Why did Deep Throat leak to Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward?

Woodward and Carl Bernstein write in their 1974 book, All the President’s Men, that Deep Throat shared his secrets to “protect the office” of the presidency and “effect a change in its conduct before all was lost.” Woodward amended his source’s purely patriotic motives in his 2005 book, The Secret Man: The Story of Watergate’s Deep Throat. In it, Woodward held that Deep Throat — whom he confirmed was W. Mark Felt, a former high-ranking FBI man who outed himself as the leaker — supplied him with information to protect the FBI from the meddling Nixon White House. That harmonized with the rationale offered in A G-man’s Life: The FBI, Being ‘Deep Throat,’ and the Struggle for Honor in Washington, Felt’s 2006 book published with the guiding hand of a co-writer (Felt was 92 and suffering from dementia): that Deep Throat leaked to Woodward to “spark a broader investigation” by the Justice Department of the break-in.

By 2010, Woodward’s appreciation of his leaker’s motives had expanded to include bureaucratic infighting. Woodward writes:

In brief, [Felt] knew there was a cover-up, knew higher-ups were involved, and did not trust the acting FBI director, Pat Gray. He knew the Nixon White House was corrupt. At the same time he was disappointed that he did not get the directorship. And I was pushing him and pushing him. [Emphasis added.]

This timeline of Woodward’s changing view of Felt appears in the opening pages of Leak: Why Mark Felt Became Deep Throat (University Press of Kansas), a dandy, detailed book by veteran journalist Max Holland. Holland, who has mastered the Watergate corpus, rewinds the complete story of the break-in, the cover-up, and the press and FBI investigations to reveal Felt as a mendacious, manipulating, and opportunistic source. Yes, on occasion, Felt deliberately and repeatedly disinformed Woodward, who was oblivious to his lies at the time and wrote in All the President’s Men that “Deep Throat would never deal with [Woodward] falsely.”

Holland makes the persuasive case that Felt, who died in 2008, used the classic techniques of counterintelligence he learned as an FBI agent to destabilize his main bureaucratic opponent inside the FBI (Acting Director L. Patrick Gray) with his leaks to Woodward (and other journalists). The goal of his leaks was to nudge President Richard Nixon in the direction of appointing him FBI director instead of Gray.