Skip to main content

Bob Woodward and "The secret man"

Bob Woodward discusses his book, "The Secret Man," the cases of Judith Miller and Matt Cooper and the issue of the confidentiality pledge



TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A

Interview: Bob Woodward discusses his book, "The Secret Man," the
cases of Judith Miller and Matt Cooper and the issue of the
confidentiality pledge

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Before we get to today's interview, we'd like to extend our sympathies to
everyone in London.

My guest today is Bob Woodward. Yesterday New York Times reporter Judith
Miller was jailed for refusing to reveal the identity of a confidential source
to a grand jury. Yesterday was also the day that Bob Woodward's book about
Deep Throat was published. It's called "The Secret Man." We're going to hear
his thoughts about Miller's jailing and his reflections on his own use of
confidential sources, including Deep Throat.

Let's start with the jailing of Miller. Special prosecutor Patrick
Fitzgerald wants her to reveal to a grand jury what she knows about the
leak that Valerie Plame was an undercover CIA officer. Plame's husband, the
former ambassador, Joseph Wilson, believes her identity was leaked as payback
for his criticisms of the Bush administration. Matt Cooper of Time magazine
also faced prison for refusing to name his source, even after Time magazine
decided to hand over Cooper's e-mails and notes to the grand jury. But at the
last minute, Cooper's source released Cooper from the confidentiality pledge
and Cooper agreed to testify to the grand jury. I asked Woodward his reaction
to Miller's jailing.

Mr. BOB WOODWARD (Journalist): I think the judge and the special prosecutor
made a big mistake, and they should not send her off to jail. There is not
the kind of compelling evidence that there was some crime involved here, and
my reaction is we ought to wake up and make sure that reporters have access to
what's really going on in the government, particularly now given these
terrorist attacks in London. That is when the press has to watch what the
government is doing and do the kind of accountability reporting that is
essential. You can't do it unless you have confidential sources. The
high-profile case--it will freeze people up. They will be very reluctant to
help people, like myself, who are trying to find out what's going on in the
investigative, national security, counterterrorist world.

GROSS: Well, do you think that a terrorist attack like the one in London
today--do you think living in times of terrorism is an argument for more
reliance on confidentiality by reporters or is it an argument that the
government should have more power to insist the journalists reveal who their
confidential sources are for the greater good?

Mr. WOODWARD: It would depend on the case, but in this case involving Judy
Miller, the woman who was the CIA undercover operative was working in CIA
headquarters. There was no national security threat. There was no jeopardy
to her life. There was no nothing. When I think all of the facts come out in
this case, it's going to be laughable because the consequences are not that
great. If it involves some source in a terrorist organization where the
government was trying to find out who was plotting the next attack in America
and so forth, you would have a very different set of conditions, and I think
probably in those cases, reporters would want to assist the government.

GROSS: Matt Cooper said that, you know, his source released him from the
confidentiality agreement at the last minute, so Cooper's going to testify to
the grand jury. But both Judy Miller and Matt Cooper said they wouldn't
respect the waiver of confidentiality forms that investigators had given out,
and they considered those forms coercive. What do you know about those forms
and do you think we've entered into a new era with these waivers of
confidentiality forms?

Mr. WOODWARD: Well, I can't tell you how terrible it is to have the
government running around saying, `Oh, we want you to sign this waiver of
confidentiality to reporters so we can get at not just who their sources are
but try to figure out who was talking in the government and who reporters are
talking to.' It's almost worse than the jailing of a reporter, because the
sweep and scope of it is so large. You know, again, it's one of these things,
it kind of starts in a small way, and then it becomes a very large issue, and
you're going to choke off the flow of good information, particularly the kinds
of information that the government doesn't want out, and that's often what
needs to be published first.

GROSS: Has there ever been an effort like this to pressure confidential
sources to release reporters from the pledge of confidentiality?

Mr. WOODWARD: Not to my knowledge and certainly not on this scale.

GROSS: The editor in chief of Time, who decided to turn in documents to the
grand jury, said, `We are not above the law.' What do you think of that
statement and do you think Judith Miller has put herself above the law?

Mr. WOODWARD: No, she clearly has said, and the editor of The New York Times
has said, this is an act of civil disobedience. She has submitted herself to
the law. She said she considers the higher interest here keeping her pledge
of confidentiality, that that's even higher than her liberty, her freedom, so
she's willing to go to jail. The remedy here, if I may go back to Watergate,
was what Judge Sirica did 30-plus years ago, when there were competing
interests between a prosecutor who wanted Nixon's tapes and Nixon, who was
asserting executive privilege, much like a reporter's privilege, in a
condition like that. What did Judge Sirica do? He didn't say, `Turn over the
tapes to the grand jury in totality.' He said, `Bring them to me. I'll
listen. I will measure the competing interests,' and he then did that, and he
turned some parts of the tapes over that he thought were relevant, and he kept
the rest confidential. A judge can do that. It's too bad Judge Hogan didn't
find a middle course in this case.

GROSS: You know, in The New York Times editorial today, the editorial said
that this is far from an ideal case. What makes this case far from ideal?

Mr. WOODWARD: Well, it's not a classic whistle-blower, and the issues don't
really involve national security or people's lives or jeopardy, or I think in
the end, we will find there's not really corruption here. It is such a
complex case with players on issues that are not the kind of, you know, `We're
publishing the truth so the public can learn that a president is a criminal,'
for instance.

GROSS: Does this case say anything larger to you about how the government is
using its power or do you think that would be going too far...

Mr. WOODWARD: Well, what's...

GROSS: generalize in this case?

Mr. WOODWARD: ...interesting here, I think if you had the Bush administration
people on your show, they would say they don't like this either. What they
did is they appointed a special prosecutor, who has total independence. This
harkens back to the days of the independent counsels going after Bill Clinton.
Once you get one appointed, they have a mandate to almost go anywhere and, you
know, I think one of the independent counsels, special prosecutors for the
Clinton administration is still working now more than four years after the
presidency ended. So this special prosecutor in the Judy Miller case has got
all of this authority and independence, and it's the peril of giving somebody
that kind of blank check.

GROSS: Bob Woodward, recorded this morning. Yesterday, we recorded a studio
interview about the importance of confidential sources and about Woodward's
experiences keeping the secret of Deep Throat, the confidential source who
guided Woodward during his investigation into the Watergate cover-up. Most of
the manuscript for Woodward's new book, "The Secret Man," had been written a
while ago. He planned to withhold it from publication until after the death
of Deep Throat. But last month, with the permission of Deep Throat and his
family, Vanity Fair published an article by the family's lawyer revealing that
Deep Throat was Mark Felt, the former number two man in the FBI. After long
deliberation, Woodward decided the revelation released him from his pledge of
confidentiality. He updated his manuscript and rushed it into print.
Woodward told me that he would be willing to go to jail to protect his

Mr. WOODWARD: We could talk about the present. We could talk about the past,
but go back to Nixon and Watergate, what was at stake here? There was--we
really had a surveillance world. There was all kinds of wiretapping,
break-ins going on. I mean, the list of the Nixon crimes is endless, and
there were confidential sources who were willing to help Carl Bernstein and
myself. The uncovering of that took place in an environment where we were
denounced and threatened and sources were--you know, could not have taken a
greater personal risk to themselves and their careers by assisting.

GROSS: What were some of the threats against you?

Mr. WOODWARD: Well, no physical threats; though the source, Deep Throat, Mark
Felt, did say the stakes had grown so large that lives could be at stake, but
for days, we would be denounced by the White House. Ron Ziegler, the White
House press secretary, would go on for a half-hour. I don't know whether
you've had one of your broadcasts denounced by the White House press secretary
ever, or for that long, but it gets your attention. The Nixon Re-election
Committee chairman went out and denounced us. Bob Dole, who was then the
Republican National Committee chairman, devoted a whole speech to us. So it
was very aggressive, condemning language, saying, not only were we wrong, but
that we knew we were wrong, which of course now we know the record. We were
right, and we knew we were right.

GROSS: Several newspapers and magazines, including Newsweek, Washington Post,
The New York Times, have tightened their restrictions on anonymous sources.
I've been noticing, for instance, in The New York Times, when there's an
anonymous source, there's usually a clause within the sentence now explaining
why that source feels they need to remain anonymous. What do you think of the
way publications are changing their--changing the way they handle anonymous

Mr. WOODWARD: I think, by and large, it's good. There should be high
standards but at the same time, and I am in a small minority here, I think
there should be more anonymous sources because that's the way you find out
what's really going on. You can be careful within a news organization about
using them. You can say I think these descriptive phrases--`so and so
requested anonymity because the White House isn't supposed to talk about the
upcoming Supreme Court nominee,' that kind of makes sense to people and I
think that adds information but if we are going to define the news as what the
government says publicly and what people say publicly, we're not going to get
at what's really going on.

GROSS: Is there a clause you could have come up with to explain why Deep
Throat needed to remain anonymous?

Mr. WOODWARD: That is a great question. It would have been a whole book.
Because it's very, very complicated. It's personal, it's institutional, this
is somebody I knew, I--he wanted to be protected. He set up rules about
contacts and meetings, which I regularly broke, and called him on the phone a
good number of times, which did not make him happy. Not only was his career
in jeopardy, this was sensitive material under investigation. I think he also
felt disappointed that he was not elevated to head the FBI after J. Edgar
Hoover's death. I think he also, as an old FBI agent who, as a spy hunter,
liked the game, to be quite honest with you. And he devised methods to make
sure that he was protected. I also think he felt the Nixon administration was
making an assault on the law, which we know was the case. Also, Nixon
was--had launched a war on the independence of the FBI, which Mark Felt felt
was--felt very strongly was important, and that the FBI should not be directed
as a secret police agency for political reasons of--or motives of a sitting

GROSS: Well, that's not only a lot longer than a clause, it would have
totally revealed his identity.

Mr. WOODWARD: Yes, exactly. Good detective work. It would have.

GROSS: I want to--yeah. Yeah.

Mr. WOODWARD: And so sometimes you can't even have that clause, but if you
develop a system, as Ben Bradlee did at The Post, of requiring two sources,
rigorous personal examination of the reporters by Bradlee himself, he felt
comfortable that we could run these stories. But if there was--and there were
efforts in a civil suit to get us to disclose our sources but the--to my
knowledge in--the force of the government was never brought to try to find out
our sources.

GROSS: My guest is Bob Woodward. His new book about Deep Throat is called
"The Secret Man." We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: My guest is Bob Woodward. His new book, "The Secret Man," is the
story of his relationship with Deep Throat.

I'd like to hear your opinion on something that Jon Stewart said, and I think
this was like in his conversation with Bill Moyers, and with apologies to Jon
Stewart, this isn't a direct quote, it's a paraphrase. And what he said was
basically `officials don't like leaks, and they don't like leakers. But the
Bush administration, figuring that it can't stop the leakers, has tried to
poison the well, and discredit all of journalism.' What do you think?

Mr. WOODWARD: I would not agree. My--I've done two books, as you know, on
Bush and his war decisions, the war in Afghanistan and the Iraq War, and The
Washington Post gave me months, or, really, years to look into these matters,
and I developed all kinds of sources, got notes and documentation, classified
information about how these decisions were made, and people were willing to
talk and answer questions, including the president, who answered questions for
three and a half hours with no restrictions, or limitations, on the questions
about how and why he decided to go to war in Iraq. Now you may not like the
answers or you may like them, but he did answer and the questions included all
kinds of top-secret information, all kinds of confidential conversations and
so forth to the point that he, a number of times, asked me `Who told you
that? There were only two people in the room.' Or something to the effect of
how sensitive something was, but he decided he would answer the questions, and
so it's in a way extraordinary to have this record of how and why he did what
he did in that critical war decision.

GROSS: Well, while we're on that subject, the Downing Street Memos, which
were leaked anonymously to a reporter in Britain, did they reveal to you
anything about the lead-up to the war in Iraq that you didn't already know
from your anonymous sources?

Mr. WOODWARD: Well, the--boy, this is such a complicated question. I'm
going to say more than I should. As soon as that memo popped up, I started
looking behind it, trying to figure out what really happened and I've seen no
evidence at all that the president decided to go to war in July of 2002. I
think there was a momentum to war. I wrote stories in The Washington Post
about--in fact, a month before a lead story on a Sunday saying the president
had signed operation order to the CIA, what's called a finding, that they were
to proceed to try to overthrow Saddam Hussein in Iraq. So it--a lot of this
CIA war planning and so forth was known, but I think the decision was made

GROSS: Did you already have a set of rules to play by with anonymous sources
when you met Mark Felt, Deep Throat? Or did you have to, like, make them up
as you went along?

Mr. WOODWARD: That's a very good question. I was very young and new in the
newspaper business. And he set the rules. He said, `No one is to know. This
is to be beyond confidential.' I--he said that he would only confirm
information, try to steer us in the right direction. But the idea was it was
going to be on deep background that there would be no source identified at any
time. So he would not only be insulated as a source, the very concept of
having a source would not appear in the newspaper.

GROSS: Did the naming of him as Deep Throat violate that?

Mr. WOODWARD: It did. And that was done by the managing editor of The
Washington Post. And when Carl Bernstein and I wrote "All the President's
Men," the story of reporting Watergate, we wanted--I wanted to identify Mark
Felt, and I'd asked him, and he could not have been more strident and emphatic
in saying, `Are you crazy?' But I did report on our meetings because it was
part of the story, and we wanted to be as thorough and complete as possible in
demonstrating to somebody `This is how you put a story together. It's not
about having one source or two. It's about having an array of sources,
lawyers, people who worked in the White House, people who worked for Nixon's
Re-election Committee, having law enforcement sources, and so forth.' And in
the interest of completeness and honesty, we laid it out in the book without
identifying him in any way, and his identity remained unknown for three
decades after that book came out.

GROSS: Bob Woodward will be back in the second half of the show. His new
book about Deep Throat is called "The Secret Man."

I'm Terry Gross and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)


(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: Coming up, more with Bob Woodward about Deep Throat, and what it was
like to have his identity revealed by Vanity Fair.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross, back with Bob Woodward.

His new book, "The Secret Man," is the story of his relationship with Deep
Throat, the confidential source who guided Woodward through the investigation
of Watergate. Woodward kept Deep Throat's identity a secret for over 30
years, but his identity was revealed a few weeks ago, with his permission, in
a Vanity Fair article. Deep Throat was Mark Felt, the former number-two man
in the FBI. After the revelation, the former acting director of the FBI, L.
Patrick Gray, expressed his sense of betrayal. Gray died yesterday at the age
of 88.

When my conservation with Woodward left off, he was explaining that Felt not
only wanted confidentiality, he didn't even want Woodward to acknowledge that
this confidential source existed. But Deep Throat was a major figure in the
book "All the President's Men."

It must have weighed on you to identify that there was a Deep Throat, because
you say that after the book came out and became a best-seller, you were afraid
not only that Mark Felt would be angry or depressed, you were afraid he'd take
his own life.

Mr. WOODWARD: Well, because he was so upse--when I called him after the book
came out, he hung up on me. And I don't know how often somebody's hung up on
you that you knew and dealt with on very important matters. It hasn't
happened to me very often, and it is earth-shattering. And I was really
worried. I knew that we had not put him in jeopardy because we did not say
where he worked. We didn't say it was the FBI. A lot of people thought for
decades that it was somebody in the White House or the Nixon administration.
So he was protected.

But again, this is kind of like your ...(unintelligible) after an anonymous
source. We were able to tell people there was such a source and what role he
played exactly and how emphatic he was in insisting that the--and I've never
had clandestine meetings in underground garages since. He really laid down--I
don't know that you...

GROSS: You're too famous to do that now. People would recognized you.

Mr. WOODWARD: Well--but you have to--I think I was 29 at the time and had
worked at The Post for less than a year. And you have somebody who's this
kind of original FBI agent. I mean, he was somebody just physically
formidable, very controlled, in this--you know, Hoover's son to a certain
extent, somebody who thought Hoover had been a great man. And Hoover dies and
you have this figure saying, `This is where we're going to meet. This is how
we do it. These are the signals. You tell absolutely no one. You--when you
leave your apartment house, you go down the stairway; don't use the elevator.
You take two cabs, not one cab, to the meeting place. You, in fact, walk the
last part, get off'--I would get off at the Marriott Hotel, which was near
there in Roseland across the Potomac. I mean, it's--you know. And I didn't
know. Was this common? Is this something people normally do? But he was so
important, the story seemed so significant that I played by his rules.

GROSS: There were times when you had to lie in order to divert people from
who Mark Felt really was. So, for instance, like you would say, `No, he's not
in the Justice Department.'

Mr. WOODWARD: No, I did not say that.

GROSS: Oh, I'm sorry. Not in the intelligence community, I mean. Yeah, I
thought you'd said that.

Mr. WOODWARD: No, I never said he was not in the Justice Department. When I
was interviewed once a long, long time ago while I was working on a CIA book
by--it was a long, extensive interview, and I, at that time, was focused on
the intelligence community, being the CIA and the National Security Agency and
so forth. Technically, the FBI is, but at the time of the interview, they
really didn't have much of an intelligence function.

GROSS: So you feel like you were never in the position of having to lie in
order to protect Mark Felt?

Mr. WOODWARD: Not in those circumstances. I did lie to a colleague, Richard
Cohen, who was a columnist who had deduced that the memos outlining what Felt
had said had at the top `MF,' which I said--which meant `my friend,' but also
could be the initials for Mark Felt. And he was going to write a column
saying that Felt was Deep Throat, and he was insistent on it. And I said--I
lied to him and said he was wrong. And he wrote a version of the column very
watered down. I've apologized to him since, and he understood because this is
at a time when Mark Felt was being investigated and, in fact, was about to
stand trial himself for authorizing FBI break-ins.

You know, if you want an irony, there is one of the many ironies in all of
this. But Mark Felt was about--and actually had been convicted, could have
gone to jail for 10 years. And if this had been disclosed at that time, his
law enforcement defense would have been in jeopardy. And so when I weighed
that against not telling the truth to my friend Richard Cohen, I did not tell
the truth to Richard Cohen.

GROSS: Yeah, it really is quite an irony with Mark Felt. You know, after
helping you uncover the illegal break-in and other connections to the White
House and Watergate, it turned out that he later authorized illegal break-ins
of members of The Weather Underground, you know, without warrants. So, yeah,
talk about ironies.

Mr. WOODWARD: That's right. And not only--he was doing it at the same time.
Now his argument...

GROSS: Oh, was it at the same time? OK.

Mr. WOODWARD: Yes, while Gray was the--Patrick Gray was the acting FBI

GROSS: Don't you wish you could have talked to him about that and said, `Why
did you do that? How could you do that?'

Mr. WOODWARD: Yeah, exactly. Well, his argument, which he makes extensively
in his book, which came out in 1979, is that we were at war, that The Weather
Underground was responsible for the bombings in the Pentagon, and there'd been
one in Congress and so forth.

GROSS: He meant like a civil war.

Mr. WOODWARD: Well, I mean, almost. I mean, it's a kind of--he actually
says, `We were at war,' and that there was this violent group, and in order to
stop them from doing something really gigantic, we need to find out who these
people are and--well, they knew who some of them were--where they are. And so
he authorized these break-ins into the homes of relatives hoping there'd be a
phone number or a letter or a note.

As I say in the book, you know, that concept of national security is
frightening to me, but that's what he felt at that time and acted on it. And
it turned out in the atmosphere which he as much as anyone had helped create
of investigating any wrongdoing by any particularly--some organization like
the FBI or CIA, he lit the fuse that eventually came to--it led to his

GROSS: My guest is Bob Woodward. His new book about Deep Throat is called
"The Secret Man." We'll talk more after our break.

This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Bob Woodward, and his new book
is all about the identity of Deep Throat, Mark Felt, who was the number-two
man in the FBI, and about Woodward's relationship with Deep Throat during
Watergate. It's called "The Secret Man: The Story of Watergate's Deep

Did you ever think that the Deep Throat story would be revealed in the way
that it was, by another publication?

Mr. WOODWARD: No, I did not, and I hoped it would not. But I think it was
The Wall Street Journal editorial page--after Vanity Fair disclosed Mark
Felt's identity, they said, `Congratulations to The Washington Post on being
scooped,' because the point is for us, we will not reveal confidential
sources. And I had visited Mark Felt five years ago in California at his home
and interviewed him extensively, and he has--his memory is essentially gone.
So I--and I consulted a lawyer and consulted with Ben Bradlee about--`Can I
get him to release me from this agreement of confidentiality? And the feeling
was there was no way he was competent to do that. So I had to maintain my
silence, and the family did what they did about five or six weeks ago.

GROSS: It's really--this is an irony that you're protecting the identity of a
person after he told his own family and the family wants to reveal it. So it
must have felt like you were doing the right thing. But at the same time, did
you feel like the family revealing the identity was qualitatively different
than, say, a columnist who wanted the scoop revealing that identity? Because,
the person who actually, you know, was credited with writing the article for
Vanity Fair is the family's lawyer. So...

Mr. WOODWARD: John O'Connor, that's right.

GROSS: Yeah, so--I mean, he just kind of--he did this, like, on behalf of the

Mr. WOODWARD: Well, he did. But I--you know, the standard my lawyer, Bob
Barnett, created for me a number of years ago on this is that you have
to--that the source had to competently and voluntarily and completely release
me. And after I interviewed Felt, he--you couldn't even at least get me in
the room in terms of saying this is a person who can make a decision like
this. At the same time, he lives with his daughter, Joan Felt, who cares
about him immensely, is taking care of him. You know, we all should be that
lucky to have somebody to take care of us if we get in that condition--and by
the family lawyer. And so how can you say they did the wrong thing? I would
not sit in judgment on them. and Mark Felt seems to be quite happy about it,
so there is no downside at the moment.

GROSS: Was that a happy ending for you then, that, you know, the word is out?
He's still alive...


GROSS: know, and he's happy about it. So it means you don't have to
go to your grave thinking that he took to his grave anger about what you did.

Mr. WOODWARD: Yes, that's right. And I describe at length my visit with him
and my sense--because he--as his daughter says, he remembers two people, from
his Washington past anyway: J. Edgar Hoover, who was the FBI director, and
me, Woodward. And he doesn't remember any of the details about anything but
he did say to me, he said, `You and Carl Bernstein did the right thing.' I
think he has an overarching view of what occurred. I think he's got no mem--I
know he has no memory of, you know, the secret signals we used or what he told
me or he even said he didn't recall why Nixon had to resign.

GROSS: Your book was, more or less, written a few years ago. You were
waiting for Mark Felt's death. I don't mean to put that in a ghoulish way,
but you would not publish the book until his death, at least that was the
plan. So the manuscript was written. But after he was outed by his family
with his own consent, you decided to publish the book. Where had you hidden
the book all this time?

Mr. WOODWARD: Where?

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. WOODWARD: Oh, I wrote it on a computer not connected to the Internet, and
I wrote it three years ago. My wife, Elsa Walsh, read it. Ben Bradlee read
it and made some comments. My wife, Elsa, posed--and I think quite
wisely--she said, `Maybe this is just a secret that should never be told, and
that when Mark Felt dies you shouldn't say anything and the book should not be
published,' or at least, you know, maybe until I'm gone or something like

I felt that it's important, particularly at this time--you know, we are in a
new security era. We have the Patriot Act. We have spy agencies and
intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies and a military and
interrogators and so forth who've been let loose. The gloves are off to fight
terrorism, and we only get glimpses of things that are going on in this war on
terror. There are some monitors and there are some safeguards, but like in
the war again--in the Cold War with the Soviet Union, or the war Mark Felt
thought existed with The Weather Underground in the late '60s and early '70s,
people sometimes step over the line or there are things that we find out many,
many years later.

So I think from the perspective of now looking back on Watergate, you need to
drive home, hammer home, if you will--and I don't mean to get on a soapbox
about this--how important it is to have connections to confidential sources
who can say, `Look, this is what really is happening.' You don't--as a
journalist, you don't get that very often. You may get people who will talk
in confidence, who will give you little pieces of things, but we really now,
in this new age of surveillance, if I can call it that, we need to make sure
that the press is active and has in--that we have in our tool bag all the
tools we need. And one of those is being able to go to somebody and say,
`You're never going to get in trouble for talking to me.'

GROSS: Getting back to how you kept your manuscript a secret, it was on a
computer. The computer wasn't get--wasn't connected to the Internet. Was
your office door locked?


GROSS: I mean, were you afraid you'd have a party guest who'd figure out you
might have something on your computer and go hunting?

Mr. WOODWARD: I've had a locked office at home for--oh, wow--for almost 30
years, and my wife and daughter don't like it. And I just say, you know,
`Those are the rules I've got to play by.'

GROSS: So it's locked even to your family?


GROSS: You were probably following what some of the conservative press was
saying about the revelation of Mark Felt's identity as Deep Throat, and there
was an article by Ben Stein and he said: `Can anyone even remember now what
Nixon did that was so terrible? He ended of the war in Vietnam, brought home
the POWs, ended the war in the Mideast, opened relations with China, started
the first nuclear weapons reduction treaty, saved Eretz Israel's life, started
the Environmental Protection Administration. Does anyone remember what he did
that was so bad? Oh, now I remember, he lied. He was a politician who lied.
How remarkable.' And then he basically says that by getting him impeached,
you, Bernstein, Ben Bradlee and Mark Felt made the Canadian--the Cambodian
genocide possible.


GROSS: Let me say this again. He says that basically by getting him
impeached, you, Bernstein, Ben Bradlee and Mark Felt made the Cambodian
genocide possible. He writes: `You, Felt and Bradlee, out of their smug
arrogance and contempt, they hatched the worst nightmare imaginable:
genocide. I hope they're happy now.' And then Pat Buchanan and Rush Limbaugh
also hold you responsible for the fall of Vietnam.


GROSS: What's your reaction to that?

Mr. WOODWARD: Well, first of all, the real conservatives, the people who
believe in the rule of law, hold a never-ending outrage at what Nixon did and
we can remember what Nixon did. He was a criminal president. Go listen to
the Nixon tapes. And, you know, you've got me started on this, and I'm going
to go through and rebut with the record, that on the tapes, Nixon regularly
orders lying to law enforcement, to the grand jury, to use the FBI, the IRS to
`screw,' as he puts it so eloquently--or he has another version of that
verb--any of his opponents. Not only is this criminal and abusive--and that
is the basic foundation of our government; it is a government that is
answerable. And Nixon became unanswerable. He became a power unto himself.
Wiretap, break-in--he had the Secret Service wiretap the telephone of his
renegade brother. The list of things that went that are horrifying doesn't

But then you go to the tapes and you listen to the tapes--and I've listened to
a number of them and read transcripts of them. The real nightmare is the dog
that doesn't bark on the Nixon tapes. No one says, including Nixon or his
inner aides--innermost aides, `What would be right? What would be good? What
would be--what does the country need? What is the high purpose of the
presidency that we're--you know, we're here to do good?' It's always about
Nixon. And so in the end, it's about the smallness of this man.

GROSS: What...

Mr. WOODWARD: I'm sorry to get so wound up here, but...

GROSS: No, no, no, no, no.

Mr. WOODWARD: ...the idea that somehow by reporting and establishing the
illegality of what Nixon did, that somehow because that caused the fall of
Vietnam--I mean, Vietnam was heading off the cliff long before, and the idea
that somehow what happened in Cambodia is attributable to this--I mean, other
columnists, conservative columnists, have written, `Well, Nixon was a serious
president.' He was somebody--and this is the tire iron around his neck which
he will never get out of. Those tapes just tell this story of somebody who
just didn't belong in the presidency. And to try to bring to the public
information about that--we weren't--and I'm still not on a crusade about it,
quite frankly, but that's the job. And for people to somehow say, `Oh, this
is not going to be remembered,' don't understand the record.

GROSS: My guest is Bob Woodward. His new book about Deep Throat is called
"The Secret Man." We'll talk more after our break.

This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: My guest is Bob Woodward. His new book, "The Secret Man," is the
story of his relationship with Deep Throat.

If I'm remembering correctly, after the Vanity Fair--well, before the Vanity
Fair piece came out, but after everybody knew that it was gonna come out, Ben
Bradlee was on one of the cable talk shows and he said that for years, he--all
he knew was that--about Deep Throat was that you told him he was a highly
placed person in, I guess, in intelligence or the Justice Department--I forget
the way you...

Mr. WOODWARD: Justice Department.

GROSS: Yeah, but he didn't know his name. When did you tell him his name?

Mr. WOODWARD: I told him his name after Nixon resigned. Ben took me out on a
park bench in McPherson Square a couple of blocks from The Post and sat down
and said, `I need to know who this is.' I think he had some indication there
might be some attack on us even after Nixon resigned, and so I told him and
gave him the name, rank and serial number. And Ben has said--and I think
quite rightly--he would never let the identity of a critical source go
undisclosed to him as editor for that long.

And I think in the environment we're in now, he would call a reporter in,
close the door and grill him, or her, and rightly so. And I have always
believed that editors--one editor should know who confidential sources are,
and I tell one editor at The Post, Len Downie, always voluntarily. I say,
`You need to know this,' and he takes the information in and is as
tight-lipped anyone, doesn't tell anybody else. But the top guy needs to

GROSS: Looking back on the whole Watergate story, is there anything that you
wish you had done differently?

Mr. WOODWARD: Sure. We should have figured it out sooner. We should have
worked harder. We should have put the pieces together. Names would surface
in the investigation, and Carl and I would knock each other on the head and
say, you know, `We never saw her or we never went to that person. We should
have.' But as I look back on it and reflect back on it, the real issue is:
Are we going to have secret government in this country or not? And that's
where we were headed with Vietnam and Watergate, a level of secrecy and fear
and surveillance unheard of outside of the constitutional and legal system we
have. And what reporters are working--when we work in these areas about
particularly with the federal government or local police force, we're saying,
`No, no secret government. We're going to find a way to tell people what's
really going on.'

And that--you know, if there's anything, in my view, that's going to do us in
in the end, it will be--it's not going to be terrorism, it's not going to be a
war, it's not going to be an economic collapse; it's secret government. That
will wreck our system. And the first--or one of the barriers to that is a
press that can operate freely and people in government or business or at NPR
or wherever who can go and talk to somebody and say, `This is the truth.'

GROSS: For over 30 years, you've carried a secret. You're not carrying it
anymore. Does life feel any different not having to hold on to that secret
any longer?

Mr. WOODWARD: I'd grown accustomed to holding on to it so doesn't feel any
different, and I hope there's some lesson here. And I'm repeating myself for
the eighth time about the importance of having Mark Felts, Deep Throats,
confidential sources, whatever you want to call them, in deep--in the reaches
of our most secret institutions who will explain and answer and, if necessary,
blow the whistle.

GROSS: Thank you very much for talking with us.

Mr. WOODWARD: Thank you.

GROSS: Bob Woodward's new book about Deep Throat is called "The Secret Man."
You can read an excerpt of the book on our Web site,


GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

You May Also like

Did you know you can create a shareable playlist?


Recently on Fresh Air Available to Play on NPR


Daughter of Warhol star looks back on a bohemian childhood in the Chelsea Hotel

Alexandra Auder's mother, Viva, was one of Andy Warhol's muses. Growing up in Warhol's orbit meant Auder's childhood was an unusual one. For several years, Viva, Auder and Auder's younger half-sister, Gaby Hoffmann, lived in the Chelsea Hotel in Manhattan. It was was famous for having been home to Leonard Cohen, Dylan Thomas, Virgil Thomson, and Bob Dylan, among others.


This fake 'Jury Duty' really put James Marsden's improv chops on trial

In the series Jury Duty, a solar contractor named Ronald Gladden has agreed to participate in what he believes is a documentary about the experience of being a juror--but what Ronald doesn't know is that the whole thing is fake.

There are more than 22,000 Fresh Air segments.

Let us help you find exactly what you want to hear.
Just play me something
Your Queue

Would you like to make a playlist based on your queue?

Generate & Share View/Edit Your Queue