August 03, 2003

Deep Throat Revisited

In the summer of 1994 -- at the time of the 20th anniversary of Richard Nixon's resignation from the Presidency -- there was a BBC/Discovery channel special presentation about the affair that coincided with the publishing of (and was basically a live-action version of) Fred Emery's book Watergate. Having, by that time, long suspected that Fred LaRue -- a close friend and assistent to John Mitchell -- was the anonymous Deep Throat, I watched very closely whenever LaRue was on camera during the program.

Fred LaRue struck me as a sincere, decent, reasonable, humbly able and welcoming man. He didn't seem to be a particularly ambitious personality. Calm and genteel, yet could be quite emotional at times.
Toward the end of the program LaRue visibly wept as he was obviously re-living a period of his life that he rarely discusses publicly.

My case is not expert. As far as the facts go, I only know what everybody else who's interested in this knows. I have no access to every archived Washington Post story that mentions Deep Throat. My hypothesis is gutteral and intuitive, but, I think, also happens to fit the facts.

To set off my examination of why I believe that Fred LaRue may have been the mysterious Deep Throat I'll first site a short description of LaRue written by John Dean in Blind Ambition:

"..LaRue served as Mitchell's alter-ego. A millionaire oil man from Mississippi, he had been serving in the Administration out of curiosity mingled with a sincere desire to be of help. He had no ambitions that I could discern, nor any enemies. ....At the endless government meetings, Fred would melt invisibly into the back of the room and smoke his pipe. He held no title. The standard interpretation was that his full-time job was to be Mitchell's friend -- a vital service, since Mitchell had little use for the senior officials around him."

And here's a brief Bob Woodward assessment of Deep Throat, from All The President's Men;
"Deep Throat never tried to inflate his knowledge or show off his importance. He always told rather less than he knew. Woodward considered him a wise teacher. He was dispassionate and seemed committed to the best version of the obtainable truth." but also writes "He was not good at concealing his feelings, hardly ideal for a man in his position."

Were Woodward and Dean describing the same man?

Bob Haldeman, in The Ends Of Power, wrote a short chapter in which he says that he poured over the information that Woodward and Bernstein had attributed to Deep Throat and compared it to who knew what when, and decided that Deep Throat was, in fact, Fred Fielding. I've found a couple of sites on the internet that also finger Fielding. Fielding was an assistant counsel to the President, worked with John Dean, but had no intimate knowledge of the Justice Department or the Committee to Re-elect the President (CRP).

Similarly, John Sears was also a member of the White House counsel. Len Garment, in In Search of Deep Throat, has pointed to Sears as the likely true identity of DT. But, it seems to me that DT's information was too precise and first-hand to have come from Sears, or Fielding, or anyone else in the White House other than, possibly, Haldeman himself.

Woodward and Bernstein wrote that Deep Throat occupied a "sensitive" position in the Executive Branch. Fred LaRue was John Mitchell's right-hand man, was a close friend and confidant to both John and Martha. He joined the CRP and became, to put it bluntly, the bagman. He was intimately involved in the activities of CRP's hush-money payments to Howard Hunt, et al. He was one of the few who had access to Maurice Stans' safe that held the secret funds. As the Attorney General's - and Re-election Chief's - "alter-ego"(as Dean put it), LaRue had intimate first-hand knowledge of the goings-on at Justice, the FBI, the White House, and, of course, the CRP.

But establishing that Fred LaRue was in a position to be the informant doesn't mean that he was. Maybe he wasn't the only one with all of this knowledge, as broad as it was. But let's look at what Deep Throat told Woodward and see if anyone else fits the template.

According to All The President's Men it was on June 19th, 1972 -- two days after the Watergate arrests -- that, he (who would only later be dubbed "Deep Throat"), confirmed to Woodward that Howard Hunt was involved.
This almost certainly puts DT at the CRP, as neither John Dean, nor any other WH counsel (including Fielding and Sears), had yet to meet with the President or his staff about the matter.

Deep Throat had confirmed that Jeb Magruder and Bart Porter had received at least $50,000 from Stans' safe.
The list of those who had access to the safe, and knowledge of who got paid and how much, is very short. LaRue, being the "banker", as it were, is at the top of that list.

Moreover, Woodward assures us that DT's information is reliable and first-hand, unlike another anonymous informant known as "the Bookkeeper".
"Deep Throat has been explicit in saying the withdrawals financed the Watergate bugging. But the Bookkeeper -- who suspected as much -- could not confirm it."
And perhaps DT's most famous directive to Woodward, "Follow the money," is also telling of his position; as the money had become LaRue's primary responsibility.

Woodward and Bernstein mentioned, in All The President's Men, that, while Woodward would usually take three cabs to get to the parking garage where he'd talk to Deep Throat, he sometimes walked the distance. He mentioned that it took "about two hours" to get from his apartment on P Street to the meeting site.
LaRue had an apartment in the Watergate complex and, looking at a street map of DC, it would be about a two hour leisurely walk (which we might expect at 2 a.m.) from Woodward's apartment to the parking garage of the Watergate.

Most striking to me was when Woodward, seeking more info on who knew what when, asked Deep Throat "What about Martha Mitchell?"
"She knows nothing, apparently.." he replied. Only someone having a close relationship to John and Martha Mitchell -- and knew anything about the dynamics of their relationship and home life -- would ever presume to make such a statement; especially someone as carefully precise as Deep Throat seems to have been.

LaRue recently talked to Tom Wilemon of the Biloxi, Mississippi Sun-Herald. Discussing why he adamantly denies Jeb Magruder's recent claim that Richard Nixon authorized the Watergate break-in, Wilemon wrote:

If the president had approved the plan, Larue believes that Mitchell would have told him.
"There's absolutely no way, because of my unique relationship with John and Martha Mitchell, that he would not have told me that when I was in Key Biscayne. Absolutely no way. I had dinner with the Mitchells four or five times a week. It was not just a political relationship. It was a very personal relationship."

And, perhaps, somewhat explaining how this conscientious man -- this "wise teacher" -- could willfully allow himself to get tangled up in the cover-up activities after the arrests of June 17th 1972, Wilemon quotes LaRue;

"Now, the dilemma is what effect is this going to have on the campaign," Larue said. "I felt very strongly that if Nixon were tied to this that he would probably end up losing the election. I wasn't willing to have McGovern."

LaRue wound up being the "bagman," the person who delivered a payoff to keep people quiet about the break-in, an act that would result in his being convicted of conspiracy to obstruct justice. He served a brief stint in federal prison.

LaRue pleaded guilty to an Obstruction of Justice charge in June '73, but was allowed to remain free on bond pending his sentencing after the trials of his co-conspirators because he was fully cooperating with the prosecution. He was free to talk to whomever he pleased.

The last mention of Deep Throat in All The President's Men is from a November '73 meeting -- following the revelation that there existed tapes of Nixon's conversations in the Oval Office -- about which Woodward writes:
"Deep Throat's message was short and simple: one or more of the tapes contained deliberate erasures."

That's a remarkable piece of information that narrows any field of DT contenders. Not only were there very few would have known of the existence of the "gaps", who among them could positively state that they were "deliberate erasures"?

Alexander Butterfield, who was in charge of the taping system, perhaps...but he would have had none of DT's knowledge of the CRP. Rosemary Woods (Nixon's personal secretary), but DT was definately a man. Alexander Haig (Chief of Staff), J Fred Buzhardt (Nixon's counsel toward the end), and several others close to the President at the time were all relative new-comers.

There are only two answers that seem plausible to me. One is Nixon's good friend John Mitchell, (Mitchell, being deceased, has, obviously, long been ruled out as being Deep Throat.), and the other is Mitchell's good friend Fred LaRue.

But, hey.. I could be wrong.

UPDATE: Fred LaRue has read this post, and responds -- by way a third party -- that he, in fact, never had direct access to Stans' safe. Okay, I may have wrong on that. But, it was not neccessary for Fred to have direct access, only to know what went out to whom when.
He also said that he was not Deep Throat, and he has always considered DT to be a composit character invented to tighten the narrative of, and/or spice up, the book. But, if he had to put a name on DT, it would probably be Hugh Sloan (former treasurer of CRP).

Hugh Sloan was a major "candidate", being CRP treasurer and all. But he resigned relatively early on (in March '73, as things got hot, his wife said she would leave him if he didn't quit), and he testified truthfully -- contradicting some of Haldeman's lies. Sloan would have been out of the loop long before he would have known about the existence of the taping system (never mind that there were erasures).

Hugh Sloan, in 1972, was a young man (about 30), the same age as Bob Woodward; not someone Woodward would likely consider a "wise teacher."
Also, Sloan's personality (just from the books I've read) doesn't seem to match Deep Throat's the way Fred's seems to.
[[Actually, --as I wrote that my thesis is largely intuitive-- it was the similarity of their personalities that first piqued my interest in Fred... That the evidence seemed to suggest it, too, was an interesting development!]]

Also from the aforementioned third party (who holds a position in Biloxi city government):
"I ran into him yesterday at a sidewalk cafe. He was working the crossword puzzle in the newspaper, which is part of his daily routine.
I showed your thesis to him. He read it. He read it again. Finally, I said, 'What do you think?' He sort of laughed, and said, 'Aw, this is a bunch of bs.' ..No, he was not mad. In fact, he thanked me for giving it to him."
-- Tuning Spork 6 Aug 03

Posted by Tuning Spork at August 3, 2003 09:50 PM

Ah Watergate... I was about 16 years old at the time and found the entire thing so repellent (on both sides) that I proceeded to ignore it - I have continued to ignore it over the years. I think it's because I found it all so very ugly back then and I still seem to see it the way I did when I was young. I think this will be a piece of history that I don't really care to delve into, but your theory is interesting. As a curiosity, it would be interesting to know who DT was...

Posted by: Teresa at August 4, 2004 10:00 PM
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