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M Felt aka Deep Throat: Hero or Villain?


Tim Gratz
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A recent study indicated that a person's perspective on Mark Helt is directly related to the person's degree of admiration or loathing of Richard Milhaus Nixon,

I submit that should not be the case.

The first question to be addressed is whether Felt committed a criminal act in providing confidential information about an ongoing FBI investigation to reporters. I could be wrong but I understand it was a crime.

Second question is: If not a crime was it otherwise unethical?

Some people argue Felt's actions were justifiable because despite his famous protestation to the contrary Richard Nixon was a crook. IMO that does not justify breaking the law any more than the national security concerns cited by Felt in authorizing illegal entries into the homes of political dissidents authorized those "black bag" jobs.

Next question is: what are the ethics of a journalist who knowingly accepts information from a source who he knows is commiting a crime in releasing the information?

Nixon may very well have been a crook. So was Mark Felt.

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A recent study indicated that a person's perspective on Mark Helt is directly related to the person's degree of admiration or loathing of Richard Milhaus Nixon,

I submit that should not be the case.

Then why insist that Felt was a crook? According to the Nixon tapes, Haldeman consulted Dean and Dean told him there was nothing illegal with someone from the FBI providing information to a journalist. There are many things that are questionable or are violations of one's professional duty that are not a crime. You Republicans are supposed to like it that way. Furthermore, if leaking info for political reasons is a crime then Hoover and Nixon should have been put away long before Watergate. Hoover leaked info to Nixon on Alger Hiss, and info on M.L. King to EVERYONE. Was he a crook? Probably. But that's how the game is played. If you read up on the Pentagon Papers, you'll see that at the same time Nixon was horrified that these secrets were being revealed, he was delighted because most of the damage was to LBJ and JFK, and that Nixon and his boys tried to orchestrate the release of the papers so that only those newspapers who released information damaging to HIM were pursued, and that those who published info the Nixon boys WANTED leaked were given a nod and a wink.

And if we're gonna go after men for leaking info, what about Gerry Ford who reported the every activity of the Warren Commission, including their discussions on whether to investigate the FBI, to De Loach and Hoover. Certainly this was a violation of confidence worse than Felt's. Felt told the truth; he knew the climate was such that he could never tell the truth or help the truth come out overtly, so he did it in a sneaky manner. I congratulate him for his efforts. Decent men owe no loyalty to criminals and liars, even if they are the BOSS. To insist otherwise is to insist that Nazi Germany was onto something.

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Pat wrote:

Then why insist that Felt was a crook?

It is not an issue of insisting. As you know, he was convicted of authorizing the illegal entry of FBI agents into the residences of suspected members of the underground. True, he was pardoned by President Reagan, but the pardon does not remove the fact that he was found guilty of commiting a felony. Thus, he WAS a crook. More so than Nixon because Nixon was never convicted of any felony, although he was PROBABLY guilty of several. But from a strictly legal standpoint, one can correctly call Felt a crook, but not Nixon.

Pat wrote:

According to the Nixon tapes, Haldeman consulted Dean and Dean told him there was nothing illegal with someone from the FBI providing information to a journalist.

Pat, I would not accept any legal opinion from John Dean of all people concerning Watergate. As you know, I am sure, it was Dean who ordered the break-in and the bugging. The wiretap was placed on the phone of DNC secretary Maxine Wells. Why there? Well, it was from that phone that a sophisticated call girl operation was being run, servicing top-level politicians. The madam of the call girl ring was named Heidi Rikan. Her housemate was a lady named Mo Biner. At the time of the break-in, Mo was engaged to--you know--John Dean. Raising the very real inference that the motivation behind the break-in may have been personal rather than political. (When Mo did marry Dean, the madam was an attendant at their wedding.) Mo had an interesting background. At one time her boyfriend was Bedford Wynne, of the family that controlled the Great Southwest Corporation, that, interestingly, has some connections to events surrounding the Kennedy assassination.

Now, Felt had to have known about which phone was bugged and about the call girl operation. Query: did Felt tell that to his friends at the Washington Post? If so, why did they not publish that information, which could have taken the Watergate investigation in an entirely different direction. And if Felt did not give that information to Woodward and Bernstein, that raises the inference that it was Felt who was trying to steer the investigation.

Felt knew he had done wrong as "Deep Throat". Why do you think he lied about it until the statute of limitations had passed?

Pat wrote:

Decent men owe no loyalty to criminals and liars, even if they are the BOSS. To insist otherwise is to insist that Nazi Germany was onto something.

Oh, Pat! Decent men owe duties to the rule of law, and that is critical. Felt was wrong to disclose confidential information re an ongoing criminal investigation to reporters (regardless of the altruism of his motive) for the exact same reason he was wrong to authorize illegal entries. It matters not that he thought Nixon a crook, any more than he justified the burglaries because he thought the underground members posed a threat to national security. What if he thought a subject of a criminal investigation was innocent? Would he be authorized to surreptitiously leak confidential investigatory material to a defense attorney?

If you try to authorize violations of law and violations of oaths (e.g. the oath Felt took upon admission to the FBI) on the basis of the pureness of the motive, what a slipperly slope you enter. So you would justify violations of the sanctity of the criminal investigative process. Would you also authorize breaking and entering if done for a noble objective? If burglary, how about murder? You see how dangerous it becomes to use noble objectives such as "outing" a crooked president (as you stated in a different thread) or protecting "national security" to justify violations of the law and oaths of office.

I submit that what brings us closer to Nazi Germany is when the rule of law is broken. Our entire constitutional system, including the bill of rights, is designed to protect ALL citizens, even those deemed undesireable or guilty by those in places of authority.

It is all part of the same cloth. You show me an FBI official willing to break his oath of office because he wants to bring down a corrupt president, and I will show you an FBI agent willing to authorize burglaries directed against people he considers terrorists.

As you know, the exclusionary rule requires the exclusion of evidence, including admissions, obtained by violations of the constitutional rights of criminals. The exclusionary rule does little for innocent Americans except arguably act as a deterrent to illegal policing. The police (including the FBI) cannot decide when to honor the rule of law by their own decision if the target is a criminal (or even just a xxxx).

If necessary, Felt could have gone to Judge Sirica, or Senator Irwin. Not to two reporters for the Washington Post. Regardless of his feelings re President Nixon.

Finally, what does it say about Ben Bradlee who authorized publication of stories he knew were based on the illegal disclosure of law enforcement investigatory materials?

No question in my mind Nixon corrupted his office. So did Mark Felt.

Edited by Tim Gratz
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Did anyone note the irony?

Woodward and Bernstein pledged to keep Felt's identity a secret until his death (a usual reporter's pledge of confidentiality to a source). Like most investigative reporters I am sure they would have been willing to go to jail to protect their source.

Most investigative reporters would protect their sources even if they felt the revelation of the source might, in that particular casem serve the public interest. They understand the importance, and the moral imperative, of honoring oaths.

And yet they dealt with a man, Mark Felt, who apparently felt no compunction against violating his sacred oath (and who might also have been violating a law in so doing).

Moreover, Felt also lied to his superior about his oath-breaking. In his memoirs, Felt wrote that Patrick Gray advised him that he might face problems because the White House believed he was leaking secrets to The Washington Post. To which (by his own memoirs) Felt told Gray: "Pat, I haven't leaked anything to anybody! They are wrong!"

Had his perfidy been discovered by Gray, he should have been summarily dismissed.

Some moral hero. And most likely Felt was violating his oath not out of great moral outrage over corruption in the White Nixon White House (as noted in the previous post Felt himself authorized illegal entries into the residences of US citizens, arguably one of the worst abuses of the Nixon White House) but rather he was simply retaliating because Nixon did not select him to replace Hoover as Director of the FBI (Felt felt he was next in line and entitled to the job).

Edited by Tim Gratz
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Well, Tim, you're so wrong on so many points I don't know where to begin. It seems you have just never gotten over one of yours being exposed for the creep he was. Sorry. Confession time: I was raised Republican and actively rooted for Nixon in 72. It was only through watching the Watergate hearings that I drifted towards the center. Even so, I rooted for Ford in 76 and voted for John Anderson in 80. As a Californian, I knew Uncle Ron for the clown that he was. I idolized Lincoln as a child, and it was very hard for me to become a Democrat, so I NEVER did. I'm independent to this day, (although I vote 80-90% Democratic).

Some of the ways in which you are wrong. 1. The abuses of Felt and the FBI against the Weather Underground etc. came as a result of pressure from The Nixon White House, and not as a result of Mark Felt being a crook. Remember the Huston Plan? I'll give Reagan some credit on this one...knowing what he knew as a result of his stint on the Rocekfeller Commission, it was probably right for him to pardon those involved 2. John Dean had a brilliant legal mind. Re-read the transcripts and see if he wasn't aware of the criminal acts he was involved in. The most knowledgeable lawyers aren't necessarily the most ethical ones. The Silent Coup and Secret Agenda scenarios are utter horsecrap, designed to please Nixon-worshippers who can't accept the truth. Dean did not order the break-in. The pressure to find dirt on O'Brien came from Colson to Magruder to Liddy. The only Watergate personality to accept the Secret Agenda is Liddy, due to his absolute hatred of Dean. It's worth remembering here that Liddy was obsessed with the idea of loyalty and would sit around watching Triumph of the Will. He is one sick puppy. Even Nixon thought so. 3. There is no statute of limitations against leaking information because, while it is a violation of trust, and a terminable offense, it is not a crime. Furthermore, there is NO SACRED OATH taken by FBI officers not to talk to the media as far as I know. By the way, what is a sacred oath? As stated, if strategically leaking info to the media is a violation of a sacred oath then Hoover and Nixon and every deceased Politician in American history is in hell right now. It's just the way the game is played. If leaking to the media is against the law, then every newspaper man in America should be rounded up and sentenced for solicitation, or some such thing. 4. If lying in one's memoirs makes one a crook, then you might as well consider just about every significant person in American history a crook, with a special spot set aside for Johnson and Nixon. 5. Show me a whistle-blower who isn't at least a little disappointed in their work situation and I'll show you a two-headed dime or something equally as rare. While one might be tempted to take from this that only whiners eating sour grapes rat out their boss, a better way to look at it is that we're virtually all whores who will NEVER bite the hand that feeds until it slaps us. You might want to watch The Insider again for background.

Just face it, Tim. Nixon was a crook who got what he deserved.

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Pat, the point is NOT whether Nixon is a crook (which is your bottom-line); the point is whether Felt is (undebateable, he was convicted) and whether law enforcement officers should disclose confidential information regarding ongoing criminal investigations, contrary to rules, merely because they think it appropriate (and then "cover up" their offense by lying to their superiors.

Let me go through yout points seriatim.

1. You argue Felt was NOT a crook because the White House pressured him to

authorize the illegal break-ins. I remember the Houston Plan, which was

rejected by the White House as I recall. Clearly Nixon approved surrepti-

tious entries, e.g., Ellsberg's physciatrist's office. But assuming arguendo

that Nixon ordered Gray or Felt to authorize the black bag jobs, that does

not make them legal and that does not excuse the criminal culpability of

Gray or Felt. Presumably, Felt had two options: 1) resign (and probably

publicly state why (THAT act would have made him a hero; or 2) follow the

crooked order of Nixon, making himself a crook. He chose the latter path.

He is therefore a crook. He cannot hide behind the Eichman defense. Or

do you think Sen. Jackson should have pardoned Eichman for killing six

million Jews because Hitler told him to do it? How about the mafioso who

whacks someone because his don orders him to do so? Is he, by your

reasoning, not a crook? Felt was as much as a crook for following crooked

orders as Nixon was for giving them. Reagan was wrong in pardoning them.

2. The point was whether it was illegal for Felt to divulge confidential investi-

gatory materials to the news media. I will check on that. We digressed re

Dean's involvement in Watergate. Pat, I would point out to you that many,

many left-oriented conspiratorialists believe there was more to the break-in

than we were led to believe. (E.g., Peter Dale Scott and Lisa Pease. In

my opinion, Colodny's book is quite persuasive.

Please tell me which of these facts (if any) you dispute:

a. The sole tap was on Maxine Well's phone.

b. The Rikan call girl ring was run from that phone.

c. Dean's fiance was the house-mate of the madam and the madam was

an attendant at Dean's wedding.

I do not have sufficient information with me to determine if the break-in was

solely a Dean plot re his fiancee's involvement with Rikan. But certainly the above

facts indicate Dean may very well have had his own agenda.

3. The point re leaking to the press, and it surprises me that you did not catch the distinction but I fault myself for not expressly articulating it, is not that it is wrong per se to be a whistle-blower, but it is wrong (and I suspect criminal) for a law enforcement officer to divulge confidential information to a reporter. Just as it would be wrong for an attorney to violate his oath and reveal a client's secrets. A different analysis presents itself if, for instance, deep throat had been a member of Nixon's staff but not his lawyer. What if "Deep Throat" had been Safire, or Haig? The implications are far different.

4. My point was not that Felt lied in his memoirs. He told the truth in his memoirs.

The point is that the #2 officer of the FBI lied to the Director of the FBI re his

improper disclosures to the press (he so admitted in his memoirs.) Usually

when one has to lie about some thing it means one has been engaged in

improper conduct.

5. I cannot necessarily disagree with your fifth point although I do suspect there

are whistle-blowers with no job complaints. I am not sure whether Felt was

really that bothered by Nixon's moral lapses. Felt was close to Hoover for

years. That may tell you something. Felt may not have been pressured to

approve the illegal entries.

But I think we can agree on one thing at least:

I am sure we agree that "The Insider" was a great movie. I am looking forward to seeing Crowe's latest.

Edited by Tim Gratz
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I would like to welcome TIM GRATZ to that elite community of punsters who see DEEP THROAT MARK FELT as the bad guy.

He joins BERNARD BARKER , CHARLES COLSON and ED NIXON in this perception.

When you are in a position of public trust and your superiors, PAT GRAY and RICHARD NIXON are committing obstruction of justice , what do you do ?

Do you impotently report your information to these criminals or do you seek other avenues?

Mr. Felt is the patriot, Mr. Gray and Mr. Nixon are the corrupt politicians.

PAT BUCHANAN, BERNARD BARKER and CHARLES COLSON are on record as stating that FELT was somehow in the wrong.

This is a democracy, based on public support, transparency and civil oversight.

When wrong doers block the wheels of justice, the right thing to do is Blow the Whistle.

The belief that office holders can do no wrong and that DEEP THROAT was somehow a criminal leads to Fascism.

Mr. Gratz believes that people in power can do no wrong, and that regulations and the chain of command are inviolable.

What a pathetic shameful and ridiculous position to take in a public forum.

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Pat, the point is NOT whether Nixon is a crook (which is your bottom-line); the point is whether Felt is (undebateable, he was convicted) and whether law enforcement officers should disclose confidential information regarding ongoing criminal investigations, contrary to rules, merely because they think it appropriate (and then "cover up" their offense by lying to their superiors.

Let me go through yout points seriatim.

1. You argue Felt was NOT a crook because the White House pressured him to

authorize the illegal break-ins. I remember the Houston Plan, which was

rejected by the White House as I recall. Clearly Nixon approved surrepti-

tious entries, e.g., Ellsberg's physciatrist's office. But assuming arguendo

that Nixon ordered Gray or Felt to authorize the black bag jobs, that does

not make them legal and that does not excuse the criminal culpability of

Gray or Felt. Presumably, Felt had two options: 1) resign (and probably

publicly state why (THAT act would have made him a hero; or 2) follow the

crooked order of Nixon, making himself a crook. He chose the latter path.

He is therefore a crook. He cannot hide behind the Eichman defense. Or

do you think Sen. Jackson should have pardoned Eichman for killing six

million Jews because Hitler told him to do it? How about the mafioso who

whacks someone because his don orders him to do so? Is he, by your

reasoning, not a crook? Felt was as much as a crook for following crooked

orders as Nixon was for giving them. Reagan was wrong in pardoning them.

You have me on the fence on this one. It's really the same as Ford's pardon of Nixon. By accepting the pardons, Felt and Nixon acknowledged their guilt, so their crimes were not excused. (Nixon was thus legally guilty even without a trial. Read Ford's book if you disagree.) On the other hand Reagan and Ford determined that justice would not be served by sending these men to jail, and that the humiliation was enough. Perhapos some minor sentence or a public apology would have been better.

2. The point was whether it was illegal for Felt to divulge confidential investi-

gatory materials to the news media. I will check on that. We digressed re

Dean's involvement in Watergate. Pat, I would point out to you that many,

many left-oriented conspiratorialists believe there was more to the break-in

than we were led to believe. (E.g., Peter Dale Scott and Lisa Pease. In

my opinion, Colodny's book is quite persuasive.

Please tell me which of these facts (if any) you dispute:

a. The sole tap was on Maxine Well's phone.

b. The Rikan call girl ring was run from that phone.

c. Dean's fiance was the house-mate of the madam and the madam was

an attendant at Dean's wedding.

I do not have sufficient information with me to determine if the break-in was

solely a Dean plot re his fiancee's involvement with Rikan. But certainly the above

facts indicate Dean may very well have had his own agenda.

McCord's book gets into the taps and by no means was Maxie Wells' phone the center of their efforts. They were after Spencer Oliver's line, whose father worked for Hughes. They bugged O'Brien but the transmitter was too low. They wanted to see how much O'Brien knew. It was a defensive operation. The Cubans were told to look for dirt connecting McGovern to Castro. But they were interested in ANY kind of dirt. It's possible they heard of a call girl ring and were trying to get that information as well. I believe a lot of the Secret Agenda theory revolves around stupid male jealousy. Mo Dean was a beautiful woman, and John Dean is a bit of a nerd. Well, she MUST have been a hooker; why else woluld she marry Dean when she could have married a macho man like Gordon Liddy? It's lame. If Mo Dean was a hooker, wouldn't her former clients have come forward braging about how they shtupped her? Find me proof that SHE was a hooker, and not that she had a friend who dabbled as a madam, and then I might believe Dean had something to do with the break-in. No, not even then. Magruder and Hunt both admit the pressure came from Colson, not Dean. Liddy tries lamely in his updated Will to show how THEY ALL are defending Dean at the expense of those terribly-wronged men Nixon and Mitchell. The man is retarded.

3. The point re leaking to the press, and it surprises me that you did not catch the distinction but I fault myself for not expressly articulating it, is not that it is wrong per se to be a whistle-blower, but it is wrong (and I suspect criminal) for a law enforcement officer to divulge confidential information to a reporter. Just as it would be wrong for an attorney to violate his oath and reveal a client's secrets. A different analysis presents itself if, for instance, deep throat had been a member of Nixon's staff but not his lawyer. What if "Deep Throat" had been Safire, or Haig? The implications are far different.

I don't believe law officers have the same relationship to an investigation as lawyers do to their clients. Information is leaked all the time, for any number of reasons. Nixon was one of the worst leakers of all time. Read the exec session transcripts of the WC or Sullivan's memoirs and you'll see that Hoover himself was responsible for the majority of leaks. Perhaps that's where Felt learned it from. On the other hand, it's important to note that DT never revealed, he only confirmed or denied. What's the harm in that?

4. My point was not that Felt lied in his memoirs. He told the truth in his memoirs.

The point is that the #2 officer of the FBI lied to the Director of the FBI re his

improper disclosures to the press (he so admitted in his memoirs.) Usually

when one has to lie about some thing it means one has been engaged in

improper conduct.

In the eyes of the FBI, it was improper conduct. I think you're right that Felt loyal to Hoover, and he knew that Hoover wouldn't approve of Nixon's control of Gray. He probably justified his actions accordingly.

5. I cannot necessarily disagree with your fifth point although I do suspect there

are whistle-blowers with no job complaints. I am not sure whether Felt was

really that bothered by Nixon's moral lapses. Felt was close to Hoover for

years. That may tell you something. Felt may not have been pressured to

approve the illegal entries.

But I think we can agree on one thing at least:

I am sure we agree that "The Insider" was a great movie. I am looking forward to seeing Crowe's latest.

Saw it last night. Rocky meets Road to Perdition.

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Tim wrote:

[...]

Next question is: what are the ethics of a journalist who knowingly accepts information from a source who he knows is commiting a crime in releasing the information?

Nixon may very well have been a crook. So was Mark Felt.

______________________

Ethics? Go with the truth as the editors and publisher see it, only thing a paper has going for it, ANY paper. Even the rag in No Name Key, Florida-- There was checks and balances. I'd say ethics forced them to publish...

You suggesting Felt should of sauntered in to the Attorney General's office and said: tell Dick I'm onto his shennanigans? John Mitchell's office? roflmao!

As for the leak, the WH including the "trickster - dickmeister", knew who did the leaking -- Mark Felt!

Jeb MacGruder was the only WH staffer who knew the TRUE seriousness of the situation! How much time did he do? The other two bit allegiance blind crooks on Nixon's staff? Wasn't there something like 35 indicted, even Attorney General John Mitchell? I don't think Felt would of got much of a hearing in J Edgar Hoover's office nor, Mitchells!

Edited by David G. Healy
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Shanet wrote:

Mr. Gratz believes that people in power can do no wrong, and that regulations and the chain of command are inviolable.

What a pathetic shameful and ridiculous position to take in a public forum

Shanet: I know you can read. DO you?

I wrote:

Felt was as much as a crook for following crooked orders as Nixon was for giving them.

And I also wrote:

Nixon corrupted his office. So did Mark Felt.

And I stated that Reagan was wrong to pardon Felt.

I have posted some of the errors that JFK made in his 1,000 days as President.

Now, Clinton was in office for eight years, and in my opinion, and that of a few others, he did a few things wrong. I won't post them. It would exhaust the resources of this forum since they would be book length. In fact, books have been written about Clinton's dereliction of duty.

So why, pray tell, do you say I think that people in power can do no wrong? I mean, you did not even limit it to Republicans!

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David G. Healy wrote:

I don't think Felt would of got much of a hearing in J Edgar Hoover's office nor, Mitchells!

I think David finally got one right. There is no doubt in my mind Felt would not have gotten much from Hoover, since Hoover died two weeks before the break-in.

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I understand Mark Felt has stated that one of the reasons why he did not come forward before was because he thought his actions might be dishonorable.

Those who take the other side of this issue seem to justify Felt's action because "Nixon was a crook". Does this mean you would justify Mark Fuhrman planting evidence to convict Simpson because he KNEW Simpson was the murderer? Not that I subscribe to this scenario, but would J. Edgar Hoover been justified in murdering JFK because he was certain JFK was a threat to national security?

Can you not see what a dangerous and slippery slope it is when you justify a violation of the law because the lawbreaker deems it necessary to expose a wrongdoer; convict a murderer; or depose a traitor?

Felt was wrong to reveal confidential investigatory materials and it matters not that he did so for what he (or others) thought was for a meritorious cause. Many of our constitutional safeguards are in fact designed to protect the GUILTY for when the rights of the guilty party are preserved, so are the rights of innocent parties.

And Felt could have gone to Judge Sirica or to Sen. Erwin. Had he gone to a judge or congressman, my analysis would be different--just as it would be different if Deep Throat had not been a law enforcement officer and had gone to reporters.

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Tim wrote:

I think David finally got one right. There is no doubt in my mind Felt would not have gotten much from Hoover, since Hoover died two weeks before the break-in.

___________________

Where you been? Hoover was murdered, wasn't he?

Can't sneak anything past you Florida rag weekend supplement writers, you sure catch on fast -- So, when might we see something, anything original from you? The FY-del 'did it' stuff, is getting boring.

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Assume LHO actually killed JFK (I know it is hard but play along with me here).

Certainly the murder of JFK was an act more foul and heinous than any of Nixon's darkest deeds.

So if LHO HAD killed JFK, was Ruby a hero who deserved a "Get Out of Jail Free" card? Of course not.

Even the vilest of criminals deserves due process of law. That is why the jury convicted Ruby.

So I would ask Pat, who I am sure would not have approved the actual assassination of Richard Nixon as a threat to our democracy, what is the most extreme extra-legal step you would justify to "get" Nixon? Does it stop at subversion of the law enforcement process?

You see my point: it is dangerous to start down the road of justifying illegal actions merely because they may serve a good, even an important, cause.

One of the sins of the Nixon White House was the approval of extra-legal actions in the interest of national security (at least as he saw it). Those who (rightly) opposed the abuses of the Nixon White House ought not approve such abuses merely because they were directed at Nixon.

One of the reasons our judicial system works is that it does not allow anyone, even the highest ranking government official, to "take the law into his own hands" and it protects the rights of the most heinous criminal with as much vigor as it protects the most saintly citizen. Felt did wrong, and even he knew it.

Edited by Tim Gratz
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