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Ziegler death whittles down Deep Throat suspects list Add to ...

One of the best-kept secrets of U.S. politics and journalism moved a step closer to revelation yesterday with news of the death of Ron Ziegler, who was the media spokesman for the ill-fated Richard Nixon White House.

Many believe Mr. Ziegler was the secret informant known as Deep Throat, who revealed to Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein that Mr. Nixon and his aides had ordered a stunning series of crimes that included spying, robbery, bribery and financial harassment of political enemies.

Mr. Woodward has said that he would reveal the identity of Deep Throat, named after a popular porn movie of the era, only after the informant's death. Yesterday, the veteran journalist remained elusive and did not return calls placed by The Globe and Mail and other media outlets.

Unless Mr. Woodward makes some sort of surprise statement to the contrary, Mr. Ziegler's death of a heart attack late Monday night at age 63 will strike one name from the long list of people who have been tipped as the famous source.

Mr. Ziegler almost certainly had direct knowledge of some of the White House crimes. In 1971, he boasted to The New York Times: "The press secretary has to go through his life, every waking hour, being informed. . . . I think I know as well as anyone else what is happening in the White House."

For his part, Mr. Ziegler said he believed Deep Throat was not an actual individual, but rather a fictional "composite" concocted by the reporters to explain a range of sources. The reporters have denied this.

Last year, former White House legal council John Dean, who served four months in prison for the cover-up, published an electronic book in which he claimed to have narrowed the list of suspects down to four.

Aside from Mr. Ziegler, Mr. Dean fingered presidential assistant Raymond Price; Pat Buchanan, who was then Mr. Nixon's speechwriter; and Steve Bull, an assistant to the president's appointment secretary.

Of the four, Mr. Dean seemed to have the most conclusive evidence against Mr. Ziegler. Only he and Mr. Buchanan would have known some of the things they revealed to Mr. Woodward, the book argued, and only Mr. Ziegler was present in Washington at the times of the meetings recounted in Mr. Woodward's and Mr. Bernstein's book, All the President's Men.

For a number of years, people believed that Central Intelligence Agency director William Colby was Deep Throat, because the agency was known to have planted spies in the White House. However, Mr. Colby's death in 1996 dispelled those rumours.

Several books and numerous television documentaries have been produced speculating on Deep Throat's identity.

The guesses have ranged from the enticing to the ridiculous, even including Diane Sawyer, the TV journalist famous for interviewing celebrities, who had a low-level job in the Nixon White House.

One top suspect is former national security adviser Henry Kissinger, whom biographers have described as a habitual gossip and leaker to the press. Mr. Kissinger, the theory goes, would have leaked the secrets in order to increase his standing.

However, Mr. Kissinger does not fully fit the description of Deep Throat that Mr. Woodward provided in his memoirs: a chain-smoking, hard-drinking former military man with intellectual proclivities.

Alexander Haig, who later became secretary of state to Ronald Reagan, has also frequently been named because of his links to Mr. Woodward. The journalist, a well-connected Republican, had earlier served briefly as an aide in the Pentagon office of Mr. Haig, a former general. Mr. Dean said he was still uncertain about Deep Throat's identity, but that he admired Mr. Ziegler regardless. Who's Deep Throat? A high-placed government official nicknamed "Deep Throat" broke the secret of the Watergate scandal to Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. The official's identity has been secret for almost 30 years, but this hasn't stopped many people from naming dozens of potential informants. Some of the top suspects: Henry Kissinger: As Richard Nixon's national security adviser, he was constantly in the White House and always in touch with the president. A gossip, he frequently leaked information to the press to improve his standing or belittle others around him. Alexander Haig: Chief of staff to Mr. Nixon during his final year in office, Mr. Haig, a retired general, would have known of the Watergate crimes. In the late 1960s, he had worked with Mr. Woodward in the military. He later became president Ronald Reagan's secretary of state. Patrick Gray: Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Mr. Gray has been named as Deep Throat in a documentary. Only he and Mr. Ziegler were in Washington at the times of the meetings described by The Post reporters. Cord Meyer: A high-placed Central Intelligence Agency operative, he has been fingered as Deep Throat by several journalists. He fits Bob Woodward's description of the informant as a chain-smoking, hard-drinking intellectual combat veteran. He died in 2001. Pat Buchanan: A speechwriter for Mr. Nixon and later a presidential candidate on the far right, Mr. Buchanan was named by John Dean because of his likely knowledge of the crimes.

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