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Sunday, June 26, 2005

Ex-F.B.I. Chief Says He Felt Betrayal at Deep Throat's Unmasking - New York Times

Ex-F.B.I. Chief Says He Felt Betrayal at Deep Throat's Unmasking - New York TimesJune 26, 2005
Ex-F.B.I. Chief Says He Felt Betrayal at Deep Throat's Unmasking

WASHINGTON, June 26 - L. Patrick Gray, the acting director of the F.B.I. at the time of the Watergate break-in, ended more than three decades of silence about his role in the scandal, saying in a television interview broadcast Sunday that he felt shock and betrayal by the disclosure that his former deputy, W. Mark Felt, was Deep Throat.

In an interview on the ABC News program "This Week," Mr. Gray said that he felt "like I was hit with a tremendous sledgehammer" by Mr. Felt's recent disclosure that he was the secret source for Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the Washington Post reporters who broke important Watergate news relying on Mr. Felt's information.

Mr. Gray, 88, resigned from the Federal Bureau of Investigation in disgrace in 1973. In the ABC interview with George Stephanopoulos, he spoke bitterly of Mr. Felt, saying that "he told me time and again he was not Deep Throat."

If he could, Mr. Gray said, he would say to Mr. Felt: "Mark, why? Why didn't you come to me? Why didn't we work it out together?" Mr. Gray said he now realized that he failed to halt news leaks from the bureau during Watergate because Mr. Felt was in charge of stopping them.

"I think he fooled me, if you want to put it that way, Mr. Stephanopoulos, by being the perfect example of the F.B.I. agent that he was," Mr. Gray said, according to a transcript of the interview. "He did his job well, he did it thoroughly, and I trusted him all along, and I was, I can't begin to tell you how deep was my shock and my grief when I found that it was Mark Felt."

Mr. Gray's memories of events seemed sharp and his words were punctuated by flashes of anger as he defended his actions and insisted that he had been badly misled not only by Mr. Felt but also by President Nixon and his aides.

In his 1979 book, "The F.B.I. Pyramid From the Inside," Mr. Felt wrote contemptuously of Mr. Gray as an absentee director who compromised the bureau's independence by mishandling the break-in inquiry. Of his former subordinate, Mr. Gray said in the ABC interview, "He was a smooth operator, and I can't understand how Mark could have let himself do to me what he did when I trusted him so implicitly."

Mr. Gray has most often been depicted in accounts of the Watergate period as a naïve and politically pliant lawyer from Connecticut who was appointed by Nixon to head the F.B.I. on a temporary basis after the death of J. Edgar Hoover in May 1972. The president and his aides had long feared and mistrusted the bureau.

After the bureau began investigating the break-in, Mr. Gray turned over raw F.B.I. interview reports and lead sheets to John W. Dean, Nixon's counsel, who ran the effort to conceal White House ties to the Watergate burglars. Later, in the fireplace of his Connecticut home, Mr. Gray burned files that he had been given from the White House safe of E. Howard Hunt, whose phone number was found in address books of the Watergate burglars.

In the interview, Mr. Gray defended his actions, although he admitted that he erred during Watergate in temporarily holding up an investigation following the money trail to a Mexican bank when White House aides falsely told him that it might interfere with a continuing C.I.A. operation.

Mr. Gray said he provided internal F.B.I. investigative files to the White House only after he had been cleared to do so by the bureau's general counsel. He said he had been justified in burning the files because their contents were unrelated to Watergate.

One file contained top-secret cables apparently forged by Mr. Hunt that made it appear the administration of President Kennedy had been implicated in the assassination of President Ngo Dinh Diem of South Vietnam in 1963. A second file contained false letters apparently intended to embarrass Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, if he ran for president.

Mr. Gray said he burned the papers because he was following the instructions of Mr. Dean and John D. Ehrlichman, Nixon's top domestic affairs adviser, never to reveal their contents. "I had an order, direct order from the president's principal adviser, to whom he had previously ordered me to report," Mr. Gray said, saying that he trusted Nixon and his aides.

Mr. Gray recalled his ill-fated confirmation hearings in early 1973, when he was asked how one White House operative had obtained access to information apparently taken directly from F.B.I. files. "And I thought for a long time — I could have perjured myself — and said, 'I don't know,'." Mr. Gray said in the interview.

He remembered telling the committee what until then had been a closely held secret, that he himself had supplied the information to the White House. "Everything went up in the air when everybody found out that Gray was sending F.B.I. files, reports on the investigation to John Dean at the White House, and it was at that point that John Dean exploded over there," Mr. Gray said.

Mr. Gray's disclosure prompted the White House to turn against him and provoked Mr. Ehrlichman to utter his famous phrase that Mr. Gray would be left to "twist slowly in the wind." Mr. Gray's nomination to be made permanent F.B.I. director was withdrawn and in April 1973 he resigned from the bureau.

When Mr. Gray first heard Mr. Ehrlichman's remark on a White House tape, he reacted with anger. "Well, what I thought cannot be repeated on television," he told Mr. Stephanopoulos. "But anger, anger of the fiercest sort, and I could not believe that those guys were as rotten as they were turning out to be."

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