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An interview with Deborah Davis


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#1 John Simkin

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Posted 22 June 2006 - 06:41 AM

Deborah Davis is a journalist who has published articles in the New York Times, Village Voice and Ramparts. In 1979 Davis published a book about Katharine Graham (Katharine the Great). The book also looked at the connections between Philip Graham and the Central Intelligence Agency. According to Davis the owner of the Washington Post was a key figure in Operation Mockingbird, a CIA program to influence the American media. According to Davis, Cord Meyer was Mockingbird's "principal operative".

When the book was originally published in 1979 Katharine Graham persuaded the publishers William Jovanovich, to recall and pulp 20,000 copies of the book. Davis filed a breach-of- contract and damage-to-reputation suit against Jovanovich, who settled out of court with her in 1983.


(1) What is the background to the writing of Katharine the Great?

(2) The book was originally published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich in 1979. However, soon after it appeared in the shops, the book was recalled and the publishers pulped 20,000 copies of the book. Can you explain why this happened?

(3) I managed to get a copy of the first edition of your book. One can see why Ben Bradlee, the Washington Post and the CIA did not want your book published. As far as I can see, your book was the first to reveal details of Operation Mockingbird. How did you discover details of this highly secret operation?

(4) Since publishing Katharine the Great in 1979, have you discovered anymore information about Operation Mockingbird?

(5) The other explosive information in your book concerns Watergate. As you point out on page 267:

?The minor deception in the book is that only Woodward knew who Deep Throat was. Bradlee knew him, had known him far longer than Woodward. There is a possibility that Woodward had met him while working as an intelligence liaison between the Pentagon and the White House, where Deep Throat spent a lot of time, and that he considered Woodward trustworthy, or useful, and began talking to him when the time was right. It is equally likely, though, that Bradlee, who had given Woodward other sources on other stories, put them in touch after Woodward's first day on the story, when Watergate burglar James McCord said at his arraignment hearing that he had once worked for the CIA. Whether or not Bradlee provided the source, he recognized McCord's statement to the court as highly unusual: CIA employees, when caught in an illegal act, do not admit that they work for the CIA, unless that is part of the plan. McCord had no good reasons to mention the CIA at all, except, apparently, to direct wide attention to the burglary, because he had been asked to state only his present occupation, and he had not worked for the CIA for several years. What matters is not how the connection with Deep Throat was made, but why. Why did Bradlee allow Woodward to rely so heavily upon it, and ultimately, why did the leaders of the intelligence community, for whom Deep Throat spoke, want the president of the United States to fall?

Why do you think the intelligence community was trying to bring down Richard Nixon?

(6) On page 273 you name Richard Ober, the head of Operation Chaos, as Deep Throat. As you point out, Ober was the ?only man in the nation with access to classified information at the White House, the FBI, the CIA, and CRP? How did you discover that Richard Ober was Deep Throat? Was he working for Richard Helms, James Angleton or some other figure in the CIA? Was the motivation to bring down Nixon or were there other factors at work?

(7) On 20th October, 1977, Rolling Stone Magazine, published an article by Carl Bernstein entitled the CIA and the Media. Although he did not use the term Operation Mockingbird, his article describes the different ways that the CIA made use of journalists and media outlets. He surprisingly does not name Bob Woodward, Ben Bradlee or the Washington Post as being CIA assets. Do you think Bernstein knew that the Watergate investigation was being manipulated by the CIA?

(8) Katherine the Great was republished later by two small companies: National Press and the Sheridan Square Press. As a result it has received very little publicity? Did you try to get a large publisher to take the book? Do you see yourself as a victim of Operation Mockingbird?

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