Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter
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Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The two major forms the Deep Throat revelation shake out seems to be taking are (1) the Deep Throat sourcing created a culture of anonymous sourcing that has grown into a significant problem, particularly as regards governmental transparency and the credibility of the press; and (b) Mark Felt was/is a hero for doing what he did. As for the first point, I'd have to say that I agree-- sunlight is the best disinfectant, and I think it is true that the government interacts with the citizenry less well than it ought, in no small part because of its disfunctional relationship with the Fourth Estate. I'm not sure what to do about that, but I'm quite sure that this is not a problem that originated with Woodward and Bernstein's relationship with Mark Felt.

The hero thing, though, that's interesting. What exactly did Felt do that is consistent with either heroism or being one of the top law enforcement officials in the country? As I recall the story, he steered Woodward and Bernstein toward the right direction in their investigation in a dark parking garage version of the annoying children's game of "Hot and Cold". He didn't put his life or his career or his reputation on the line: he stayed in the shadows while reporters investigated a crime of constitutional proportion. He knew how big the whole thing was, but he didn't step forward-- he stood in the dusk, and he stayed there for thirty years. I'm with Timothy Noah on this-- nobody really comes out of this covered with glory.

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