Deep in Richard Nixon's White House files sit letters from a long-forgotten lobbying campaign to make Mark Felt head of the FBI. Instead, Felt became Deep Throat.
The National Archives released more than 10,000 documents from the Nixon presidency on Wednesday and among them are the urgings of past and president FBI agents and other interested citizens to appoint Felt, then the No. 2 FBI official, as director. Associates described his "outstanding loyalty."
Nixon did not take the advice.
Ultimately, Felt's devastating leaks as The Washington Post's secret Watergate source helped undermine Nixon's presidency.
The documents, also shedding light on foreign and national security policy from the Nixon years, show increasing urgency in U.S. attempts to pacify the Middle East, alarm over Israel's apparent progress in developing nuclear weapons and a wish to "manipulate relations with Saudis" to help broker peace. U.S. officials are also seen weighing whether to support a Kurdish rebellion in Iraq.
To combat the terrorist threat in the Mideast, the U.S. must focus on "political dialogue," said a March 1973 directive now echoed in this week's Mideast summit.
Nixon, soon to be consumed by the Watergate investigation, passed over career agents including Felt when he selected loyalist L. Patrick Gray as FBI chief after the J. Edgar Hoover's death in 1972, just weeks before the Watergate break-in. Gray resigned the next year because of allegations he had destroyed Watergate documents.
Felt's supporters weighed in, with letters, telegrams and cards that have been in Nixon's White House files all these years.
"He has the integrity, the ability, the experience and the image to insure that our FBI will continue to deserve and maintain world esteem," Harold L. Child Jr., legal attache to the embassy in Japan and a 30-year FBI veteran, told Nixon in an April 1973 letter.
Efton A. Stanfield, a former FBI special agent who was then an executive of the electrical contractors' association, asked Nixon in a telegram to turn to the career professional to replace Gray.
"Mr. Felt is a man of outstanding loyalty, character, reputation, habits," he said. The "fidelity, bravery, and integrity of Mr. Felt are unquestioned."
Felt himself was the lead agent in a telegram sent to the White House by a group of agents asking that a highly qualified professional be nominated. The police chief in Kodiak, Alaska, made the case for Felt, and citizens joined the effort.
Writing from Brooklyn, N.Y., Viena K. Neaville told Nixon that choosing Felt would be good for him because, "You would be spared the tremendous aggravation to which you are subjected by so many factions."
Nixon eventually chose William Ruckelshaus, then Environmental Protection Agency chief, and was spared no grief.
Ruckelshaus soon quit rather than follow Nixon's order to fire the special Watergate prosecutor.
Deep Throat's identity remained a mystery until Felt stepped forward in 2005 to acknowledged his clandestine role in bringing down Nixon.