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.”