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CNN NEWSNIGHT AARON BROWN
Deep Throat's Identity Revealed
Aired May 31, 2005 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
AARON BROWN, HOST: Good evening again.
For anyone who can't keep a secret for more than 10 minutes, which is to say just about everyone, think about what it must be like to keep a secret about one of the key moments in history for north of 30 years? For just that long there have been many small mysteries about the Watergate scandal and one large one: who was the source for the reporting that helped bring down Richard Nixon? Who was Deep Throat?
For some 30 years only three people knew, Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodward and their editor Ben Bradlee. Three, and, of course Deep Throat, and none was talking for more than 30 years.
BROWN (voice-over): Back when Watergate was going on, we had to wait until the morning paper, at least the 11:00 p.m. Bulldog edition. But today one of the favorite riddles of recent history was answered for everyone around the globe, at 5:00 Eastern time, when "The Washington Post" Web site confirmed that W. Mark Felt, the former number two at the FBI, was, indeed, and, in fact, Deep Throat.
It was the end of a day of speculation and memory like so many others in the past 30 years, as journalists and politicians and pundits explored a mystery, a mystery at the heart of one of the country's most trying times.
RICHARD NIXON, FMR. PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES: I had no prior knowledge of the Watergate break-in. I neither took part in nor if knew about any of the subsequent cover-up activities.
BROWN: For those whose memory needs a little nudging, it was called a third-rate burglary, a handful of men caught in the middle of the night inside the Democratic National Party headquarters at the Watergate Hotel in Washington. They had bugging devices with them and they had a phone number of someone who worked at the White House.
Slowly, very slowly, the threads of the conspiracy began to unravel. Reporters -- most famously but certainly not only "The Washington Post"'s young Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward -- began to sniff out stories that payoffs and cash donations and more.
According to myth and the movies, they were guided by an insider, someone in the guts of the U.S. government on deep background.
ROBERT REDFORD "ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN": Where are you?
BROWN: A man the reporters and the editors at the "Post" never referred to by name, only by a joking reference to a porn movie the time, "Deep Throat." And while there have been many good guesses, "The Post" and Woodward and Bernstein and their editor Ben Bradlee stayed silent. So did Deep Throat himself until now.
This morning, "Vanity Fair" ran the first article. It was very close to being definitive, quoting the man who, during Watergate was number two at the FBI saying, quote, "I'm the guy they called Deep Throat," but there was still, it seems some room for doubt.
Mark Felt, who "The Post" says hoped to become director of the FBI had been the man, the source, the best-kept secret in modern political lore.
MARK FELT JR., DEEP THROAT'S SON: The family believes my grandfather, Mark Felt Sr. is a great American hero who went well above and beyond the call of duty at much risk to himself to save his country from a horrible injustice.
BROWN: But the story wasn't put to bed until "The Post" confirmed it, and even now some still wonder, Washington being Washington, if there isn't more. "The Post" said simply that Felt was their source, was Deep Throat, one of many sources they used but a source who helped their coverage immeasurably. "The Post" will write more, much more in the days ahead.
That done, Felt, now 91, took a curtain call, if you will, and let his family speak for him.
LAURA FELT, DAUGHTER: My dad, I know him so well and he's a great man. He's so kind. He's so attentive to other people and loving. And we're all so proud of him not only for his role in history but for that, the character that he is, the person that he is. We love him very much.
BROWN: Mr. Felt has yet to say exactly why he decided to leak back then or admit it now. The article in "Vanity Fair" portrays a man dealing with advancing age and mixed feelings, someone who seems uneasy with the idea of anyone in government betraying a confidence, but more so with a government's betrayal of the public trust. Back in the '60s and the early '70s, there was a lot of that going around.
Here's our senior analyst Jeff Greenfield.
JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR ANALYST (voice-over): Now that we finally really know who he is...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "Vanity Fair" reports that former law enforcement official Mark Felt is the mysterious source known as Deep Throat. GREENFIELD: ...we can get to the really interesting question -- why did he do it? Why did a top official of the FBI risk his career and maybe even criminal prosecution by leaking clues to the Watergate story to the "Washington Post"'s Bob Woodward, a covert partnership immortalized on the silver screen.
The reason may be a lot easier to figure out than was the identity of Deep Throat. Over the years journalists and Mark Felt himself had painted a portrait of a career FBI official who had come to believe that the Nixon administration was threatening the agency's position and corrupting its role as well.
In one sense, this story begins with a death, just six weeks before the Watergate break-in, the death of J. Edgar Hoover who had run the FBI with a near-dictatorial hand for almost 50 years. The insular FBI was startled when President Nixon appointed an outsider, L. Patrick Gray, to run the department. It was a choice that did not sit well with veterans like Mark Felt. Ron Kessler, author of "The Bureau: A Look Inside the FBI."
RON KESSLER, AUTHOR, "THE BUREAU": Mark Felt, you know, absolutely detested Gray. So if you want to come up with a motive, you know, for Mark Felt cooperating with Woodward, that would certainly be one. Namely, that Mark Felt would hope that Nixon would be kicked out and that Mark Felt would be appointed.
GREENFIELD: But tensions between the FBI and the Nixon White House went back further to the mass arrests of anti-war demonstrators in 1971 and to the administration's efforts to spy on and disrupt the activities of its political opponents. But with the Watergate break- in, the clash between FBI veterans and the Nixon White House intensified. As the so-called smoking gun tape of June 23rd, 1972 showed, less than a week after the break-in, President Nixon was suggesting that the CIA be used to ward off FBI probes into the source of the Watergate money.
Indeed, in his memoir, published in 1979, Mark Felt recounts how he told Director Gray, quote, "the reputation of the FBI is at stake," unquote, and that he would not shut down an investigation into the source of the Watergate money unless specifically asked to do so by the CIA. And Mark Felt added, quote, "that's not all. We must do something about the complete lack of cooperation from John Dean and also the Committee to Re-Elect the President. It's obvious they're holding back," unquote.
In other words, Mark Felt believed from the beginning that his FBI was being corrupted by political influence.
KESSLER: It was important to get the truth out, and even though the FBI was investigating this, and they weren't going to go away, they were worried that something might happen so that this investigation would be suppressed.
GREENFIELD: Now, it's easy to understand why this story is getting the play it is. As Aaron mentioned a few minutes ago, a secret kept for 30 years merits a gee-whiz response. But the question of why Mark Felt did this is in some ways, Aaron, a more significant story and one that actually has been debated almost from Watergate's break-in itself.
BROWN: All right, you have two questions. First, you think it's possible that what's happened here is that Woodward and Bernstein and "The Post" having had this "Vanity Fair" story come out and Mr. Felt and his family taking credit for being Deep Throat are throwing a feint here to distract us all from actually who Deep Throat is and we still don't know.
GREENFIELD: Well, actually, I've got a couple of e-mails arguing just that point from people who had long maintained that Watergate was really about an interagency coup. For me, that's a bridge too far. There are just -- Mark Felt's been on top of this list for a very long time. It is entirely possible that some of the stuff that Woodward reported came from other sources, but that Mark Felt was not Deep Throat. That now requires him to be wrong, a family to be wrong and Woodward to be lying to us? that's pushing it.
BROWN: Do you have any sense of, I don't know, disappointment today that its like coming to the -- having spent 30 years reading a great mystery coming to tend of it and realizing that the book is over?
GREENFIELD: Postpartum blues, you mean?
GREENFIELD: No. I was not one of those people who was obsessed by this, maybe because I live in the heartland of America, New York City, rather than Washington. But this is an interesting story. But I think the consequence of Watergate, what it did to our politics, what it did to our journalism, those are much more interesting questions to me than, OK, now we know who Deep Throat is.
BROWN: And, we'll get to our politics and journalism and other things too as we continue tonight. Thank you. Welcome back, by the way.
BROWN: OK, as cool or as perhaps as disappointing to some as it was to see the confirmation of Deep Throat's identity jump on to "The Washington Post"'s Web site today, there were one or two cooler moments that might have topped it.
Being at that first meeting, perhaps in that first garage in the dead of night three decades ago, and the other, setting out on a story some thirty years later and hearing your subject tell you, Deep Throat? Yeah, I'm that guy.
More on the moment that led up to that moment from CNN's Bill Schneider.
BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Why did Mark Felt keep silent for the last 30 years? Bob Woodward told Larry King last year...
BOB WOODWARD, WASHINGTON POST: I think once people see who it is and exactly what happened, will understand why the super secrecy and the confidentiality.
SCHNEIDER: "The Vanity Fair" article quotes Felt's son as saying, "his attitude was, I don't think being Deep Throat was anything to be proud of. You should not leak information to anyone."
Remember, Deep Throat revealed secrets about a criminal investigation he headed and he could have been prosecuted. He told his daughter he was worried about, quote, "what the judge would think."
Another mystery -- why did Felt decide to reveal himself now? O'Connor says Felt revealed the truth casually, almost inadvertently, to close friends and family members. He confided his identity to a social companion who shared it with Felt's daughter Joan. He says Joan confronted her father saying, "I know now that you're Deep Throat." His response: "Since that's the case, well, yes, I am."
The "Vanity Fair" article says family members wanted Felt, now 91 and ailing, to come forward and establish his legacy. His son says...
MARK FELT JR.: We believe our father, William Mark Felt Sr., was an American hero. He went well above and beyond the call of duty, at risk to himself, to save his country from a horrible injustice.
SCHNEIDER: His daughter recalls telling Felt, "we could make at least enough money to pay some bills, like the debt I've run up for the kids' education. Let's do it for the family." Felt's response? "That's a good reason."
Though "Vanity Fair's" author says the Felts were not paid for their cooperation.
Perhaps most important, according to his grandson, Felt feels that after 30 years, all is now finally forgiven.
NICK JONES, GRANDSON OF W. MARK FELT: As he recently told my mother, "I guess people used to think Deep Throat was a criminal, but now they think he's a hero."
SCHNEIDER: It sounds amazing to say this, given today's political environment, but there are no indications Felt ever had any partisan motives. He acted, he says, to protect the FBI and his own role in it from political interference.
Bill Schneider, CNN, Washington.
(END VIDEOTAPE) BROWN: Long ago, Mark Felt said he believed John Dean was holding back information. I'm sure Mr. Dean won't hold back information tonight. He joins us from California. It's nice to see you.
You're not buying, at least not yet, not all of it, right?
JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Well, what I have -- it's not that I doubt Woodward or Bernstein in identifying and agreeing that Felt is the source. It's been obvious for years that Felt was a source to these people, or a well-known source in Washington.
What I have problems with is how Felt could conceivably had access to all the information that he had and gave to Woodward, as well as all the misinformation he provided to Woodward when he had to know better.
And as I think it was Jeff, mentioned in the set-up piece, that there's a very good possibility what he was doing is an obstruction of justice as well. So why would this man commit this crime?
I also have mechanical problems. If you recall the story, you know, you have a situation where somebody was monitoring Woodward's balcony to see if the flower pot was out with the flag. Somebody was circling his "New York Times" when Deep Throat wanted to talk to Woodward on page 20.
Well, these are mechanical things that took a lot of time and effort. Now, here's a man, Felt, who is running the FBI on a day-to- day basis. This suggests that other people are involved as well. Because I can't believe the day-to-day operator is doing this kind of activity.
BROWN: Let me suggest that I suspect before the week is out that perhaps Mr. Woodward and Mr. Bernstein will fill in some of that detail. Just -- can you think of any reason why anyone would claim to be Deep Throat who isn't?
DEAN: Well, as Carl -- I wasn't aware of this, but Carl said earlier today several people have actually claimed to be Deep Throat when they were not. And that's one of the reasons that they were going to wait until the death of Deep Throat before they addressed it. That was in a very earlier statement today.
I don't know who those people are. I've never really tracked that. And I can't imagine anybody confessing to this for arbitrary reasons.
BROWN: The people should know, I think it'd help give this conversation context, that you really have literally gone through everything that those guys wrote back then and tried to figure out where it came from and what was right and what was wrong, and sitting there with your highlighting pens and the rest. Is there any specific detail in all of that that says to you, this can't be Mark Felt? DEAN: Well, the closest that -- just the fast chance I've had to look so far, is when you go to the November -- early November 1973 conversation that Woodward has with Throat when Throat tells him that there are erasures on one or more of the tapes.
Now, this is information that's very closely held in the White House. I've talked to people who were there at the time, and it's a very small circle who knows that there's a problem with the tapes and erasures.
Mark Felt I believe is out of the bureau at this time. We've followed the Saturday night massacre and a new FBI director has come in, Clarence Kelley, and he's out. How conceivably could he be getting this information? Does he have a liaison, former liaison officer who is a friend who's still hanging around the White House? Is there a mole in the White House? It to me suggests, again, more than Mark Felt alone being involved in this.
BROWN: It's good to see you. It's -- at one level today, you went wow, we finally know. And then at another level, I went at least, there's so much more to know.
DEAN: That's right.
BROWN: Thanks for filling in some blanks. John, it's nice to see you. John Dean out West tonight. Thank you, sir.
In a few moments, we'll talk with Charles Colson, a former Nixon aide who went to prison as well for his role in Watergate. But as we get to a quarter past the hour, Erica Hill has the other headlines of the day. Ms. Hill.
ERICA HILL, CNN HEADLINE NEWS ANCHOR: Hi, Aaron. The city council of Spokane, Washington, is expected to ask embattled Mayor James West to resign. West, however, vows to serve out the remainder of his term. He's been under fire since the Spokane newspaper reported allegations West molested two boys many years ago, and offered city jobs to young men he met in online chat rooms.
President Bush today labeled as "absurd" a report by Amnesty International that refers to the Pentagon's detention facility at Guantanamo Bay as, quote, "the gulag of our times." The report also says serious human rights violations are taking place at Guantanamo. The president rejects that allegation.
The new president of Iraq says Saddam Hussein's trial could start within two months. Jalal Talabani told an international conference sponsored by CNN that Iraq's new government is doing its best to prepare the case against the former dictator.
And Aaron, that's the latest from HEADLINE NEWS right now. But we'll bring you some more headlines in just a little bit.
BROWN: Well, we'll be here for that. Thank you, Erica, very much.
Back to Watergate in a moment, starting with the players.
BROWN (voice-over): Not all the president's men, certainly, but plenty.
RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Two of the finest public servants it has been my privilege to know.
BROWN: Not an army of good guys, but enough.
HOWARD BAKER: What did the president know and when did he know it?
BROWN: Coming up, how people made history and history made them.
Also, a little give and a little take.
NIXON: Are you running for something?
DAN RATHER, CBS ANCHOR: No, sir, Mr. President. Are you?
BROWN: No. Make that a lot. How Watergate changed the way people see Washington and how the press covers it.
Also tonight, 25 years of technology in our lives, from this to this.
MECHANIZED VOICE: Welcome. You've got mail.
BROWN: And this is NEWSNIGHT.
BROWN: Thirty-one years ago, the Watergate drama was coming to a head in a world untouched by TiVo. If you wanted to watch the hearings -- and an estimated 85 percent of American households did watch -- there were four choices, each three letters long. The commercial television networks carried the live coverage; PBS replayed each day's drama at night. I watched both.
Together, they brought into our living rooms a cast of characters impossible to forget.
BROWN (voice-over): He was the boss.
NIXON: I shall resign the presidency effective at noon tomorrow.
BROWN: And he had plenty of henchmen. There was Bob Haldeman, the chief of staff, and John Ehrlichman, his right-hand man, both now deceased.
NIXON: In one of the most difficult decisions of my presidency, I accepted the resignations of two of my closest associates.
BROWN: There was John Dean, the young White House counsel, who was fired the same night as Ehrlichman and Haldeman. No kind words for Dean, who would soon do his talking to the Senate.
DEAN: There was a cancer growing on the presidency.
BROWN: Then there were the Watergate burglars themselves. There was Gordon Liddy, now a talk show host, and Howard Hunt, the ex-CIA agent and mystery novelist, who is now deceased. They were the leaders.
There was Jim McCord, also former CIA, who was first to give up the cover-up when facing a long prison sentence, told his story to one of the true heroes of the scandal, the late Judge John Sirica.
JIM MCCORD: I have been physically attacked and robbed in jail.
BROWN: But the scandal touched so many more. There was Jeb Magruder, who would go to prison, then enter the clergy. And Chuck Colson, ruthless as a political operative, who found religion in prison.
Attorneys-general John Mitchell went to jail; Richard Kleindienst was forced to quit. Elliot Richardson was fired by Nixon for refusing to fire special prosecutor Archibald Cox, in the scandal's most dramatic early day, the Saturday night massacre.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't feel defiant. In fact, I told my wife this morning, I hate a fight.
BROWN: On the political side, Sam Irvin of North Carolina became the face of the Senate investigation.
SEN. SAM IRVIN, NORTH CAROLINA: I'm a Southern country lawyer myself.
BROWN: Young Howard Baker gave the hearings their most famous quote.
BAKER: What did the president know and when did he know it?
BROWN: The committee's two chief lawyers became well known. Sam Dash for the Democrats -- he died about a year ago -- and a young attorney named Fred Thompson for the Republicans, later a senator and an actor.
In the House, a relatively unknown New Jersey congressman, a Democrat, Peter Rodino, led the impeachment committee. He died less than a month ago after a long and distinguished career.
Every scandal produces a trivia question or two. Alexander Butterfield told the Senate about the White House taping system that in the end would be Nixon's demise. And Rosemary Woods, Nixon's loyal, longtime secretary, was, we were told, accidentally guilty of erasing a crucial tape. Finally, the new president, Gerald Ford, appointed, not elected.
GERALD FORD, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our long national nightmare is over.
BROWN: It is now in the history books. With Leon Jaworski, the new special prosecutor, nearly 40 government officials were indicted, pled guilty or were convicted; 13 went to prison.
And almost 30 years later, the man who helped send them there finally came forward.
BROWN: Chuck Colson, as we said, was a bad actor back then. Ruthless is rarely a compliment, and ruthless is a word that applied to Mr. Colson, at least others did.
If people make history, history also makes them, often in unexpected ways. And the history that was Watergate clearly changed Mr. Colson. And he joins us tonight from Naples, Florida. It's nice to see you, sir. Are you buying that Mark Felt was Deep Throat?
CHUCK COLSON, FORMER NIXON AIDE: I was shocked, because I knew Mark Felt well and did not believe -- I thought he was a consummate professional, an FBI man who would take the most sensitive secrets, have everybody's personal files in his control, deputy director. I talked to him often and trusted him with very sensitive materials. So did the president. To think that he was out going around in back alleys at night looking for flower pots, passing information to someone, it's just so demeaning. It's terribly disappointing. It's not the image of the professional FBI that you would expect.
BROWN: Why is it....
COLSON: It's one more tragedy to chalk up to Watergate.
BROWN: That's an interesting way to look at it. Why is it not honorable? Why is it not -- believing that an institution you've devoted your life to, care a lot about and is important to the country, is being used in an improper way, and the only way you have to solve it or to deal with that is to go outside that agency? Why isn't that honorable?
COLSON: That's not the only way. He could have walked into Pat Gray's office, the director of the FBI and said, here are things that are going on in the White House that need to be exposed; the president needs to know about this, needs to deal with this. Maybe you believe the president himself is involved.
We should confront him on this, because we represent law enforcement. And go into the president and tell him what you saw.
Now, let me tell you something. I knew Richard Nixon intimately. Richard Nixon was no paragon of moral virtue. He would not necessarily have said, oh, my goodness, let me get to the bottom of this, it's terrible. But he would have known that the director of the FBI and his deputy knew these things. He of course would call an end to this kind of stuff. He could -- Mark Felt could have stopped Watergate. He was in the position of that kind of influence. Instead, he goes out and basically undermines the administration. I don't think that's honorable at all.
BROWN: So in the end -- I mean, I wonder if there's something generational here, honestly, that people my age -- I'm 55 -- I went through this when I was a kid, really, in the '60s, in the 20s -- I was 20 years old, late 20s. Saw Deep Throat as a hero of a sort, because we didn't believe, honestly, that government was willing to investigate itself.
COLSON: Well, I think government is willing to investigate itself, and I think we've seen it do it many, many times. Watergate clearly was out of control. Watergate -- I'm writing memoirs at the moment, just about to publish them, that -- in which I take my own full responsibility. I saw things ordered by Mr. Nixon that I should have stood up and said, no, stop, this is wrong.
But Mark Felt, with the responsibility of being the number two man in the FBI, I would feel much better about things had he tried to stop it any other way than just going out and giving scandalous kind of material to newspaper reporters, where it could never be checked, where you could never rebut the accusation.
We always forget, of course, what it was like being inside in those days. Many of those accusations that came firing our way were not true. So you were having a trial in the press, which was not a right way for this to be handled either. And the ends don't justify the means, Aaron. I'm sure you'd agree, that this was not an appropriate way for the number two FBI official in America to act.
He easily could have come to the officials responsible. If they hadn't acted then, he would resign, have a press conference, and that would be entirely honorable. That would be an honorable position for a whistle-blower to take.
BROWN: I'll tell you what, here's the deal I'll make you. When the memoirs come out, we'll discuss it in more detail whether I agree that in this case the ends justify the means. It's a really interesting question, and I'm glad you put it out there tonight. Thank you.
COLSON: If you can make that case for me, I'd sure like to listen to it. I'd have a good time debating you.
BROWN: I look forward to the discussion. It's nice to see you, sir.
COLSON: I went to prison -- I went to prison for ends justifying the means.
BROWN: Yes, you did. Thank you. Chuck Colson down in Florida tonight.
In a moment, how Richard Nixon's departure and disgrace changed the country, the news business and the way we see things.
And later, another story of change as told by an electronic pioneer who ate little white dots for a quarter. From New York and a pinball palace near you, this would be NEWSNIGHT.
BROWN: Well, tonight there's one less secret in the world but possibly more questions than ever surrounding it.
We're joined now by Tim Noah, a columnist for "Slate" magazine; Howard Kurtz, a media columnist for "the Washington Post" and host of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES." And David Gergen has been an adviser to four presidents, including Richard Nixon, now professor at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government and director of the Center of Public Leadership.
David, let's start with you. Back five years ago or so, you said this. "I think if you have information that there's been wrongdoing or skullduggery" -- and congratulations for using that word -- "or criminal activity in the government, rather than going to the press. It's best to take to it the Justice Department and to authorities. I did not think Deep Throat acted in an honorable way."
Do you still believe that Deep Throat did not act in an honorable way?
DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: I have never thought that it was a badge of honor to be Deep Throat. I did believe and do believe that the first course should be to take it to higher authorities. And see if you can -- and see if you can -- because after all, if you're No. 2 in the FBI, you're sitting near the top of one of the most important law enforcement agencies in the country. I think you need to use your powers within government to see if you can solve it.
If you then feel cut off and if you actually -- and that's the argument that Mark Felt's family is making. If you feel cut off, and that if the argument that Mark Felt's family is making. If you feel cut off, that if you go, it's only going to make things worse and the corruption is going to continue, then I think it is honorable then to be a whistleblower.
But I think what we don't know whether those were the facts. And I also don't think we should accept at face value that Mark Felt was some sort of innocent in this.
BROWN: I mean, Tim, I think a point you made earlier today is that Mark Felt is many things, and Deep Throat may we one of them, but he was no Boy Scout.
TIM NOAH, "SLATE" MAGAZINE: He was no Boy Scout. Indeed, he was among other things a lawbreaker. He was prosecuted for allowing break-ins to -- involving members of the -- or suspected members of the Weather Underground, a violent anti-Vietnam organization. He was prosecuted for that and convicted. And later pardoned by Ronald Reagan.
So you kind of have a lawbreaker breaking a whistle -- sorry, blowing the whistle on a -- on a lawbreaker. So no one's really a hero here.
Plus the motive that Mark Felt had was, at least in part, a simple bureaucratic one. The White House was trying to get control of the FBI, which had been a rogue agency for years under J. Edgar Hoover.
BROWN: But why can't I -- I want to spin that in an absolutely heroic way, that what actually he saw happening was the political side of Washington trying to take control of an institution with enormous power that needs to operate outside of whoever is in government at any given time, not unaccountably, but independently.
NOAH: Well, there were two bad alternatives. The previous alternative had been J. Edgar Hoover running wild, driving presidents into giving him free rein.
NOAH: Blackmailing presidents, rather, into giving him free rein. That was an obviously an untenable, terrible situation. And at the other extreme, you had the White House trying to use the FBI for political ends. And it did. It used the FBI for a time to help put together the cover-up.
Let me get Howie in. Watergate changed a lot of things, changed the way we looked at government. It certainly changed the way people look at the press. How did it change media?
KURTZ: In a profound and fundamental way, Aaron. It briefly made journalists into heroes. That didn't last very long.
But because Woodward and Bernstein were celebrated in the movie by Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman, a whole new generation of reporters wanted to be famous, and they wanted to break a lot of scandal, even if it was a two-bit scandal.
So everything became a "gate," and a lot of journalists got sloppy in terms of using anonymous sources. We saw that recently in the case of "Newsweek" and the Koran allegations.
And sometimes sources don't have honorable motives, as we saw in the Valerie Plame outing. And we still don't know who that is, and two journalists are facing jail terms over that.
But I must say I'm very fascinated to hear David Gergen and Chuck Colson and earlier G. Gordon Liddy say that Deep Throat acted in a dishonorable way.
We certainly can debate his motives. He was no angel. But he worked for John Mitchell's Justice Department, a corrupt department within a corrupt administration when it came to Watergate. It's certainly easy to understand how he may have felt that an internal investigation was not going to do the trick and therefore, he felt that leaking, that, which became a Washington institution, was the only route available to him.
BROWN: David, I'm with Howie on this. I just think -- I don't know hero, that's not a word I throw around. But it just looking at the landscape at the time, what Washington was like, it does make a kind of moral sense to me.
GERGEN: Listen, it is -- I think the jury is still out on this. I think we need to know more facts.
One thing we haven't brought into this conversation is that Bob Woodward is tonight on the "Washington Post" on the web page has put out that -- that this was a fellow who was also trying to get even with Richard Nixon for not appointing him as director of the FBI, that there was a revenge factor here.
So I just -- I think we just ought to be cautious as embracing some sort of theory that this fellow was a hero. I think it's very complex. I think -- I think we've unraveled the big mystery. But there are a lot of doors, new doors opening as to what his motives were. And until we know all the facts we shouldn't make judgments about it.
But I will say this. If he -- if the facts come down that, as you and Howie describes him. That he had no recourse, that there was no place that he could go in the government, that he simply couldn't. And when he reached that chilling conclusion, went on to say in the quote that you just read, that if that were the case, then it would be honorable to go to the press.
But I think it's a last resort. And I don't think we know the facts yet.
NOAH: But David, that's already well established. I mean, we know for a fact that his boss, L. Patrick Gray, was shoveling every FBI memo over to John Dean at the White House. The White House knew everything that were going on in this investigation.
BROWN: And one of the great things about cable news is so we can keep this going for a really long time over a long period of days. And I suspect we shall as we learn more and we'll invite you all back and we'll keep it going. Thank you, guys.
GERGEN: Thank you.
Still to come, technology over 25 years as CNN celebrates 25 years of bringing you the news. We'll be right back.
BROWN: In our "Security Watch" tonight, two American men charged with conspiring to aid al Qaeda made separate court appearances today. Tariq Shah went before a federal court judge in New York. Dr. Rafiq Sabir in Florida. They're accused of planning to provide martial arts training and medical aid to al Qaeda.
An undercover FBI agent allegedly recorded meetings and conversations with the men over a two-year period. Shah's defense attorneys denounce the prosecution's case.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTHONY RICCO, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: If somebody is really a threat to our security, what are they talking about for two years?
When you chase people like Tariq Shah, how do you expect to catch Osama bin Laden?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Both men due back in court next month.
A few other stories making news today. Erica Hill joins us again in Atlanta -- Erica.
HILL: Thanks, Aaron.
Closing arguments in Michael Jackson's child molestation trial set to begin now on Thursday. Tomorrow Judge Rodney Melville will read his instructions to the jury. He will allow them to taken written copies of his instructions, as well, into the jury room while they deliberate.
For the third time in only four months a small plane has crashed at Teeterboro Airport in northern New Jersey. The pilot was the only person on board. He is hospitalized tonight. Teeterboro is a small but busy airport just outside New York City that handles corporate jets.
And an attorney for Rush Limbaugh back in a Florida court today, fighting to keep Limbaugh's medical records out of the hands of investigators. Those records are under court seal, but prosecutors want to review them. They're trying to determine if the radio host illegally purchased pain killers.
Limbaugh has not been charged with a crime.
That is the latest from Headline News for this hour. Aaron, back over to you.
BROWN: Erica, thank you.
Ahead on the program, Google and Pac Man and you. Break first. This is NEWSNIGHT.
BROWN: We celebrate this week the birth of this network 25 years ago. A prime-time special tomorrow night, and throughout the week we'll look at a few things that have changed since Mr. Turner had this great vision and a wallet big enough to pull it off. Tonight, technology. I know it's technology because I sent an e- mail on my Blackberry that syncs to my computer, while driving in my car, which has a GPS system, using my EZ Pass to get through the toll plaza on my way to my office, secured by a card system that calls up my picture and opens the door.
Twenty-five years have changed a lot more than the size of the lapels.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some fast thinking executives are already doing business in the office of the future.
BROWN (voice-over): Twenty-five years ago, this was a laptop, the Osbourne, the size of a sewing machine and just about as heavy, twice the price of today's machines and 3,000 times slower.
That's the thing about technology. It moves everything, even itself quickly.
Microchips have been doubling in power every 18 months since the late '60s. Other computer components got faster, and smaller, and cheaper. That and demand drove the prices down.
Today your iPod has a bigger hard drive than your first computer, by a lot.
OMAR WASOW, TECHNOLOGY ANALYST: Isaac Asimov once said that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. And I think when we look at the Internet, we tend to get dazzled by the power of it and forget that, once upon a time, innovations like air conditioning or the automobile or the telephone were just as radical and in many ways more transformative of American life.
BROWN: While it took over 50 years for a quarter of Americans to have a car, it took only 16 years for computers to end up in a quarter of all American homes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome. You've got mail.
BROWN: Snail mail was replaced by faxes, which have now been replaced by e-mail. Twenty-five years ago, only geeks knew about the Internet. Google wasn't even imagined, let alone conceived.
ROBERT CRINGELY, COLUMNIST/PBS COMMENTATOR: The Internet in 1980 wasn't a commercial Internet at all in the present sense. It was an academic Internet composed of about 100 universities and used by perhaps 10,000 students and professors.
Today the Internet has more than a billion users, and we use it for everything. It's changed life completely.
BROWN: While cell phone technology as we know it technically existed as far back as 1973, a cell phone then cost $25,000. Fourteen years later, in 1987, there were just a million cell phones in use. Today, over 60 percent of the population has a cell phone. And those cell phones are, tech folks tell us, just beginning to explode. That little cell phone in your hand is what will, more than anything else, connect you to your future.
This guy was cool in 1980. It's now as prehistoric as the rotary dial phone.
Today's video games let you battle monsters, build cities or outrun police. And we spend $9.9 billion on them, slightly more than the $9.5 billion we drop at the box office for movies. The game industry technology is exploding. Movies? Shrinking.
DREW BARRYMORE, ACTRESS: I just wanted to say good-bye.
BROWN: And terrific prime-time special on 25 defining moments tomorrow night during prime time. "Morning Papers" next, back when Watergate was front page news. And son of a gun if it isn't again. Take a break first. This is NEWSNIGHT.
BROWN: OK. Time to check morning papers from around the country, around the world and around our lives, as it turns out.
This is "The Washington Post" from Sunday, June 18, 1972. Right there, "Five Held in Plot to Bug Democrats' Office Here." That would be Washington.
I was on the radio in Los Angeles when it cleared the wire. I remember them handing me a piece of wire copy that these guys had been arrested. And being the newsman that I am, I said, "This is going to be big." I said that on the radio. You can listen to the tape.
"Washington Post," the next day, just in case you missed it the day before, "GOP Security Aide" -- little detail -- "Among Five Arrested in Bugging Affair." A slow early tightening of a noose.
By the way, earlier in the program, we inadvertently killed off E. Howard hunt. He's still alive. He's in Florida. If you're watching tonight, you're still alive. You're in Florida.
The "Washington Times." Now, what does -- what does the "Washington Times" do with this story, because it's not their story? It's the "Post's" story. They kind of bury it down at the bottom of the front page. They have to put it on the front page. "Former FBI Official Confirms He Was Deep Throat." Thank you very much, we'll move on to something else.
"Daily News" on the other hand, "I am Deep Throat." There's a picture of W. Mark Felt. I have no idea what the W. stands for. "FBI Biggie, Now 91, was Watergate Secret Source."
How are we doing on time, Will? Oh. Time to leisurely pass now through a few more papers.
"The Richmond Times-Dispatch." "Deep Throat Steps Forward" is their lead. They use an old picture of Mark Felt. A picture of Woodward and Bernstein up in the corner, as well.
And then a kind of personal side bar story. "Reporter's Uncle Mark had Another Nickname, Too." So in this case, James Crowley, the Media General News Service, knew Mark Felt, who's his Uncle Mark, and now he knows a little more about him. Cool.
Wow, I didn't know that, Mark. Should have told me earlier. I'd have had a scoop.
"Newsday": "Meet Deep Throat: FBI's No. 2 Helped Bring Nixon Down." I would say that's true.
"Boston Herald": "Deep Throat Coughs it Up" is the lead. But well, it's up here. But their lead is "Knockout: Extreme Fighting Banned in Boston." One of those things I don't understand.
Weather tomorrow in Chicago, something I do understand, golden. Springtime.
We'll wrap it up in a moment.
BROWN: Prime-time special tomorrow. Twenty-five defining moments.
Mr. Turner, if you're watching, thank you for what you did.
Until tomorrow, good night from all of us.
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