The meaning of Mark Felt’s self-concealment

I wrote about Mark Felt:

And what are we to think about him? Was he an honorable man doing the right thing, though the right thing forced him to betray his own organization which he loved, and to live a lie for the rest of his life, in a kind of noble self-sacrifice? Or was he a weak man who gave way to the emotions of the moment and didn’t see the larger picture? I don’t know.

I left unaddressed the question of why he had to conceal the truth for the rest of his life. For one thing, his giving FBI information to Woodward and Bernstein was apparently a crime. So he could have been prosecuted if he had come forward, his FBI career and his reputation ruined. In that sense, there was nothing noble about his continuing secrecy; he was merely protecting himself. But if we assume that he had done the right—though illegal—thing, then we can also understand why he didn’t want to have to ruin his life utterly in order to do it. The alternative to coming forward and being prosecuted was to maintain his secrecy and falsely deny his involvement, which was also a burden for him to carry. Either way, he had to pay a large price for having helped reveal the truth about Watergate. Therefore, if his underlying behavior in helping the reporters was patriotic and morally right, then his subsequent false life was a noble sacrifice necessitated by his morally correct actions. But if his underlying behavior was treasonous and sneaky, then his subsequent false life was simply an extension of the same sneakiness.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at June 04, 2005 09:57 AM | Send

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