When he recently stated that in fifty years of journalism he had never seen as many leaks in Washington as he sees now veteran journalist Carl Bernstein spoke from experiences that few other journalists could boast. His greatest story with Bob Woodward revealed a story that had major leaks at its heart and began a mystery of the source that would only be revealed decades when he came public before his death. This mystery gives us insights into the Donald Trump Administration and its problems with leaks.
From break-in to Deep Throat
When Bernstein and Woodward first heard of the news of the burglary at the Democrat National Committee offices in June 1972 that began the Watergate scandal they could not have known that this would have led to the resignation of a President and that their names would become known around the world for their investigative journalism.
But these events and the fame would not have come about without the leaks provided by a mysterious person that the two journalists refused to identify at the time.
While members of the White House knew privately the identity of the informant known as “#deep throat” they could do little to obstruct him. As the Watergate scandal unfolded the leaks from the informant aided the two journalists in their investigations. In the subsequent book and film the phrase “follow the money” would become famous as the ultimate means to reveal President Richard Nixon’s active role in the activities which led to his resignation in 1974.
Decades later former Deputy Director of the FBI W. Mark Felt publicly acknowledged in an interview in Vanity Fair magazine that he was “Deep Throat” and not only provided Woodward and Bernstein with their leads, but ensured that the FBI’s own investigations would not interfere in their reporting. Despite his public admission the two journalists kept their promise to him and only confirmed the identity after Felt’s death in 2008..
Lesson to be learnt
The motivations that Felt gave for his behaviour was that he believed that President Nixon abused his powers as President as, according to the #New York Times obituary for Felt, he believed that Nixon was using the FBI for political advantage.
As the Times quoted in the obituary, “As Deep Throat, Felt helped establish the principle that our highest government officials are subject to the Constitution and the laws of the land,” the prosecutor, John W. Nields, wrote in The Washington Post in 2005. “Yet when it came to the Weather Underground bag jobs, he seems not to have been aware that this same principle applied to him.” Felt would be pardoned for his illegal activities within the FBI by President Ronald Reagan in 1981
The story of Felt and the motivations for his disobedience to the White House by his activities are an example of why trusted administrators and public officials may at times make leaks for what they consider the public good..
Felt, Bernstein and Woodward’s story is a lesson for today’s White House as it struggles with the wave of leaks that has been following President #Donald Trump. Leaks are not a simple issue to be condemned and then brushed off. They are symptoms of issues that must be faced and treated.
While we wait the next leak we must also ask if the Oval Office is learning the lesson when information is leaked to the press from inside the Administration. #Carl Bernstein