A thought on Mark Felt and Watergate

While leaks can be well intentioned, it concerns me that Mark Felt committed what I regard as a serious crime -- the leaking of information from a criminal investigation. It is pretty scary to think that criminal investigators are willing to do this, even if some of the people that they do this to are really bad guys. I don't think that I want some law enforcement person making decisions like this which can destroy a person's life. The fact that Felt wanted to do it because he disliked Nixon and that he wanted to protect his agency doesn't make me feel any better. The right way to deal with these concerns is to go to Congress, not the media, and presumably he would have gotten a sympathetic ear in Congress with the Democrats in control.

Mr. Woodward writes that Mr. Felt, who "had nothing but contempt for the Nixon White House" and its efforts to manipulate the F.B.I. for political purposes, believed he was protecting his agency "by finding a way, clandestine as it was, to push some of the information from the F.B.I. interviews and files out to the public."


"There is little doubt that Felt thought of the Nixon team as Nazis," Woodward wrote. "He had nothing but contempt for the Nixon White House and their efforts to manipulate the bureau for political reasons."

Of course, with Lydon Johnson doing name checks on Barry Goldwater's senate staff, one doesn't have to go back very far to find the FBI being used for political reasons. Both Nixon and the others were wrong, but allowing a lone FBI agent to selectively make these political decisions is dangerous. An FBI agent going public about being ordered to commit a crime (Johnson's case) is actually quite justifiable, as opposed to an FBI agent going public in a criminal investigation (Nixon's case).

UPDATE: Rush Limbaugh pointed out today that Lyndon Johnson ordered the bugging of Barry Goldwater's presidential campaign plane in 1964.