Thursday, June 30, 2005

"Felt's leaks called hurtful to FBI"

John "Jack" McDermott, who oversaw the Watergate investigation during its most critical days as head of the FBI's Washington field office, says press leaks in the case compromised the probe, placed witnesses in jeopardy and shook the confidence of others in the bureau's ability to protect them.

Mr. McDermott, who left the FBI in 1987 after 29 years, said former Deputy Director W. Mark Felt, who has conceded being "Deep Throat," denied the "hardworking and dedicated" agents who investigated Watergate their "rightful place in history" when he leaked classified investigative reports to The Washington Post.

"Those agents were working 16 hours a day, turning over every rock they could," said Mr. McDermott, who headed the field office from October 1972 to May 1974. "And despite efforts now to portray Mr. Felt as a hero, every bit of leaked information was already in the hands of the special prosecutors.

"Everything that was leaked eventually would have come out in a normal, methodical way. Nothing was being withheld," he said. "Instead, Watergate and the difficult prosecution of a sitting president evolved into a story about the character of one man, when it should have been about the sacrifices of the dedicated agents who showed that the system could work

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