Thursday, June 02, 2005

Design In The Details

Today's Washington Post has the piece that's been 33 years in the making: "How Mark Felt Became 'Deep Throat'" by Bob Woodward.

It's an utterly fascinating account that shows how even the big things are made up only of lots of small things. Woodward met Mark Felt by chance while on an errand (as a Navy aide to Adm. Thomas Moorer) delivering a package to the White House:
Felt and I were like two passengers sitting next to each other on a long airline flight with nowhere to go and nothing really to do but resign ourselves to the dead time. He showed no interest in striking up a long conversation, but I was intent on it. I finally extracted from him the information that he was an assistant director of the FBI in charge of the inspection division, an important post under Director J. Edgar Hoover. That meant he led teams of agents who went around to FBI field offices to make sure they were adhering to procedures and carrying out Hoover's orders. I later learned that this was called the "goon squad."

Here was someone at the center of the secret world I was only glimpsing in my Navy assignment, so I peppered him with questions about his job and his world. As I think back on this accidental but crucial encounter -- one of the most important in my life -- I see that my patter probably verged on the adolescent. Since he wasn't saying much about himself, I turned it into a career-counseling session.

I was deferential, but I must have seemed very needy. He was friendly, and his interest in me seemed somehow paternal. Still the most vivid impression I have is that of his distant but formal manner, in most ways a product of Hoover's FBI. I asked Felt for his phone number, and he gave me the direct line to his office.
I suppose I've bought into the mythology that's developed over the last 30-plus years even more than I thought, since the entire time I was reading the article I kept thinking "I can't believe I'm actually reading a piece by Bob Woodward thoroughly detailing his relationship with 'Deep Throat.'"

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