CIA as ‘the perfect Watergate enabler’

In Max Holland’s fine piece about Watergate reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein there appears this passage about the sausage factory of Washington journalism.

“That [Bob] Bennett (who later became a U.S. senator from Utah) was a Woodstein secret source has long been known. The much lesser-known House hearings on Watergate located a 1973 CIA memo disclosing that Bennett “has been feeding stories to Bob Woodward of The Washington Post with the understanding that there be no attribution to Bennett. Woodward is suitably grateful for the fine stories and by-lines which he gets and protects Bennett (and the Mullen Company).”

Spoiler alert. Good reporters protect sources. That’s how good reporters get sources: By making them feel safe. But in the context of Watergate, the Mullen company was a legitimate target of investigation because of its known collaboration with the CIA, including the hiring of Watergate burglar Howard Hunt.  Did Woodward protect the firm — and the CIA? A scholar of Watergate could answer that question better than me.

I thought Woodward got the CIA’s role in the Watergate scandal right in his illuminating June 27, 2007 Post article on the declassification of the “Family Jewels,” a catalogue of CIA abuses compiled in 1973. He wrote:

“The CIA of that era was the perfect Watergate enabler, as these new documents suggest in telling detail. The White House wants a lock-picker. McCord threatens to tell all. The CIA keeps mum.”





5 thoughts on “CIA as ‘the perfect Watergate enabler’”

  1. Now it’s official, there was a CIA asset–_not_ CIA officer–among the Water Burglars. Does this mean that there may be yet more to come? Sounds odd to me that an asset would fail to report on the upcoming, uh, mission to his case officer. The competence level in the burglary demonstrated, however, was so low as to raise a question about competence of the individual in any matter.

  2. Roger Stone argues in his new book Nixon’s Secrets that Nixon used his knowledge of CIA involvement in the JFK assassination to try to blackmail the CIA into doing what he wanted. Bringing Nixon down through Watergate was the CIA’s answer.

  3. Wait, didn’t Holland just publish a book reinforcing the Mark Felt = Deep Throat myth like 2 years ago?

    Journalism Langley style didn’t end with Bradlee and Woodward, that much is clear…

  4. I’ve believed always that Bob Woodward wrote Watergate stories powerful individuals wanted him to write. Stories that purport to be the truth but that avoid the whole truth.

    Jim Hougan writes persuasively in “Secret Agenda” using FBI documents that the Watergate break-ins were not about placing phone taps. Woodward never has dealt with the deeper possible reasons for the break-ins Hougan reveals. Woodward wrote the “official story” of the break-ins, which doesn’t hold water.

    It’s easy to believe Woodward got the inside scoop from Bob Bennett and Mark Felt (Deep Throat). A skeptic might suspect Woodward was being used, willingly.

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