
The fondest wish at a trial, of course, is that absolute guilt or innocence might be established. But neither side accomplished that in the Jackson case. Well before the closing arguments, it became evident that both the prosecution and the defense were each trying to fuzz the thing up.
The District Attorney’s office wanted to blur the essential line between the seeming probability that Michael Jackson has harbored, or even acted upon, evil thoughts about little boys, and the actual question of whether or not he ever molested a particular little boy. Just as readily, the defense was trying to blur the sleaze factor to cover not just Jackson, but the accuser and his family - a cloud of guilt that was intended to leave one wondering if anybody had, uh, clean hands here.
It didn’t work. For either of them.
Of course, Jermaine Jackson may not have been correct when he told MSNBC’s Rita Cosby in the middle of Countdown that Michael was “1000% innocent” (by the way, how about that for a first day on a new job ? Rita gets Jermaine and Tito Jackson for phone interviews - tomorrow, I told her, we need at least the President). But whether you’re happy with this verdict or not, you can’t disagree with it. In a cloud of hazy, ill-defined guilt, the tie has to go to the defendant. It is better to acquit someone you guess did it, than convict him.
At our end of the deal, the 574 days of your tax and entertainment dollars in action, the Michael Jackson Investigation, is apparently at a close. As Dan Abrams so astutely pointed out on the show, the prospects of a civil suit by the accuser’s family seem pretty tepid considering the mother testified she didn’t want any of Jackson’s money.
Jackson Puppet Theatre - our running commentary, fantasy, and satire of, the case - is over. But the genre will live on. I can already see “G-8 Puppet Theatre” or “Morgan Stanley Puppet Theatre” on the horizon.
Woo hoo hoo.
Watch Countdown with Keith Olbermann each weeknight at 8 p.m. ET & 12 midnight ET
Kerry on impeachment (Keith Olbermann)
SECAUCUS — Last Wednesday, Senator John Kerry told the editorial board of the newspaper in New Bedford, Massachusetts, the "Standard-Times," that he was amazed at the lack of American media coverage of the so-called "Downing Street Memo" — notes of a July, 2002 British cabinet meeting that suggested the U.S. was making all the evidence fit a pre-planned invasion of Iraq.
The words of the Democrats' 2004 standard-bearer?: "When I go back (to Washington) on Monday, I am going to raise the issue. I think (the memo) is a stunning, unbelievably simple and understandable statement of the truth..."
Now, let's play Blogosphere-Telephone with that statement.
By Saturday, those quotes, and the original New Bedford story, had been transmuted by a series of foreign and conservative websites into an article that included the line: "Failed presidential candidate Kerry advised that he will begin the presentation of his case for President Bush's impeachment to Congress, on Monday."
Blogs and websites pulsated with the news: Kerry was going to call for the impeachment of President Bush! My inbox pulsated with the missives of angry conservatives ("you're covering up Kerry's traitorous comment") and angry liberals ("corporate lapdog! Why didn't you cover this? Do your job!").
Once again, the first law of the Non-Mainstream Media was being ignored. Be suspicious of everything you read on the internet, not just those things with which you most agree, or about which you live in the greatest fear.
The Senator's office told "Countdown" last night that he never said anything about impeachment and asked our reporter where he'd read that line. The answer was: the websites of NewsMax and Al-Jazeera.
The story originated — on Al-Jazeera.
The New Bedford newspaper story, exactly 746 words long, literally does not include the words impeach, or impeachment.
If this detail is still relevant in these super-heated political times, the story is not true. But at places as disparate as Al-Jazeera and NewsMax, they wanted it to be.
Watch Countdown with Keith Olbermann each weeknight at 8 p.m. ET & 12 midnight ET
There was more than one Deep Throat (Keith Olbermann)
SECAUCUS — Mark Felt’s day basking in the spotlight of history — at least his day basking alone in that spotlight — proves to have been brief.
Felt, according to a former colleague, was in effect a Spokes-Source for Bob Woodward and The Washington Post, funneling information collected by a number of other FBI personnel who knew full well whatever they told Felt, he’d tell Woodward. There was Throat, and, in essence, a bunch of Throat-ettes.
Since Felt’s self-revelation we have asked if his information could have constituted less than 100 percent of the material Woodward and Bernstein have attributed to their now-revealed source.
Now, we’ve got the answer — albeit with a significant caveat — from the newspaper The Albany Times-Union.
The warning is that the man telling the story, Paul Daly, former FBI regional office chief in the New York capital, is alive. But the three colleagues whom he identifies as having helped Felt stir the Deep Throat pot are all dead. Daly told the Times-Union that the three men were Robert Kunkel (agent-in-charge of the Bureau's D.C. Field Office), Charles Bates (the then-assistant director of the criminal investigative division), and Richard Long (then head of the FBI white-collar crimes section).
Daly says that in the '70s, he was the Bureau's liaison with a Senate committee investigating the bureau and the CIA. It was then that Long told him that he, Bates, Kunkel — and others — would get briefings from their agents in the field, then meet with Felt at the end of each work day, and funnel to him all they had on Watergate.
And their motive? "It was done," Daly said, "so that the investigation into Watergate couldn't be contained, so that the news media that were recipients of the leaks would create an atmosphere that would allow the investigation to go forward... They wanted to protect the integrity of the FBI." They were looking to keep the Watergate investigation alive, by keeping the Watergate story alive, in the pages of The Washington Post.
Felt thus was — as we surmised here — more of a clearinghouse for all of the FBI’s sympathetic leakers, rather than an omniscient source, or a grudge-bearing apparatchik passed over for promotion.
The Times-Union's interviewee, Daly, did not address if Woodward or The Post knew this, nor if Felt’s little group of helpers continued the arrangement after Felt’s retirement from the FBI in June, 1973. But, if so, it would explain the conundrum of how Felt knew the secret of the 18-minute gap in the Nixon audio tapes, which he evidently passed along to Woodward five months later, in November.
Deep Throat: case not closed (Keith Olbermann)
So Bob Woodward has told his version.
And it's not that interesting. At times it reads less like "All The President's Men" and more like Ted Baxter's autobiography (you know: "It all started in a 5,000-watt radio station in Fresno, California").
Well, in this case, it all ends— at least until his book comes out next month— in a 5,000-word article in The Washington Post. Beaten to the Deep Throat scoop by his own source, Woodward's revenge was an 87-paragraph anecdote that goes into painstaking detail about how he met Mark Felt, but almost none about how he turned what Felt told him into the backbone of the Watergate coverage he and Carl Bernstein authored.
Most importantly, it is being greeted with exactly the reverse reaction it deserves. Identifying Mark Felt is a satisfying detail— it is anything but a conclusion. And that’s because it doesn’t take anything but common sense to realize, as one can now visualize the face on the Deep Throat painting, that the gallery in which it hangs must be full of other people.
Deep Throat could not have acted alone.
In yesterday’s Post, Woodward wrote nothing to even hint at how Felt could’ve had reliable information about the discoveries of November, 1973, when he’d retired from the FBI in June, 1973, nor the implications of that disconnect. Blow-by-blow details of how Felt dreamt up the iconic image of the story, the meetings with Woodward in a subterranean parking garage in Rosslyn, Virginia— nothing about the army of invisible weavers who by definition must have been involved in arranging those meetings.
Turns out Woodward met Felt, by chance, in 1970. Woodward was still in the navy— that night, a messenger boy— delivering a package to the Situation Room in the lower level of the West Wing of the White House, when the-then head of the FBI's Inspection Division, happened to sit down in the same waiting area. The rest is a very long history:
- Woodward explaining how he originally kept in touch with Felt merely in hopes of advancing his own career;
- How he phoned Felt at the FBI two days after the Watergate break-in and how Felt told him only that the case was going to quote "heat up" and how Felt then hung up on him;
- Woodward recalling that Felt believed Richard Nixon was trying to manipulate the FBI "for political purposes";
- Woodward remembering that Felt's ultimate motive in imparting him with basically everything the FBI thought it knew about Watergate was "protecting the bureau by finding a way, clandestine as it was, to push some of the information from the FBI interviews and files out to the public, to help build public and political pressure to make Nixon and his people answerable."
That was about it.
Well, there was one revelation. It was the only part that should have been a tip-off to sleuths that a real Deep Throat candidate had to have had espionage or surveillance experience— and a team of similar assistants at his beck and call. It was the description of how Felt took Woodward's need to reach him with questions, and applied his old spy rules to it. Felt told him to think of a signal that could be seen from outside his apartment, and Woodward remembered he had a red cloth flag, sitting in an empty flowerpot on his apartment balcony:
“The signal, he said, would mean we would meet that same night about 2 a.m. on the bottom level of an underground garage just over the Key Bridge in Rosslyn.
“Felt said I would have to follow strict countersurveillance techniques. How did I get out of my apartment?
“I walked out, down the hall, and took the elevator.
“Which takes you to the lobby? he asked.
“Did I have back stairs to my apartment house?
“Use them when you are heading for a meeting. Do they open into an alley?
“Take the alley. Don't use your own car. Take a taxi to several blocks from a hotel where there are cabs after midnight, get dropped off and then walk to get a second cab to Rosslyn. Don't get dropped off directly at the parking garage. Walk the last several blocks. If you are being followed, don't go down to the garage. I'll understand if you don't show. All this was like a lecture. The key was taking the necessary time —one to two hours to get there. Be patient, serene. Trust the pre-arrangements. There was no fallback meeting place or time. If we both didn't show, there would be no meeting.”
The betting is 6-to-5 that we see that ten-paragraph one-man dialogue, more or less intact, complete with its subtle evocations of Hal Holbrook in the movie, in Woodward’s book.
But of course, the essence of the whole process remains unexplained.
Mark Felt was the operational director of the Bureau. His new boss, L. Patrick Gray, was busy “twisting slowly, slowly in the wind.” Are we to assume that every day of the year beginning on June 19, 1972, Mark Felt made at least one check of Bob Woodward’s apartment balcony to see if there was a red flag in an empty flower pot that had been moved to a precise location outside Woodward’s apartment?
Mark Felt had people to do that stuff for him.
And they didn’t do it without questions. The FBI isn’t the military. You’re not a draftee or a brand-new volunteer whose Sergeant says “Go check the flower pots in Sector Z at 0600, 1200, 1800, and 2300. And do it every day for the next year,” and you salute sharply and go polish your field glasses. These are professional watchers, and if you don’t tell them who they’re watching and why, it is almost impossible for them not to figure it out— even if just by dint of being there all the time.
Mark Felt had to have people, in the FBI, who explicitly or implicitly, knew what he— and consequently they— were doing, and with whom.
And if Felt didn’t let them in on the whys, if he couldn’t trust them to be sympathetic or at least loyal, they probably would’ve ratted him out. I’m not talking about spies spying on the spies, either— just the ordinary gossip that goes on in every organization man has ever created or ever will create, from the Federal Bureau of Investigation to the Visiting Nurse Association.
Mark Felt had to have confederates. Not that Woodward told us in the Post, and not that he’ll necessarily tell us in the book.
Consider the reverse end of the signal system. Woodward writes of how Felt could schedule a meeting by drawing a circle, and the hands of a clock, on Page 20 of the copy of The New York Times that was delivered to Woodward's apartment each day.
“How," Woodward writes with an utter absence of profundity, "I never knew."
Are you going to take a guess, Bob?
Good grief. Your friend, who used to chase spies in World War II, carefully established an intricate set of what might fairly be called “Woodward Rules,” and 33 years later it hasn’t struck you that there must have also been what might fairly be called “Team Woodward”?
A 25-year veteran of the FBI, its operational chief, an imposing man with a great unforgettable shock of white hair, looking surprisingly like the actor Andrew Morton (he played the Russian symphony conductor in the movie “Bye Bye Birdie”), who is now involved in the most important running news leak of the generation, and he’s taking the chance to personally purloin your copy of the newspaper before sunrise, open it up, write in it, and put it back?
He had accomplices.
And the implication of that undeniable— albeit unstated— fact, is that he could easily have had accomplices who dealt not just in logistics, but also in data. Sure, Felt might have culled all this information on Watergate during the course of his daily leadership role at Bureau headquarters. But that’s only if he did nothing else for a year. And, as Woodward wrote in the Post, as Watergate began, Felt was intimately involved in the investigation of George Wallace’s would-be assassin, Arthur Bremer. This was not a one-trick pony. This was the de facto chief of the entire Bureau.
All of which ties in with John Dean’s masterful work on the necessary side effect of the presumable fact of “Team Woodward.” Contrary to Ben Bradlee’s proud assertion when Felt was unmasked on Tuesday, Deep Throat fed Woodward plenty of sour information. He must’ve given him every rumor, every bit of gossip, every scrap the FBI had on the investigation. Because, as Dean points out in his weekly column at FindLaw.Com, something approaching 50 percent of the “facts” Woodward attributes to Felt were wrong, and usually wildly so.
Before he appeared on Countdown last night, John was good enough to send me a draft of his FindLaw piece, and, more importantly, his index of the Mark Felt Watergate scoreboard. The Felt information, cut up into its individual component parts, goes on for ten tightly edited pages. Dean put the stuff he knows or believes was factually incorrect, in red.
He used a lot of red.
There are a few highlights which we discussed last night. In "All The President’s Men," on page 317, Woodward writes that after meeting Throat on May 16, 1973, he puts on a classical record at full blast and types— rather than says— what Throat has told him, as Bernstein looks over his shoulder:
"Everyone's life is in danger. Deep Throat says that electronic surveillance is going on and we had better watch it. The CIA is doing it."
But Dean— at that date, officially out of the Nixon White House for just 17 days— insists the CIA steadfastly refused to do the Administration’s bidding for it. He should know; he had been Team Captain of the cover-up. More over, he notes, nowhere in the Nixon tapes is there the slightest hint of lives being in danger. Legendary is the story of CIA boss Dick Helms erupting at the White House when H.R. Haldeman and company tried to pressure the agency into creating a National Security alibi with which to stave off the FBI.
It’s a reasonable guess that Felt was either trying to scare Woodward (and the Post) into treating him and the story with grave urgency (and to take it all very, very personally), or perhaps provide a cover in case Woodward caught sight of any of the swarm of Deep Throat Juniors who had to be involved just in the signaling process between Felt and Woodward.
In the same conversation (and on the next page of the book), Woodward twice quotes Felt about Dean:
"Dean talked with Senator Baker after (the) Watergate committee formed and Baker is in the bag completely, reporting back directly (to) the White House...” And: "President threatened Dean personally and said if he ever revealed the national security activities the President would insure he went to jail."
John Dean remembers everything. There is the legendary story of the question he was asked by a Republican member of the Senate Watergate Committee during his epic testimony in 1973. It had gone on, in intricate detail, for minutes, when it was suddenly interrupted by the chair. “Wait a minute. The stenographer’s not here. You’ll have to repeat the question from the beginning.” The questioner had no prayer of repeating, even rephrasing, his question. Dean said that it was all right, he could. He then proceeded to recite it, virtually word-for-word.
Heck, John Dean once surprised me by mentioning the name Zeke Bonura. He was an obscure baseball player of the 1930’s. Dean has no great affection for baseball, but he remembered Bonura— and all the other National League first basemen of the time— simply because his father, who was a fan, used to talk about them half a century ago.
So when John says Nixon never threatened him with jail (and, oh by the way, it isn’t on the Nixon tapes), and says that most assuredly, Howard Baker was anything but “in the bag”— believe him.
Same for 50 other inaccuracies Dean notes in his column. Like one that came out of the undated meeting between Woodward and Throat from Late February or early March, 1973: "Our President has gone on a rampage about news leaks on Watergate. He's told appropriate people 'Go to any length' to stop them... At a meeting, Nixon said that the money left over from the campaign, about $5 million or so, might as well be used to take The Washington Post down a notch..."
Never happened. No tape of it, either.
Not that the FBI agents working the Watergate investigation might not have been told that it did, and dutifully passed it along to Felt. And, alternatively, not that Felt couldn’t have constructed it from thin air just to raise the stakes a bit.
But, intuitively, the former explanation rings truer. It’s been known to work this way before. When Winston Churchill was out of power in England in the 1930’s, he had a network of key sympathizers within the British military who, like he, understood that Hitler was not abiding by the terms of the Versailles treaty, and was, in fact, “rearming like a madman.” As Churchill’s authoritative biographer Martin Gilbert recounts, not only did they pass as much data to Churchill as they could, but some of them found, to their own surprise and relief, that their colleagues were also passing data to them knowing full well it would wind up in Churchill’s hands.
This is all very dicey, journalistically. It makes the picture of Deep Throat not clearer, but murkier. It suggests that we have the name of the guy atop the iceberg now— but nothing else.
What it does not suggest— and I’ve heard this from some who are ready to put up statues to Mark Felt in every major city— is that Felt was operating from anything other than the highest kind of patriotism. Nor is it meant to imply for a moment that Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein, Ben Bradlee, or the Post itself did anything but pursue the truth at a time when it was a precious and endangered species.
It only suggests that there’s an iceberg out there. And it’s time for Woodward to tell as much as he knows about it— or for others to do it for him.
More questions than answers (Keith Olbermann)
SECAUCUS — As Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein continued to work on their promised front page opus in Thursday’s Washington Post — no doubt hoping to avoid the title if not the premise of “Now It Can Be Told!” — there are certainly hundreds of questions they feel are worthy of answering.
There may be some surprises — among the questions as well as the answers — but if the following eight headline queries aren’t addressed, they’ll have to write more than just the one piece for the Post.
Question #1. About the 18-Minute gap — the infamous “erasure” on one of the tapes recorded inside the Oval Office — which Nixon tried to blame on an “accident” involving his faithful secretary, Rose Mary Woods. In November, 1973, long before the gap was public knowledge, Woodward wrote that he learned of its “suspicious nature” from Deep Throat.
But Mark Felt, passed over for promotion, had left the FBI five months earlier. Where did he get the information about the tape? Gossip? Old friends?
Question #2. What old friends? Was Felt-Throat now no better than a third hand source? Were there also Not-So-Deep-Throats — OTHER sources — whose information was now combined with that from Felt? Did Felt himself mine sources inside the White House and pass that information, and earlier stuff, on to the reporters?
Question #3. Is that journalistically ethical? Or did Woodward, Bernstein, the Post — and Felt as Throat — abuse the concept of the confidential source?
Question #4. How old was Deep Throat and how likely was Mark Felt to have been, as Woodward described him, “my friend,” even prior to Watergate? In a preliminary manuscript of “All The President’s Men,” John Dean has found him described as creating antidotes “to inexperience and lack of knowledge.” Mark Felt was 58-years-old on the day of the Watergate break-in. When he left the FBI — he retired. Woodward was 29 at the time.
Question #5. What happened to the “public role” Woodward once said Deep Throat still had? In 1997, Woodward told former White House counsel and continuing Throat sleuth Leonard Garment that “Deep Throat’s public role and public persona had changed radically since Watergate days; it was now so discordant with his former garage-skulking behavior that Deep Throat would never come forward to identify himself.” What public role was that? Mark Felt was never well-known and would never be as well-known as the day he retired from the FBI in 1973 — at least until now.
Question #6. Garage-skulking. All The President’s Men has Felt-Throat meeting Woodward at all hours of the night, in at least one underground parking lot. He has Felt Throat writing notes inside Woodward’s home delivered copies of the New York Times, and watching Woodward’s patio to see if the reporter was asking him for a meeting by sticking a red flag in a flower pot. Asked about that by Ted Koppel yesterday, Felt-Throat’s attorney and Vanity Fair biographer John O’Connor said simply “You got me — Mark certainly doesn’t remember it.”
Question #7. Never mind why he did whatever he did in 1972 and 1973 — what about Felt-Throat’s current motive? His lawyer/biographer O’Connor tried to sell the story to Vanity Fair, then sell it as a book. Now O’Connor says that was just a ruse to get Felt-Throat to open up by playing on his understandable desire to secure the finances of his descendants.
But why didn’t Felt-Throat give any heads-up about his self-outing to the three men who were most loyal to him? Woodward kept his secret for 33 years, Bernstein 32, Ben Bradlee 31. Felt let Vanity Fair not just scoop them and the Post, but left the Post, to borrow a Watergate phrase, “Twisting slowly, slowly in the wind.”
And if not loyalty to Woodward and Bernstein — what about to James W. Brawley of Media General News Service? Who’s he? He’s Mark Felt’s nephew-in-law. He called him “Uncle Mark” his whole life, including his 20 years as a reporter. He even asked “Uncle Mark” if he was Deep Throat, many times. The answer “I don’t talk about rumors.” Brawley today — scooped by his own Uncle — says only “I just wish he had called me first.”
And Question #8 — the lightest of them all. That name. W. Mark Felt. Was it coincidence, or an audacious clue. Woodward, fond of anagrams and other word games, referred to his source as Throat only in his BOOK. Around the Washington Post, he was, quote “My Friend.”
My Friend — as in M. F. — as in Mark Felt.
To raise it one higher level of farce: sometimes, editors like Ben Bradlee, Howard Simons, and Harry Rosenfeld called the source “Woodward’s Friend”.
Woodward’s Friend — as in W.F. — as in W. Mark Felt.
John Dean joins me on Countdown tonight to have a shot at some of these questions — plus the ones about Felt-Throat’s role as hero or villain, law-saver, or law-breaker. Plus, we’ll have on the head of the college project that didn’t pick Felt as the likeliest Deep Throat, and the once eight-year-old friend of Carl Bernstein’s son, who did! 8 p.m. and Midnight ET on MSNBC.
What questions do you have? E-mail: KOlbermann@msnbc.com
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