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Colson Criticizes ‘Deep Throat’

Former White House aide Charles Colson says President Nixon would be “horrified” to learn that the identity of the anonymous source “Deep Throat”–who helped two Washington Post reporters expose the Watergate scandal that led to his resignation–was the No. 2 official at the FBI.

Colson, the former Nixon “hatchet man” turned born-again Christian, criticized Mark Felt, 91, after he came forward about his role in providing tips and corroborating information to reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in the early 1970s.

“When any president has to worry whether the deputy director of the FBI is sneaking around in dark corridors peddling information in the middle of the night, he’s in trouble,” Colson, who served seven months in prison for obstruction of justice in connection with Watergate, said in UPI.

Colson, now a Christian broadcaster and author of two dozen books, said he doesn’t view Felt as a traitor, but he also is no hero, as some are hailing him.

“Mark Felt could have stopped Watergate,” Colson said. “He was in a position of that kind of influence. Instead, he goes out and basically undermines the administration.”

“You would think the deputy director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, you could talk to with the same confidence you could talk to a priest,” Colson said on MSNBC.

Colson said because of its nature, the FBI has dossiers on everybody. “If the guy who runs the FBI or the number two guy in the FBI feels free to give these out to people,¬†you’d have absolute chaos in this country,” he said on CNN. “You’d have tyranny run by the FBI.”

Colson said if Felt thought the Watergate investigation was corrupt, he should have resigned. He also said that if Felt had attempted to confront Nixon before going to the press, the administration might have been saved.

“Mark first served this country with honor, and I can’t imagine how Mark Felt was sneaking in dark alleys leaving messages under flower pots and violating his oath to keep this nation’s secrets,” Colson said. “I cannot compute that with the Mark Felt that I know.”

Colson called the revelation “one more Watergate tragedy.”

“Here’s a man who had a distinguished public career who retires,” he told CNN. “And he got in trouble for authorizing break-ins, and so I don’t think we want to start putting things on a moral field as far as his own behavior was concerned.

“But he could retire and have a distinguished government record behind him, but instead he’s going to remembered in this thing as ‘Deep Throat.’ I think it’s unfortunate at this age in his life, I believe he’s being exploited. I really feel sorry for him because I think he goes out on a very sour note. He goes out of his life on a very sour note, not as a hero.”

Colson, 73, served as chief counsel in the Nixon administration from 1969 to 1973. He was one of the most feared politicos of his time before experiencing a religious conversion in 1973, described in the best-selling book Born Again and film by the same title.

In 1971 Colson leaked a secret FBI report to the media meant to discredit anti-war activist Daniel Ellsberg, who provided the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times. The papers contained secret information about U.S. involvement in Vietnam and revealed officials’ doubts about the war.

In 1974 Colson was charged in connection with the Watergate cover-up and Ellsberg conspiracy. In an effort to square his newfound Christianity with his past, he confessed to prosecutors that he was the previously unknown source of secret documents.

He pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in June 1974 and served seven months of a 1-3 year sentence in federal prison.

Colson used proceeds from Born Again to start Prison Fellowship. In 2001 he was awarded the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, donating the $1 million prize to the ministry.

A self-described “devout Southern Baptist,” Colson is a member of First Baptist Church in Naples, Fla.

His first public testimony after his release from prison was at the Southern Baptist Convention in 1975. He last addressed the convention two years ago, via videotape, in Phoenix.

Colson also spoke on videotape in April at “Justice Sunday,” a televised rally at Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., opposing judicial filibusters as against people of faith. He was among 200 religious leaders to sign a recent letter urging Senate Republicans to bring the filibuster to an end.

He was a lead author of “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” in 1994, a statement of shared religious and social beliefs that has been criticized as promoting “ecumenism” within the SBC.

Twenty-five years after Colson’s release from prison, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in 2000 restored his civil rights, including the right to vote, practice law and serve on a jury.

“He certainly has served his time,” Bush said at the time, according to Religion News Service. “The crime that he committed was a serious one, but I think it’s time to move on.”

The identity of “Deep Throat,” popularized in the movie “All the President’s Men,” was one of the best-kept secrets in journalism. Reporter Bob Woodward had promised not to reveal the person’s identity until after his death. After Vanity Fair broke the story identifying Felt as the legendary source, the Post confirmed his identity.

“W. Mark Felt was ‘Deep Throat’ and helped us immeasurably in our Watergate coverage,” Woodward and Bernstein said in a statement on the Washington Post Web site. “However, as the record shows, many other sources and officials assisted us and other reporters for the hundreds of stories that were written in The Washington Post about Watergate.”

Colson told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews he doesn’t believe Nixon ordered the Watergate break-in but said he was present in a meeting on one tape when Nixon told his chief of staff to break into the Brookings Institution and get some things related to the Pentagon Papers.

“That was the one that should have been a red flag to me,” he said. “I should have stood up and said, ‘Hey, Mr. President, no.’ But you get numbed after a while. That’s one of the problems. And your sense of loyalty overrides your sense of integrity.”

“And, in that sense, I almost can understand Mark Felt, because what he saw going on, obviously, he thought should be exposed,” Colson continued. “I just think he went about it the wrong way.

“I think if he had walked into Pat Gray, director of the FBI, and said, ‘I want to expose this,’ and together they had walked into the Oval Office, you might never have had a Watergate. That’s where I would fault Mark Felt.”

Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.

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