A footnote to the unmasking of Mark Felt as "Deep Throat": In the fall of 1980, I was a law clerk to U.S. District Judge Aubrey E. Robinson Jr. here in Washington. A perk of being a law clerk was access to the judges' private elevator. One afternoon, the elevator already had three people aboard: former president Richard Nixon and two Secret Service agents. The former president saw me and said -- this is verbatim -- "Howdy do!" The agents asked if I could take the next elevator, and who was I to argue?
Naturally, I was curious about the former president's presence in the courthouse. I later learned that he was there to testify for the defense in the criminal trial of Mark Felt, who was charged with authorizing warrantless break-ins in the 1970s into the homes of friends and relatives of members of the Weather Underground, a radical antiwar group. The president's testimony was unavailing, as Mr. Felt was convicted (but later pardoned by President Ronald Reagan).
The former president's role as witness was remarkable in itself, but it was even more so now given the irony of Mr. Nixon helping to defend the person who sealed his political demise.
I remember waking up early each morning when I was in college just so I could read the latest Watergate revelation in The Post. The tenacity of "Woodstein" and the courage of Katharine Graham were inspiring. But I am more than a little put off by The Post's self-congratulatory treatment of an event that happened more than 30 years ago. Much more relevant, and where The Post needs to do a little soul-searching, is its current record.
The Post seems to be cowed by the Bush administration, burying doubts about weapons of mass destruction on back pages and failing to investigate the warping of intelligence, etc. Undoubtedly, there is more. The Post should stop resting on ancient laurels and start knocking on doors, just as two cub reporters did in 1972.
Petaling Jaya, Malaysia
While I agree with the June 1 editorial that said, "Had Mr. Felt remained quiet, Mr. Nixon might have succeeded in one of the most serious abuses of power ever attempted by an American president," Mark Felt was no hero. He signed an oath, and his ends didn't justify the means. There were other ways he could have solved the dilemma if he suspected a coverup.
The break-in took place in the District, where D.C. courts had jurisdiction and were independent of the White House. Mr. Felt also could have gone to Congress.
The true hero was Bob Woodward, who didn't let the fact that it started out as a minor break-in stop him from pursuing the story. Most important, he kept his word for 30 years. The Post and Carl Bernstein deserve kudos as well, but I can vouch personally for Mr. Woodward's integrity. He once kept a secret of mine for almost a year until I gave him permission to take it to The Post. I suggest that Mr. Woodward be given the honor of "Reporter of Outstanding Integrity."
I keep reading how Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward were lowly Metro reporters when they began to cover the Watergate story. Thank God that Mark Felt enabled them to escape this apparently desperate professional situation. But how do current Metro reporters feel when they read these descriptions? And is there any hope for them to get promoted, short of bringing down a president?
EDMUND P. FOSTER
Those criticizing Mark Felt as disloyal to President Nixon should be reminded that Mr. Felt, like every other federal employee, took an oath to preserve and uphold the Constitution, not the president.
I have been reading Katharine Graham's autobiography, "Personal History." In the chapters dealing with the Pentagon Papers and the Watergate scandal, the White House intimidation of and threats to The Post are chilling.
If Richard Nixon had had a full second term, perhaps we would not still have a Washington Post, a Newsweek or a New York Times.
The Post must be thankful for the relentless work of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein and for the help "Deep Throat" provided. It's sad that Mrs. Graham died without knowing who this source was.
During the Watergate era, I covered Congress for NBC News. All of us who were on the story admired Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein -- they set the standard -- and envied their sources.
It's worth noting, however, that scores of other anonymous sources throughout all branches of government helped advance the story. During the Senate's 1973 Watergate hearings, Capitol Hill aides passed on confidential White House documents, risking their livelihoods and careers. One of my sources would meet me only at a spot several blocks away at 6th Street and Maryland Avenue SW.
Whether or not these sources had pure motives is irrelevant. The risks they took kept our democracy healthy at a time when our top officials were determined to subvert the law. As with Mark Felt, we owe our thanks to these many other unsung public officials.