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A fateful meeting

Bob Woodward writes about the man behind 'Deep Throat' and how he cultivated the relationship with Mark Felt. Read an excerpt of his new book, "The Secret Man: The Story of Watergate’s Deep Throa.t"
Simon And Shuster

On May 31, 2005, the most famous anonymous source in history— “Deep Throat”— finally revealed himself as Mark Felt, the number two man at the F.B.I. during the Watergate era. Now, 33 years after the Watergate break-in, Bob Woodward of The Washington Post, who protected his source for all these years, writes about Watergate and his relationship with Felt. Read an excerpt of his new book, “The Secret Man: The Story of Watergate’s Deep Throat.”

In the summer of 1969 I was serving as a full lieutenant in the United States Navy, assigned to the Pentagon as a watch officer overseeing worldwide Teletype communications for the chief of naval operations, then Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, who later became the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the No. 1 military position. I had a Top Secret security clearance and access to what was then called SPECAT, Special Category messages of unusual sensitivity. In addition I had a Top Secret Crypto clearance for cryptographic information on communications codes. But I had no special access to intelligence matters, which were handled over separate communications channels. My work was routine and boring. It basically involved watch-standing in the Pentagon for eight-hour shifts overseeing the communications involving the chief of naval operations, the secretary of the navy, the Navy staff and personal communications among the admirals. I disliked it.

It has been alleged in several books that my duties involved briefing Alexander M. Haig Jr., then deputy to Henry Kissinger, Nixon’s national security adviser, in the White House. Thus a number of people, at first including John Dean, speculated incorrectly that Haig was Deep Throat. I’m certain I never met or talked to Haig until years later. But as Admiral Moorer has said publicly and repeatedly, I acted at times as a courier, taking packages of messages or other documents (they were in sealed envelopes, so I rarely knew what was inside) to the White House.

One evening I was dispatched with such a package to the lower level of the West Wing of the White House, where there was a little waiting room near the Situation Room and the offices of some National Security Council staff. I vaguely recall there were several vending machines nearby or down the hall. It was approaching dinnertime or later. It could be a long wait to get the proper person to come out and sign for the material, an hour or more. But I was fascinated by the White House—it sure beat the Pentagon—and, when there were such opportunities, I hung around as much as possible. I was delighted to wait.

The mystique of the White House is compelling. Just being there was its own reward with the suggestion that important business was transpiring nearby.

I might have volunteered to bring the papers that evening after a routine watch. It was either in the last quarter of 1969 but probably the first half of 1970 as best I can tell. I am pretty sure I was in my dress-blue Navy uniform, the formal suit with two gold stripes and a star on each sleeve, which is worn in the colder months. So I was 26 or had just turned 27. My hair was close-cropped as required by the Navy. The White House was and still is often full of people in military uniforms, bustling about or waiting.

Roger Morris, an aide to Henry Kissinger, has suggested that I was a briefer for Haig, but the only evidence Morris has offered is that he saw me sitting outside the NSC offices in the West Wing during this period. He is right in that I was there. But I never briefed Haig.

After waiting some time that evening, a tall man with perfectly combed gray hair came in and sat down to wait. His suit was dark, his shirt was white, and his necktie subdued. He was probably 25 to 30 years older than I. He too carried a file case or a briefcase. He was distinguished-looking and had a studied air of confidence, even what might be called a command presence, the posture and calm of someone used to giving orders and having them obeyed instantly and without question. He had an air of patience and comfort about him. I could tell he was observing the situation carefully. There was nothing overbearing in his attentiveness, but it was evident because his eyes were darting about—a gentlemanly surveillance.

After several minutes, I introduced myself. “Lieutenant Bob Woodward,” I said, carefully appending a deferential “sir.”

“Mark Felt,” he said. He had a great, confident voice.