Could George Bush Snr really be Deep Throat?

He was the world's most famous journalistic source and heralded the end for Richard Nixon. A new report says he is the former president, another that he is near death. Andrew Buncombe and Rupert Cornwell report


Fred Fielding, Deputy White House Counsel

Fred Fielding, Deputy White House Counsel

Who is he? Now 66, served as deputy White House counsel and left in 1974 to enter private practice. Returned to serve in the Reagan White House from 1981-86. Also served on the independent 9/11 Commission.

When did the speculation begin? H R Haldeman, President Richard Nixon's chief of staff, speculated in his 1978 book The Ends of Power, that Fielding was Deep Throat, the government source who briefed Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward about President Nixon's involvement in the Watergate affair. The fall-out from the break-in at Democratic headquarters in 1972 forced Mr Nixon to quit. Woodward has said he will name Deep Throat only on his death.

The case for: A four-year project by journalism students at the University of Illinois, led by Professor Bill Gaines, identified Fielding as Deep Throat. Professor Gaines said yesterday: "We are 100 per cent certain." His class has carefully matched records from the Nixon White House showing what Fielding and his boss, John Dean, knew about, to passages from All the President's Men where Deep Throat tips off Woodward about those same incidents.

Fielding would have had access to FBI files about the break-in as well as information about the Nixon administration's efforts to cover its tracks. Fielding also smoked and drank Scotch, just as Woodward said Deep Throat did.

The case against: Fielding has denied he is Deep Throat, though Woodward said his source had lied to protect his identity. Many believe the source had to have worked at the FBI to have known all the information about the investigation. Fielding's boss, Dean, and Leonard Garment, his subsequent superior at the White House after Dean, have written books saying Fielding was not Deep Throat. Reports this week said Fielding was not ill. Dean claims that in 1981 when Fielding was being recruited by the White House as counsel, Fielding told him that Woodward had informed the White House he was not the source.

Odds: 2/1

George Bush Snr, US Ambassador at the UN

Who is he? Bush was US ambassador to the UN from 1971 to 1973 and director of the CIA in 1976-77, later serving two terms as vice-president to Ronald Reagan. In 1988, Bush was elected president, serving one term before being beaten in the 1992 election by Bill Clinton. Now 80, Bush still exerts a degree of influence over the politics of his son, George W, the current President.

When did speculation begin? The British-born author Adrian Havill claimed this week on a journalism website that Bush Snr was Deep Throat.

The case for: Havill says new research points the finger of suspicion at Bush. He says he became suspicious after President George W Bush, who is known to dislike the press, gave an unusual seven hours of interviews to Woodward for one of his recent books. He argues that Bush Snr had reason to dislike Nixon, who had urged him to leave a safe congressional seat for a Treasury position with the promise that he would later become Treasury Secretary.

According to Havill, Nixon did not deliver and Bush was given the task of heading the Republican National Committee. He says that although Bush was UN ambassador (i.e in New York) from 1971 to 1973 he returned to Washington at weekends when seven of the eight meetings with Woodward took place. "My examination of White House records at the National Archives show Bush attending many Washington state dinners and weekly cabinet meetings during that period," wrote Havill. "More importantly, he was in Washington nearly every weekend where he owned a house and where his son Neil attended St Alban's prep school."

The case against: Woodward has previously said Deep Throat held a sensitive position within the executive branch of government. This would appear to rule out Bush as being the source. There is also the issue of the flag signal, detailed in All The President's Men. When Woodward needed to meet his source he would put a flag on the balcony of his P Street apartment. How would Bush have known about this in New York? It is also extremely doubtful whether Bush would have been in possession of many of the details about the investigation into the Watergate break-in. Similarly, it is unlikely he would have known about efforts to cover up the plot. Havill has also changed his opinion. In his 1993 book Deep Truth he claimed that Deep Throat was a composite of different sources created by Woodward. Woodward claims never to have interviewed the former president.

Odds: 50/1

Pat Buchanan, Speechwriter to Richard Nixon

Who is he? He was a special assistant and speechwriter for Nixon from 1969 to 1973. Later a broadcaster, he ran as a Republican presidential candidate in 1992, 1996 and 2000.

When did the speculation begin? He has long been a favourite Deep Throat suspect. John Dean is but one of several Nixon White House insiders to have listed Buchanan as a prime candidate, and he was one of seven "finalists" in the University of Illinois investigation that concluded Fred Fielding was Deep Throat.

The case for: Buchanan was in the White House inner circle, and, by April 1973, he was meeting regularly with President Nixon's lawyers. At the time he was living in downtown Washington just a mile from Woodward's apartment, on whose balcony signs for meetings were set. He is known to have been a smoker, and fond of Scotch. Also, his sister Bay worked for Creep, the Committee to Re-elect the President, which financed Watergate and other "dirty tricks". Buchanan is generally regarded as a Nixon loyalist but he is said to have threatened to resign three months before the break-in after a disagreement with the President's rapprochement with China.

The case against: He may be a cantankerous old conservative, but, at the Nixon White House, he was very much a team player; the China motive is seen as very thin. He has denied being Deep Throat, saying he gave up smoking before the March 1972 China trip. John Dean has also claimed that Deep Throat is very ill, Buchanan, at the last sighting, seemed in good health.

Odds: 6/1

Alexander Haig, Richard Nixon's Chief of Staff

Who is he? Now 80, Alexander Haig was a senior White House military adviser from 1970-1973, then chief of staff for President Richard Nixon from 1973-74. Later, he was Nato supreme commander (1974-79), and secretary of state (1981-82). He made a short-lived presidential bid in 1988.

When did the speculation begin? General Haig's name surfaced early. Len Colodny and Robert Gettlin, in their 1991 book Silent Coup: The Removal of a President, suggested him as a leading candidate; so too did Adrian Havill in his 1993 book Deep Truth.

The case for: As the top aide of Mr Nixon's national security adviser Henry Kissinger, General Haig was close enough to the centre of power. He fits the Woodward/Bernstein book's description of their source as holding "an extremely sensitive post in the executive branch". He was a Scotch drinker, and the book's description of their source as "prone to overreach" and "not good at concealing his feelings" certainly could apply.

The case against: General Haig has vehemently denied all suggestions he was Deep Throat, and he is not one of nature's natural dissemblers. As a soldier, the concept of loyalty would have made it hard to betray his commander-in-chief (though there have been suggestions he might have been operating as an agent for his immediate boss, Henry Kissinger). And it is hard to see how, from the National Security Council, he could have followed every twist and turn in the cover-up at the White House.

Odds: 7/1

David Gergen, Speechwriter to Richard Nixon

Who is he? Currently a professor of public service at Harvard's John Kennedy School of Government and director of its Centre for Public Leadership. After serving the Nixon government he worked as an adviser to presidents Ford, Reagan and Clinton. Also works as a broadcaster and journalist.

When did the speculation begin? In 1976 Esquire magazine named him most likely candidate for Deep Throat.

The case for: The former NBC correspondent Jim Miklaszewski has said he thinks Gergen is Deep Throat. He was certainly at the White House during the time in question, and is said to have been a smoker and drinker. In a 1993 New York Times Magazine profile which all but claimed Gergen was the source, it was pointed out that Gergen had a close relationship with investigative reporters during Watergate and has continued those ties since that time. Like Woodward, Gergen is a graduate of Yale University.

The case against: Critics of this theory say Gergen was simply not in a position to have access to all the relevant information. While he worked inside the White House, information about the investigation into the break-in at the Watergate and the attempted cover-up would almost certainly have passed him by. John Dean claims Woodward told him that Gergen was not the source. Gergen has also denied it and even threatened a lawsuit against Esquire when it identified him as the most likely candidate. The first time he was accused of being Deep Throat, Gergen reportedly burst into tears.

Odds: 25/1

Patrick Gray, Acting Director of the FBI

Who is he? Appointed Assistant Attorney General in 1970 by President Nixon, and succeeded J Edgar Hoover as acting director of the FBI for less than a year. Now 79.

When did the speculation begin? Almost immediately after the publication of All The President's Men.

The case for: A CBS documentary in 1992 argued that while Gray "started out as a Nixon loyalist", as he was dragged into the Watergate scandal, "he became increasingly disgusted with the whole business". Gray lived near Woodward, liked the role of mentor, had also served in the Navy and he matches the details Woodward reveals about Deep Throat. In the May 1992 issue of Atlantic Monthly, former Washington Post reporter James Mann said FBI investigators had access to information from the White House and the Committee for the Re-election of the President.

The case against: Gray denies he was the source. There is doubt someone in such a senior position as Gray would have befriended a young reporter such as Woodward. In All The President's Men, Woodward and Bernstein write that Gray phoned the head of the FBI Washington field bureau and ordered him to ensure there were no leaks.

Odds: 5/1

Mark Felt, FBI Deputy Associate Director

Who is he? Now aged 90, Felt was deputy associate director at the time of Watergate.

When did the speculation begin? Felt was a prime candidate from the outset. He has been named as the most likely suspect in several studies, but has always denied it.

The case for: Felt had the motive. He was one of the J Edgar Hoover "old guard' at the FBI, and hoped to succeed the old man in 1972. Instead, Nixon picked a loyalist, L Patrick Gray, as acting director. Felt was the bureau's point man in dealings with the White House. He would have been fully abreast of the investigation into the break-in and would have known many of the leading actors. He was known to be a rare FBI operative who would return reporters' calls. The President's chief of staff, H R Haldeman, told Nixon that Felt was responsible for "most of" the leaks already plaguing the White House. Much has been made of a rumoured 1999 visit by Woodward to Felt's home in California. In 1999 a newspaper claimed that Carl Bernstein's son had told another boy that Felt was Deep Throat. Bernstein and Bernstein's former wife deny the allegation.

The case against: He has asserted that no single individual could have known everything that Deep Throat purportedly knew.

Odds: 4/1

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