The Secret Man Summary
5 min read ⌚
The Story of Watergate’s Deep Throat
There is hardly anyone who does not know about or has not heard of the Watergate scandal.
Before it happened, Bob Woodward had failed big time in his first attempt to become a Washington Post reporter. And little did he know then that he was going to become an “agent” to a “spymaster” like Mark Felt.
This book answers many of the unanswered questions regarding Watergate.
So, let’s dive into it.
Who Should Read “The Secret Man”? And Why?
It is recommended to anyone who has even the slightest interest in the Watergate scandal. To anyone who wants to find out something more about the mysterious Deep Throat, and his relationship with Bob Woodward. And especially to the ones who want to get to know the participants in the Watergate scandal better.
Or, simply, to anyone who likes an enthralling book from a New York Times Bestselling Author.
About Bob Woodward
Bob Woodward is a synonym for American investigative journalism, having covered the Watergate scandal, together with colleague Carl Bernstein. Bob Woodward has worked as a reporter for The Washington Post since 1971 and is an associate editor there at the moment. His and Carl Bernstein’s work was called “maybe the single greatest reporting effort of all time”.
Bob Woodward has written 18 best-selling books on American politics. One of them is his account of the Bush Administration’s decision to go to war in Iraq.
“The Secret Man Summary”
Who could say that only one moment can change one’s life? For Bob Woodward, the young Navy lieutenant, it was the accidental meeting he had with W. Mark Felt, the FBI assistant director, in the early 70s in the White House.
That day Woodward received an advice from this unknown, at that time, a man which made him fight for what he wanted in his life. After that, they stayed in touch, but he couldn’t imagine that his relationship with this man would make a change in the political history of the US.
So, do you want to know how everything began?
It all began with Woodward’s interview in The Washington Post after he decided to try himself as a reporter. He was given a two-week trial, but as he didn’t have any experience in this field, he didn’t get the job.
Instead, he was offered a job at The Montgomery Country Sentinel where he wrote few top-selling reports which gave him back his place at the Post.
And this was only the beginning.
Actually, Woodward was one of the eight reporters designated to report on a break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters when five men were arrested.
Those men were thought to be aligned with President Nixon, and their job was to record the conversations of political opponents and people of whom Nixon was suspicious. This event is known as the Watergate scandal.
Wanting to know more about this event, Woodward called his FBI friend, Felt, who started leaking some intel to him. But he had one request – to keep everything secret.
You might be wondering why Felt was doing all of that.
As a matter of fact, he was doing it because he thought that he was the only person that could save the FBI from being put in jeopardy. Also, he felt responsible to do something about this, because the person that took the case over, L. Patrick Gray, was actually a political ally to the president.
But there was one problem.
Even though Felt was given a nickname, Deep Throat, his identity was about to be revealed a couple of times. Fortunately, when Nixon found out about Felt, in 1972, he was too afraid to do anything because Felt could reveal some powerful information about him.
A few years later, when he was giving testimony about FBI break-ins, he was directly asked by one of the jurors if he was Deep Throat. That was the moment when he was saved by the assistant attorney, Stanley Pottinger, who dropped out the question.
He was also about to be exposed in 1980, when Richard Cohen, a columnist for Firebrand Post, informed Woodward that he would reveal Felt as his source. Nevertheless, Woodward stopped him by denying the truth.
Unfortunately, in 1980, Felt was found guilty of authorizing criminal actions against the Weathermen, a fictive group, but was later pardoned by the President. After this, Felt and Woodward stopped their communication until 2000, when they finally met again. But, at that time, Felt had already lost his memory and didn’t remember anything.
However, at the end, their secret was revealed in 2005, when Felt’s attorney gave this information to Vanity Fair magazine. In the article, they freed the Post from any responsibility.
Key Lessons from “The Secret Man”
1. A complete stranger can change your life
2. It’s all about the money
3. The truth comes out eventually
A complete stranger can change your life
When Bob Woodward got to the White House and met Felt, in 1970, he was going through a period when he was questioning everything about his life. But before entering there, he didn’t know that this unknown man, and the words “follow your heart” that he heard from him, would change his life, and resolve his life dilemmas.
At that moment, he didn’t know how important this meeting, and this gentleman, would be for him.
It’s all about the money
Felt was of great importance for Woodward’s report on the Watergate scandal. He was giving him information that not many people knew. But sometimes Felt was giving him only some keywords, and then he needed to follow those words to find new proof. He knew that when it came to politicians, it was all about the money, and the power. That’s why he advised Woodward to follow the money flow.
Even though sometimes the FBI was revealing information before Woodward did, Felt believed in his mission to stop the FBI from being politically compromised.
The truth comes out eventually
Eventually, Felt was the one accused of authorizing criminal activities against some fictional group. But, luckily, his innocence was recognized and he was saved by President Reagan from being sentenced.
And as every secret is revealed sooner or later, every truth comes to the surface after some time. So, 20 years after the Watergate scandal, the truth about Deep Throat was exposed in the Vanity Fair magazine.
“The Secret Man” QuotesThere is probably no period in history about which we know so much, no presidency that has been on the autopsy table to have every part dissected and rummaged through so entirely. Click To Tweet I am disappointed and a little angry at both myself and him for never digging out a more exacting explanation, a clearer statement of his reasoning and motivation. Click To Tweet The law and the rules had been set aside and subverted. Mark Felt was driven to expose what was going on. Click To Tweet He was careful and protective of himself - remarkably so. Or perhaps he calibrated it just right. He got the story out without exposing himself. Click To Tweet It was essential that we not break faith with Felt, nor violate the journalistic principle of protecting the conﬁdentiality of a source. Click To Tweet
Our Critical Review
“The Secret Man” gives us more information about the Watergate scandal, as well as the ongoing developments at the time. However, the book does seem a bit short, rushed, not that insightful, and at moments incomplete. The readers are eager to find out a lot more about Deep Throat.
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