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Ben Bradlee remembers the scandal -- and answers your questions

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Deep Throat: Washington's Best-Kept Secret

By Benjamin C. Bradlee

From a "A Good Life," Bradlee's 1995 memoir. Bradlee is vice president at large and former executive editor at The Washington Post.

The identity of "Deep Throat," Bob Woodward's super source in Watergate, has been hands-down the best-kept secret in the history of Washington journalism.

Throughout the years, some of the city's smartest journalists and politicians have put their minds to identifying Deep Throat, without success. Gen. Al Haig was a popular choice for a long time, and, especially when he was running for president in the 1988 race, he would beg me to state publicly that he was not Deep Throat. He would steam and sputter when I told him that would be hard for me to do for him and not for anyone else. Woodward finally said publicly that Haig was not Deep Throat.

Some otherwise smart people decided Deep Throat was a composite, if he (or she) existed at all. I have always thought it should be possible to identify Deep Throat simply by entering all the information about him in "All the President's Men" into a computer, and then entering as much as possible about all the various suspects. For instance, who was not in Washington on the days that Woodward reported putting the red-flagged flowerpot on his windowsill, signaling Deep Throat for a meeting?

The quality of Deep Throat's information was such that I had accepted Woodward's desire to identify him to me only by job, experience, access and expertise. That amazes me now, given the high stakes. I don't see how I settled for that, and I would not settle for that now. But the information and the guidance he was giving Woodward were never wrong, never. And it was only after Nixon's resignation, and after Woodward and Bernstein's second book, "The Final Days," that I felt the need for Deep Throat's name. I got it one spring day during lunch break on a bench in McPherson Square. I have never told a soul, not even Katharine Graham, or Don Graham, who succeeded his mother as publisher in 1979. They have never asked me. I have never commented, in any way, on any name suggested to me. The fact that his identity has remained secret all these years is mystifying, and truly extraordinary. Some doubting Thomases have pointed out that I only knew who Woodward told me Deep Throat was. To be sure. But that was good enough for me then. And now.

From "A Good Life" by Benjamin C. Bradlee, © 1995. Reprinted by permission of Touchstone/Simon & Schuster Inc.

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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