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Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Brace For Wave of "Deep Throat Proves Newsweek Was Right" Columns in the MSM

Does anybody else note the strange confluence of the recent travails of The Washington Post-owned Newsweek with its anonymously sourced Flushgate calamity and the unmasking of Mark Felt as Watergate's Deep Throat?

I'm not much on conspiracy theories and I am sure the Vanity Fair magazine piece that occasioned Felt's public admission and the Post's confirmation has been in the works since long before Newsweek blew itself up.

Even so, expect lots of commentary on the Left drawing parallels between the good that came of the Post's use of Felt as an anonymous source within the government and Newsweek's use of an apparently similarly anonymous source for its repudiated "Periscope" column item claiming U.S. interrogators at Gitmo included flushing a Koran down a toilet in their range of interviewing methods.

But getting beyond such surface observations reveals that Deep Throat is not necessarily the textbook illustration of the accepted maxim that anonymous sources are sometimes necessary in reporting wrong-doing in government.

As I noted here when Flushgate dawned, government officials, including those who are elected or appointed by elected officials, and those who serve as non-political career bureaucrats, can have self-serving agendas that simply aren't apparent to journalists and that color their credibility.

The Post has always insisted that Deep Throat was a necessary, but far from lonely source and that he was always cross-checked against other sources, including people and documents. That's good journalism and essential to protect against the perils presented by Felt, namely his personal bitterness at having been passed over to succeed J. Edgar Hoover as FBI Director. Nixon chose L. Patrick Gray instead, despite the fact Felt had long been Hoover's trusted number two. Perhaps because Felt had long been Hoover's trusted number two.

There is much more from follks on the Left and Right to consider before Felt is granted Sainthood. Professor Stephen Bainbridge has an excellent discussion here.