Sunday, February 27, 2005

Electronic Voting - reform now or never!

(Apologies in advance - I'm too tired tonight to proofread. I hope I didn't murder the language too badly.)

I spent the greater part of the weekend involved in two separate but related events about electronic voting. Friday night, I saw and met the filmmakers of three separate documentaries, all with a different story, on the horror stories of electronic voting. I’ve been fighting this battle myself since I first heard HAVA required the purchase of electronic voting machines. As someone who has actually set up databases and written code, I can tell you it’s very easy to write code with backdoors, secret triggers, routines that delete themselves after running, etc. I can also tell you that no one can tell you by turning on a machine if malignant code is inside. The only way to find that is to examine the source code. I’ll come back to my contributions to the weekend based on my own work in a moment. First, I want to introduce you to a host of special people, people who have put their lives to the side so they can work day and night to help save our Democracy. The first one I met is not even from this country!

Russell Michaels is one of the three producers behind Votergate, a work-in-progress on its way to becoming a 90 minute feature documentary. In fact, the filmmakers were at the Saturday event, filming more material for their film. We saw the video from their Web site, which focuses on Bev Harris’ and Andy Stephenson’s journey through several states interviewing polling place workers, some who had electronic voting machines sent home with them prior to the election(!), their Diebold trash forays, Bev’s introduction to Howard Dean on National TV of how easy it is to change the numbers in the “central tabulation” program (Diebold’s version is called GEMS), and more. The filmmakers captured with humor the tragedy that has become our voting process.

I was fascinated by Russell because he was movie-star handsome. He was, but really, I was fascinated because he was from Great Britain. Why would someone outside our country care? Why would this guy travel all over America to tell our story? But of course, why would someone not? As our planet becomes ever smaller, as resources become ever more scarce, naturally friends, allies and enemies have more and more at stake in elections held in America. Russell saw it as a great story. But he also just cares. His own passion for the topic became readily apparent after my first few minutes with him. I didn’t get as much time with his equally knowledgable co-producer, Rob Cohen, who lives here in Los Angeles, but it’s clear they are both totally committed to raising the noise level on this issue and educating people about how much has already been taken from them by electronic voting. Their film is fun and informative and off to a great start. They’re getting funding in part from Barbara Streisand’s fund and from the new patron saint of documentaries, Public Interest Pictures.

The next film was an appropriately titled documentary called “Electile Disfunction”, directed by Penny Little, an energetic and charismatic character perpetually perky under her pink hat. While Votergate told the story through the efforts of Bev Harris, Penny’s film told the story through the eyes of different commentators, many of them voters. I laughed hard when Jim Hightower, who always has a way of putting this just right, called voting on electronic machines “faith-based voting.” She intercut scenes from old horror flicks, robots controlling the world, or robots failing, and so forth. Fun and informative. The credits were hilarious!

The most heartbreaking film was the one with the least production quality picture/soundwise, but the most raw emotion. Directed by Linda Burkett, this was raw footage of many people, in a predominantly African-American precinct, waiting HOURS to be able to vote. HOURS in the rain. HOURS with instructions so poor that once inside the building, they might spend ANOTHER hour in the wrong line because there were two precincts inside, and no clear signs indicating which line was for which precinct. The site of all those people standing and waiting, confident that they would be able to vote, and confident that there vote would count, just broke my heart. Over and over, I’ve heard it said, anecdotally and from testimony from hearings that precincts that were predominantly African American, a segment of the population that votes overwhelmingly Democratic, had to wait for hours, whereas neighbors in predominantly Republican precincts only had to wait minutes to vote. There were shots of people arriving just as the polls closed, finally off work, and the look on one man’s face said it all. It was clear he had been looking forward to voting and had come there as fast as he could, only to be told he could not vote. Geez, folks, this is America. When is a rule (closing time) more important than letting another few stragglers vote? All weekend I alternated between rage and sadness at such stories. This is America. This is America! This should never happen in America!

The Saturday and Sunday events were organized by Sheri Myers, a tireless, tiny blond who credits Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin with teaching her to be a warrior. Looking at Sheri, one could hardly imagine meeting a more friendly, loving warrior! She was all smiles, hugs, credit to others, doing the opposite of micromanaging - inviting any who wanted to help readily into the fold, including yours truly.

When I first read about these events, I wrote their publicist, who had also helped publicize my book The Assassinations, and asked, was there going to be a call to action - something people could run home and do that night? Sheri wrote back immediately saying well, not exactly, but if you have something by all means bring it. So I spent Saturday pulling together this flyer which was distributed and which I presented briefly at both events. Right now, in Congress, there is a bill, HR 550, presented by Congressman Rush Holt and co-sponsored by another 100+ Representatives, but the Republican-controlled Committee on House Administration is sitting on it and not allowing it to come to the floor for a vote. Check out the flyer - I’ll talk about this more over time.

The Saturday event had nearly 100 people. The Sunday event had perhaps closer to 150 - hard to tell. Sunday was the heavy hitters. Bob Fitrakis spoke, from the heart, and without any compromise. The Ohio vote was provably, definitively stolen. He was one of the lawyers on the suit against the state. Now the state is suing HIM for what they deem a “frivolous” law suit, brought without any merit. Here is a guy putting his neck on the line to defend Democracy for all, and some partisan hacks in Ohio are going after him to ensure not only that he doesn’t do that again, but to put the fear of God in anyone else who tries to pursue wrongdoings. Fortunately, they’ve picked the wrong guy. I had only known Fitrakis before from his writings. But now that I’ve had a chance to see him in action (and to talk with him at dinner after) he’s a man of fierce intelligent, unwavering commitment, and fiery passion for what America should be, for what our vote should be. GOD BLESS BOB FITRAKIS!!!

Congresswoman Maxine Waters arrived late, but jumped right in saying how important this issue was, how pleased she was to see so many people there, and then proceeded to talk about issues of disenfranchisement. She talked about how important it was that voting reform not be left to individual states, that we needed federal guidelines. This was music to my ears, because when I first heard about electronic voting and called my two Senators (in WA state, where I was then residing), both offices told me “this is not a federal issue - take it up with the state.” I argued with both staffs that this should be a federal issue. We have to see, there has been progress just getting people in the Congress and Senate to admit this is a national issue. That’s a start.

Blair Bobier spoke next. He had helped David Cobb of the Green Party press for a recount. He reminded us, and I’m sorry to admit I needed to be reminded, that the Democratic party stood by and watched as the Green Party led the way, pressing for a recount of the Ohio vote. Were it not for their actions, we’d have far less information on what really transpired there. Yeah, we called them spoilers in 2000. But in 2004, we have to call them saviors. They did what the Democrats and frankly, the Republicans should have done - pressed for a recount because the exit polls did not match the machine counts. Why is it that in the Ukraine, exit polls proved the vote was not counted properly, but here in America they were pooh-poohed and dismissed?

Bev Harris spoke next. And she was exactly as I expected her to be. Sharp. Funny. Incredibly knowledgeable. Happy to share the stage with the others around her. Not a microphone hog. Just a great, great lady. She’s gotten a bad rap from some people who were formerly friends. Now I understand why.

She was targeted. She was set up on several entrapment attempts. She was interviewed by the Secret Service FIVE TIMES and has been under a gag order for a year. But the year has ended, and she wants to talk. She was investigated by a branch of the Treasury involved in terrorist funding. They even confiscated all the records of what machines, by IP address, had visited her site. In other words, the government has been running a fullout campaign trying to find a way to discredit her, trying to find out whether they could tempt her to overstep a legal boundary. That they have not is testament to the woman’s wits and integrity.

The funniest thing I heard either night was Bev’s latest stunt. She and her associates literally taught a chimpanzee how to hack the vote on video, and a San Diego TV station aired it.

Bev’s direction to us was clear and straightforward. FOLLOW THE MONEY. It worked in Watergate. (It would work in the 9/11 case, I’m convinced.) She said look not just at who runs elections, but at offices like the County Supervisor. These are the places where big money deals go down. Developments that need permission to start. Businesses looking for tax incentives. She reminded us that both Democrats and Republicans are guilty of accepting what amounts to bribes and payoffs, and perhaps that’s why some Democrats have turned against her. But I hear her just being honest. And it’s especially important that something as critical to our democracy as our vote not be seen as any kind of partisan issue. Follow the money, find out where the graft is going, and work to reform from the bottom up. She talked about one county supervisor in Florida who was so aggressive about auditing machines, popping in for surprise visits and such that no one would dare try to tamper with results in that particular county.

She encouraged us too to be especially sensitive to the African American community. Her husband is African American, and his attitude when she discussed disenfranchisement and vote manipulation was, this was nothing new, and it’s been happening to us for many years. We need to remember that women only got the vote in the early part of the last century. And the Jim Crow laws prevented African Americans from voting well into the 1960’s.

And she said it’s not enough to talk to each other. Go find new people. Find people on the right who are honest and who care about us all having a vote. There are a lot of them. Work with them. Network with them. Put them on your boards.

There were several other speakers, but I have to hit the hay. There’s much to discuss. To me, there are two daggers hanging over the heart of our democracy. If either falls, it can kill our faith in government. One is our vote. If that is compromised, it really is time for a revolution. The other is the media. If the media cannot tell us what is going on, our votes will be based on false, missing, or misleading information. Either is fatal. Get out there. Get busy. And write your Congressman as a first step. Tell them to back Rush Holt’s bill HR 550 AS IS without amendments that weaken or destroy it. It’s important. And time is running out!

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Hey, hey, USA. How many coups did you plan today?

39 years ago today, on February 24, 1966, Ghana leader Kwame Nkrumah was on his way to China when he found out a coup had taken over his government.

According to this article, documents “declassified at the end of 1999 but recently made public, show that the American government started talking about Nkrumah's overthrow as far back as 6 February 1964 - two full years before the actual event - when the then secretary of state Dean Rusk and the CIA Director John McCone met and picked the Ghanaian general, J.A. Ankrah, as the man to take over from Nkrumah.”

After over 10 years of research on the matter, I firmly believe that one of the key reasons President John Kennedy and later, his brother Robert Kennedy, were killed, was because they understood the difference between nationalists and Communists. That put them at odds with the plans (operations) directorate of the CIA, even as it put them in agreement with the more learned but less powerful CIA analysts. As longtime CIA officer Victor Marchetti and his co-writer John Marks wrote in The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence:
The Intelligence Directorate ... tried to explain that Castro, despite his socialistic leanings, was fiercely independent and a devout nationalist, much like Indonesia’s Sukarno, Egypt’s Nasser, and Ghana’s Nkrumah - all opponents of Western domination of the Third World but certainly not agents of any international communist conspiracy.
As I’ve written elsewhere, The CIA tried to kill Castro. The CIA brought down Sukarno. CIA man Bud Culligan claims he killed Nasser for the CIA. It’s not hard to believe then that Nkrumah was our target as well.

The Kennedy brothers understood the efforts of these countries not to move to Communism, but towards an independence from Western imperialism. George W. Bush, on the other hand, either cannot or will not understand this. The enemy, to him and his backers, is still nationalism, but since the threat of Communism is now beyond passé, a new threat had to be named: terrorism. Terrorism is now the excuse to wreak havoc on a huge swath of the world across the Middle East, just as we wreaked havoc across Africa in the 60’s. Look at a map of the Middle East and work your way East to see what’s going on. Bush is leaning on Syria. We’re all over Iraq. Skip Iran for a minute, even though we know Bush is going there one way or another. Next is Afghanistan. Click the previous link to see where this is going. From Afghanistan we finally reach India. So what’s really going on? To quote the fabulous George Seldes, “If you take nothing for granted, and try to find the facts, you will soon be safe from false propaganda...If you look for the social-economic motive you will not have to wait for history to tell you what was propaganda and what was truth.”

So we can believe, now, that our movements against Syria are to protect the budding peace process between Palestinians and Israelis. Or, we can believe that Syria, having a major seaport, is a critical component in our ability to ship oil from the middle East to the Western World. Iran holds not just a huge oil supply but also one of the world’s largest natural gas supplies, and natural gas is key to enabling the “Hydrogen Economy” Bush talked about when he was running for his first term in office. India is already “ours” - a friendly country who will serve as a second endpoint for removing the resources of the Middle East.

As Castro found out when he nationalized his nickel mines and oil reserves, as Sukarno found out when he nationalized his rubber and oil reserves, as Lumumba found out when he tried to keep the Katanga province mineral wealth for his own people, as many other world leaders have found out, if you share the wealth of your country’s national resources internally, rather than allowing the West to exploit it, you have to go.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez managed to survive the first U.S. attempt to have him removed from office. But is another plan in the works? You have to see that something’s afoot when Bob Novak can call Chavez’s Venezuela an “infection spreading throughout America’s backyard.”

When will it end? We are a country addicted to power, addicted to seizing whatever we know to be out there, telling ourselves we’re somehow worth it because we’re more powerful, or smarter, or richer. But might doesn’t make right. We have to learn to play fair with the rest of the world The Kennedys tried. If by some miracle we are blessed with another leader of such instincts, will they have any more success? Not so long as we remain quiet and complacent. We must speak out about all imperialist actions, especially those that originate right here at home. “You’re either for us or against us.” Count me as against those worst instincts of our leaders. Speaking out in opposition to the misdeeds of my government doesn’t make me anti-American. That makes me AN American, exercising the precious right to freedom of speech. When’s the last time you exercised your own right to speak up? Use it or lose it.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

War is a Racket - for the Rich

The famous quote “War is a Racket” came from a prominent Marine from the past, Smedley Butler. He was a two-time Congressional Medal of Honor winner known for his integrity. I’ll return to the quote, and his explanation of exactly what he meant by it, because he could as easily have been talking about the Iraq war. But in case you didn’t know, Butler is also famous for stopping a Fascist takeover of the White House!

In 1934, Butler went to his friends in the press and Congress with a remarkable tale. He claimed that bond trader Gerald MacGuire approached him in the summer of 1933, as a representative of a group of wealthy businessmen, and asked him to speak publicly on behalf of the gold standard so that soldiers would not be paid in “rubber money or paper money.” When Butler refused, MacGuire offered him a cash bribe, which Butler also refused. MacGuire then told him what they really wanted was for him to lead a 500,000 man army to DC to protect President Franklin Delano Roosevelt from other coup plotters, and to install a “Secretary of General Welfare” to “take all the worries and details off his [FDR’s] shoulders.”

Butler responded, “…my one hobby is, maintaining a democracy. If you get these 500,000 soldiers advocating anything smelling of Fascism, I am going to get 500,000 more and lick the hell out of you, and we will have a real war right at home.”

Butler testified about the plot to Congress, but Congress showed very little interest in getting to the bottom of the affair - probably because the conspirators included both conservatives and at least one prominent Democrat. And the media, predictably, as it has and always will, protected the elite. Clayton Cramer, in an article for History Today, outlined the media’s pathetic response to this series of events:

The news media gave an inappropriately small amount of attention to the report. Time magazine ridiculed Butler's claims. The week following Butler's testimony, Time described it as a "Plot Without Plotters," simply because the alleged plotters claimed innocence. But Time admitted that Veterans of Foreign Wars commander James Van Zandt confirmed that he, too, had been approached to lead such a march on Washington.

The leftist magazine New Masses carried an article by John Spivak that included wild claims of "Jewish financiers working with fascist groups." Spivak's article spun an elaborate web involving the American Jewish Congress, the Warburg family, "which originally financed Hitler," the Hearst newspaper chain, the Morgan banking firm, the du Ponts, a truly impressive list of prominent American Jewish businessmen, and Nazi spies! Spivak's article raised some disturbing and legitimate questions about why much of Butler's testimony was left out of the final committee report. But these important concerns were seriously undermined by Spivak's paranoid ravings. The left-of-center magazines Nation and New Republic were unconcerned about it, since in their view "fascism originated in pseudoradical mass movements," and therefore could not come from a wealthy cabal.

Newspaper descriptions of the final report are also astonishing for how lightly most treated it. A New York Times article about subversion and foreign agitators started on the front page, but gave only two paragraphs to the coup plot inside the paper. "It also alleged that definite proof has been found that the much publicized Fascist march on Washington... was actually contemplated." It was not a major story.

The San Francisco Chronicle took the story more seriously. The only headline with a larger type size that day concerned the recent fatal crash of the airship Macon. The Chronicle carried an Associated Press story headlined, "Justice Aids Probe Butler Fascist Story." The first five paragraphs were devoted to Butler's allegations. The Chronicle quoted the Committee report that it "was able to verify all the pertinent statements by General Butler, with the exception of the direct statement suggesting creation of the organization."

A third newspaper sampled showed an even more astonishing lack of interest than the New York Times: the Sacramento Bee used a substantially different Associated Press wire story that emphasized propaganda efforts by foreign agents. Another AP wire story, at the bottom of page five, described Butler's allegations, taking the Committee's report at face value. This wire story includes the comforting knowledge that the committee found "no evidence to show a connection between this effort" and any foreign government.

An apparently serious effort to overthrow the government, perhaps with the support of some of America's wealthiest men, largely substantiated by a Congressional committee, was mostly ignored. Why? Roosevelt's Secretary of the Interior, Harold Ickes, wrote a book in 1939 about the concentration of American journalism. He claimed that, "In 1934, 82 per cent of all dailies had a complete monopoly in their communities." Newspaper chains, in Ickes' view, "control a dangerously large share of the national daily circulation and in many cities have no competition."

Ickes' book was largely devoted to proving that the major newspapers of the United States were intentionally distorting the news, and in some cases, directly lying. Ickes argued that newspaper editors did so in the interests of both their advertisers and in defense of the capitalist class. Ickes mentioned the Liberty League as one of the "propaganda outfits" who were allied with the major newspapers. Indeed,the New York Times, one of the papers that had downplayed the Committee's report, had editorialized in favor of the Liberty League's formation.

Did newspapers and magazines onsciously play down the plot, because it represented an embarrassment to people of influence? Or did editors simply give it low visibility because they regarded it as an absurd story?

In any case, this plot essentially disappeared from history. Certainly I never heard about it until I began writing for Probe magazine.

Whether as a result or a precursor to this incident, Butler gave an amazing speech, excerpted below, detailing just what he meant by saying war is a racket:
War is just a racket. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of people. Only a small inside group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the masses.

I believe in adequate defense at the coastline and nothing else. If a nation comes over here to fight, then we'll fight. The trouble with America is that when the dollar only earns 6 percent over here, then it gets restless and goes overseas to get 100 percent. Then the flag follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag.

I wouldn't go to war again as I have done to protect some lousy investment of the bankers. There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket.
There isn't a trick in the racketeering bag that the military gang is blind to. It has its "finger men" to point out enemies, its "muscle men" to destroy enemies, its "brain men" to plan war preparations, and a "Big Boss" Super-Nationalistic-Capitalism.

It may seem odd for me, a military man to adopt such a comparison. Truthfulness compels me to. I spent thirty-three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country's most agile military force, the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle- man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.

I suspected I was just part of a racket at the time. Now I am sure of it. Like all the members of the military profession, I never had a thought of my own until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of higher-ups. This is typical with everyone in the military service.

I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912 (where have I heard that name before?). I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.

During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.
It’s eerie, isn’t it? Change a few dates and countries and he could just as easily be talking about Halliburton, the many companies that are direct and indirect descendants of Standard Oil, and the Iraq war.

The cause of unjust wars is always the same. Greed. Wealth. Power. The excuse for war is always the same too. Religion. Patriotism. Freedom. The cost of war is always born by those who least benefit from it. The soldiers. The taxpayers. The innocent.

I agree with Butler on his two justifications for war, but I will expand a little on the second reason he gave: 1) in self defense (we are under attack), and 2) to protect the rights of human beings - not just in America, but wherever any beings are being killed en masse. I think peacekeeping troops should be empowered to truly defend peace, and not to have to stand by while genocide transpires in front of them, as it did in Rwanda. Beyond that, we have no moral reason for being at war in any other country.

I started to write about something else tonight - the comments of Ward Churchill re the victims of 9/11 being “little Eichmanns.” I would urge those infuriated by those remarks to 1) read the full text of his article “Some People Push Back”, from which the quote is taken dramatically out of context, and 2) to note that he includes himself in that category (i.e., he’s a “little Eichmann” too) as well. A lot of furor has also been raised as to whether his research on Indian genocide is legitimate, as well as statements on his resume. To me, that’s between him and his college - I’m more interested in what he meant by this comment, and whether there is any truth in it.

After much thought, I've concluded that I agree with the sentiment expressed, if not the way it was expressed. I believe we Americans are all, to some degree, complicit in the mass murders done by our country. I’d add, however, that our complicity occurs on various levels. There are the “fully witting” - the Dick Cheney’s and Donald Rumsfeld’s and likely (although I’m not sure the term applies here) President George Bush. Then there are the very helpful and partially witting - the CEOs of major corporations who see more green than red, i.e., who focus more on money than on the blood cost of the profit. There are the unwitting - those who have not bothered or are not capable of educating themselves in world affairs, and the misled - those who believe the right-wing propaganda they hear. That leaves the educated but unconcerned, a category which troubles me greatly, and the educated and concerned, the category in which I’d place myself.

I fight in the ways I know, by writing, by speaking up when I hear any defense of this immoral war, by marching, by whatever means available. But in the moments when I’m fully honest with myself, a rare and difficult feat, I realize that if I were truly completely committed to ending the war, that I should perhaps quit my job, move to another country, or even take up arms to stop America. So count me as partially guilty because I have not and do not intend to do any of the above. Count me as partially not guilty though too because I do believe the best way to change something is from within, and not without. I feel my efforts do have some positive and permanent effect, however small. And I find myself wondering, what would Smedley Butler have done?

Where do you fall? Do you feel any guilt at all? Is it not your problem? I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts on this matter.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Deep Throat Rumblings

Deep Throat is in the news again. Adrian Havill, who earlier had written in Deep Truth that Deep Throat was probably a device to hide multiple informants, now believes it may be a single person: George H.W. Bush. In a letter to, Havill explains that Bush had means, motive and opportunity to convey information to Woodward.

That would be interesting. The CIA is deeply involved in the whole Watergate story. In fact, the investigation of Watergate led ultimately to four separate reviews of the CIA - the Rockefeller Commission, the Pike Committee, Church Committee, and ultimately, the House Select Committee on Assassinations. The CIA’s role in Watergate is well documented by Fred Thompson in At That Point In Time, by H. R. Haldeman in The Ends of Power, by Victor Lasky in It Didn't Start With Watergate, and most extensively by Jim Hougan in Secret Agenda. Given the CIA’s interest in bringing down Nixon, and given George Bush’s relationship with the agency long before and after he served as it’s Director, this is not entirely implausible.

But even as this story is breaking, John Dean, the man who helped bring down his employer, adds another jag to the story. He reports that Bob Woodward has told his executive editor that his former source on the Watergate stories, named after a famous porn movie of the time, is now ill. Woodward has separately stated he had already written Deep Throat’s obituary. George Bush, to my knowledge, is not ill - at least - not on the verge of death.

What does John Dean know? He makes curious comment that makes me wonder if he has some inside knowledge. What if Deep Throat is a criminal? What if Woodward has been shielding a criminal? Dean notes:

Without confidential sources, much of what people need to know in a democracy would never be reported, so unless there is a higher reason, journalists must be able to protect such sources who are willing to impart such information. That said, no news person should agree to provide confidentiality unless it is essential to obtain information that the public should be told and there is no other way to obtain the information. A scoop per se does not justify a pledge of confidentiality.

A source may be using the reporter, while the reporter is using the source. Motives range from the noble whistle-blower who is morally offended by misconduct to the staffer who is floating a trial balloon to the low-end leaker who is seeking to gain advantage by sabotaging a competitor or foe.

Dean knows something. And that’s interesting. Because when I saw him in town here, strangely combined in a joint appearance with Michael Moore, he said he’s been trying for years to pin down the identity of Deep Throat. Has he known who it was all along, however? Has he only just found out? What else has he heard?

Various Deep Throat candidates have been put forward over the years. Prominent suspects have included:

Alexander Haig. The authors of Silent Coup make the case that Haig was the source of Woodward’s information, noting they lived near each other and had worked together back when Woodward was an intelligence briefer for the Pentagon. Woodward has denied specifically ever briefing Hague, but given Woodward’s provable untruths in other matters related to Deep Throat, can such a denial be believed?

Robert Bennett, the current Senator from Utah. According to a memo to the Deputy Director of Plans at CIA, from Eric Eisenstadt, “Mr. Bennet rather proudly related that he is response for the article ‘Whispers about Colson’ in the March 5 issue of Newsweek. Mr. Bennet does not believe the company [the CIA] will be bothered much more by the news media which is concluding that ‘the company is clean and has gotten a bum rap while the real culprits are getting scot free.’ [sic] Mr. Bennett said also that he has been feeding stories to Bob Woodward of the Washington POst with the understanding that there be no attribution to Bennett. Woodward is suitably grateful for the fine stories and by-lines which he gets and protects Bennett (and the Mullen Company [a CIA front company]).” (Source: Secret Agenda, by Jim Hougan.)

Fred Fielding. Bob Haldeman, in his book The Ends of Power, chose Fielding as his candidate, because one of the curious things about Deep Throat was not only what he knew, but what he didn’t know. He had curious gaps in his knowledge. Fielding was John Dean’s staff assistant, and Dean had told Haldeman he had specifically kept Fielding “out of things” during the Watergate period. And that’s what makes him of interest to me. Because John Dean, more than anyone, brought Nixon down. It makes sense he’d encourage or set the example for his assistant to help do the same, albeit in a different way.

I’ve long suspected that Dean knows who Deep Throat is, and that his whole effort to “find” Deep Throat has been his attempt to distance himself from the fact that the leaks were coming from his own office. Woodward described Deep Throat as someone “in the Executive Branch who had access to information at CRP [the Committee to Re-elect the President] as well as the White House.” Dean has tried to portray himself as a good guy caught in a bad situation, rather than an outright turncoat working to bring down his employer.

At the start of the University of Illinois school year in 1999, Professor Bill Gaines, a former investigative reporter for the Chicago Tribune, started his students on a four-year project to determine the identity of Deep Throat. The students came to the conclusion that Fred Fielding was indeed the likeliest candidate. On their project Web site, Deep Throat: Uncovered, Erin Carlson’s biography of Fielding contains this curious tidbit:

A 1981 Washington Post article by Elisabeth Bumiller reported that Fielding had "a reputation at the White House for solidness and excellence." He drank scotch and was known to smoke Marlboros. Bumiller reported that a story circulated around Washington, D.C. that when Fielding was seriously ill with a pulmonary embolism, he said that he was Deep Throat and "then cackled uproariously." When later asked if the story was true, Fielding said, "Probably so."

So Dean’s story today, headlined, “Should We Jail Deep Throats”, has perhaps a double meaning. He ends the article with this:

As for Deep Throat, well, we will all soon learn if Woodward has been protecting a criminal for three decades, or merely a source who gave him some good information and some bad information — when history's greatest source was wrong — that Woodward has never corrected. (To pick just one of Throat's many errors, I randomly opened "All the President's Men," scanned until I came to the passage in which Woodward reports Throat as giving him this: "Dean talked with Sen. Howard] Baker after [the] Watergate committee [was] formed and Baker is in the bag completely, reporting back directly to the White House." It never happened.)

I suspect that Throat's identity may prove a cautionary tale for all news gatherers. Stay tuned.

Is Dean sending a veiled warning to Fielding and/or Woodward? Something reeks faintly here. I can’t wait to see how this all plays out.

Woodward has always said he would tell us who Deep Throat is after he died. So we may be close to knowing the truth. But Woodward has also told a lot of untruths in his time (read Adrian Havill’s devastating assessment of the impossibility of the conversation Woodward claims to have had with the dying Bill Casey.) Will Woodward come clean in the end? Or will Deep Throat’s ultimate legacy be the proof that some secrets really can be kept forever?