• William Sullivan

A few weeks ago investigative reporter Max Holland came out with Leak, his revisionist look at the character and motives of Mark Felt, the onetime deputy associate director of the FBI—the number three job in the bureau. In 2005 Felt was revealed to be Woodward and Bernstein’s “Deep Throat,” the highly placed secret source whose hints and nudges helped the two young Washington Post reporters get to the bottom of Watergate.

Though anyone with an ounce of romance in his soul would prefer to think of Deep Throat as a patriot with a keen sense of the dramatic, given to blowing the whistle on scoundrels in late-night meetings in parking lots, Leak advises us not to. To quote my April column on Holland’s book, it makes the case that Felt’s motives were “cynical and opportunistic.” President Nixon had passed over Felt for the top job at the FBI after J. Edgar Hoover died in May 1972, and Felt still wanted it. Secretly discrediting L. Patrick Gray, who was Nixon’s choice as acting director, by leaking details of the FBI’s own Watergate investigation, struck Felt as the way to go.