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Deep Throat and the state of democracy

Byron Williams -

06.07.05 - I was sitting at my local coffee hangout the day after it was revealed that 91-year-old W. Mark Felt, who was second-in-command at the FBI in the early 1970s, was the confidential source named "Deep Throat" that led to Watergate becoming a household name.

The individual sitting adjacent to me suggested that we need another Deep Throat today so that the world might know of possible shenanigans within the present White House administration.

I wondered privately: "Is that really necessary or possible?"

In an era where journalists are being threatened with jail for not revealing sources, it seems doubtful that there would be the requisite trust for another Deep Throat to emerge. Moreover, there are more than enough Deep Throats that have already come forward to warrant some version of the cloak-and-dagger character played by Hal Holbrook in the film "All the President's Men."

Remember former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neil's book "The Price of Loyalty"?

According to O'Neil, it was at the very first National Security Council meeting that the Bush administration expressed a desire to remove Saddam Hussein from office.

"From the very beginning, there was a conviction, that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go," says O'Neil, who adds that going after Saddam was a high priority 10 days after the inauguration -- eight months before Sept. 11.

Bob Woodward, the investigative reporter who, along with Carl Bernstein, put Watergate on the map, places the time frame for war three months after 9/11.

In Woodward's book "Plan of Attack," the invasion of Iraq was fueled in part by the CIA's conclusion that Saddam Hussein could not be removed from power except through a war that then-CIA Director and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient George J. Tenet called a "slam dunk" case that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.

There was also "Against All Enemies," written by former counterterrorism coordinator Richard Clarke.

According to Clarke, in a meeting on September 12, 2001, "The president, in a very intimidating way, left us, me and my staff, with the clear indication that he wanted us to come back with the word that there was an Iraqi hand behind 9/11 because they had been planning to do something about Iraq from before the time they came into office."

There is a temptation to dismiss the aforementioned Deep Throats because they had a possible ax to grind against the president. But an ax to grind does not necessarily diminish the authenticity of the information. This was certainly true for the original Deep Throat.

Deep Throats such as Amnesty International have come forward with reports that compare U.S. prison camps to Soviet gulags, which has brought condemnation and denial, but no call for an independent investigation, from the president, vice president, secretary of state and defense secretary.

There is the secret Downing Street memo that I have mentioned in five of my past seven columns that, so far, has as much newsworthy traction as bald tires on black ice.

We have more than our share of Deep Throats. The administration's shenanigans have been well-documented. The post-Watergate era, however, also comes with a profound sense of cynicism and distrust of government and, to a lesser extent, the media.

But to ignore the information provided by the myriad Deep Throats that have already come forward is to believe that this administration wants democracy in Iraq so deeply that it is willing to risk its own in the process.

I fear that we have given Mr. Felt too much credit over the years by suggesting his leaks took down the president. Deep Throats do not take down presidents; presidents take down presidents.

Just as John Dean told President Nixon during the height of Watergate: "We have a cancer � within, close to the presidency, that's growing."

There is a cancer on our democracy. It's growing daily. And we don't need another Deep Throat to figure that out.

(c) 2005,




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