Last week the identity of “Deep Throat” was revealed. The secret source had helped two Washington Post reporters investigate Watergate, coverage that in the end was instrumental in President Richard Nixon’s impending impeachment and, ultimately, his resignation.
Even though the source was instrumental in what evolved into one of the largest and most fascinating stories in media history, his identity was known only to himself, the two reporters covering the story, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, and their editor at the Post, Ben Bradley.
It is astounding that the secrets surrounding the Watergate scandal were kept for 30 years, especially when the gravity of the story is considered. If it were up to the U.S. government, journalists would no longer give such guarantees of anonymity to potential sources. Several journalists are already being pressured to reveal their sources, a technique even Nixon — a man who was notoriously paranoid about press coverage — shyed away from.
It is doubtful that the Watergate scandal would be covered in the same matter today. Scandals ranging from the absence of WMD in Iraq, to secret agreements to go to war and treatment of prisoners, to voter fraud during the 2000 presidential election have haunted the Bush administration. The Watergate scandal seems almost trivial in comparison.
Yet the Bush administration’s scandals simply faded away because the administration successfully stonewalled media coverage. While clear mistakes were made, not a single high-ranking official of the Bush administration has been held — or held themselves — accountable.
The same administration that gave us the Patriot Act, with its unprecedented access to personal data of citizens, is also the most secretive in recent history, even more so than the secretive Nixon administration.
This time around a “Deep Throat”-like figure seems unlikely as the administration has successfully intimidated the press as well as those who could potentially leak sensitive information. Even those that make grave mistakes are allowed to remain in their positions of power or are even promoted. This is hardly good news when the future of the country is at stake, but there is no indication that “business as usual” will change anytime soon.