By Ray Fleming
There are several strands to the revelation after more than thirty years of the identity of the “Deep Throat” who provided the Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein with the inside information that enabled them to expose President Richard Nixon's falfeasance over the Watergate scandal in 1973. W. Mark Felt, who has identified himself at the age of 91 as the informant, had been on several lists of suspects but had kept his counsel, as had Woodward and Bernstein and the Post. The use by journalists of unattributed sources is always a matter of concern. In the United States it has come up again recently in the allegation by Newsweek that guards at Guantanamo Bay flushed pages of the Koran down toilets. The name of the source was not given and eventually Newsweek backed down on its report. In Britain journalists sometimes face the risk of imprisonment if they refuse to reveal their sources when giving evidence in a court of law. Governments obviously prefer that journalists should always give their sources but this would limit the flow of information on matters of public interest. If Woodward and Bernstein had insisted on naming Deep Throat he would not have told them what he knew. Recent revelations on the Iraq war by Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker would not have surfaced without access to sources who declined to be named. PP The growing tendency of officialdom to keep information to itself has to be countered by the persistence of investigative journalists working in the public's interests. This places a huge responsibility on journalists and their editors to act with integrity. Not all do so, but most do. Woodward and Bernstein have set a superb example: they gave their word to Mark Felt and they kept it for 32 years despite many lucrative invitations to do otherwise. It is a little ironic that Mr Felt chose to break the pact and did so with the magazine Vanity Fair rather than with the Washington Post.


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