FBI Cleared W. Mark Felt of Watergate Leaks

New evidence that Deep Throat couldn’t have acted alone

That Felt was cleared lends additional credence to Daly's claim that Felt worked with other senior FBI officials in leaking Watergate details to the press. Daly points out that the information Felt provided to the Post, and perhaps other papers, was material that Felt would not ordinarily have had access to unless he was being briefed by other senior FBI officials.

The Times Union account first quoted Daly as saying that "during the height of the Watergate investigation . . . three high-ranking FBI officials conspired with the agency's deputy director to leak information about their probe to the press. . . .

"The FBI officials met regularly in their Washington D.C., offices to discuss what information they would reveal to fuel media interest. . . .”

Daly identified those who attended the meetings with Felt, then FBI deputy director, as Richard Long, chief of the FBI's white collar crimes section; Robert G. Kunkel, special-agent-in-charge, or SAC, of the Washington field office of the FBI; and Charles Bates, then assistant director of the FBI's criminal investigative division.

It is all but impossible to independently verify Daly's account because Long, Kunkel, and Bates have all died.

Felt, of course, is still yet to be heard from, and it is unclear whether, at 91, he remembers much about events that occurred more than 30 years ago.

But Daly's account can hardly be dismissed because of the lack of corroboration. He is a highly respected 30-year veteran of the FBI. In interviews over the last several days with several former senior FBI officials, not a single one had a bad thing to say about him.

John J. McDermott, the special-agent-in-charge of the Washington field office of the FBI, between October 1972 and May, 1974—during most of the Watergate period—told me in an interview that he had no firsthand information that senior FBI officials worked with Felt to tip off the media. And he said their behavior was "disgraceful" if they in fact did leak.

But he had only kind words for Daly: "Paul Daly was a very bright and straight arrow, as I have met him and done business with him through the years. I am confident in saying that he is somebody that I and others can implicitly trust."

Daly has said that Long first told him of his own role and that of other FBI officials in working with Felt in 1978. They were then preparing Felt for his trial on federal criminal charges of authorizing nine illegal break-ins of the homes and relatives of the Weather Underground, the leftist organization that bombed government buildings in protest of the Vietnam war. Daly wanted to know whether Felt might suffer any challenges to his credibility if Felt took the stand in his own defense.

Felt and Edward S. Miller, an assistant FBI director, were convicted of the charges after an eight-week trial. Both men were subsequently pardoned by President Reagan.

According to Daly, Long then explained how he, Kunkel, and Bates worked closely with Felt to decide what information should be leaked to keep the White House from interfering with the FBI.

During the crucial conversation with Long, Daly told me, Bassett, the assistant FBI director who conducted the investigation and who was also present, slyly smiled and said: "That son-of-a-gun. . . . That explains it."

Daly told me he took that comment to mean Bassett was referring to the way Felt had escaped being found out in the probe.

Murray Waas will continue to write about Watergate and Mark Felt over the next several days on his blog: http://whateveralready.blogspot.com.

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