On Dec. 4, when we called on John “Jack” McDermott, who supervised the Watergate investigation as special agent in charge (SAC) of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, he was awaiting a scheduled visit from a Hollywood screenwriter.
The big question now is whether Hollywood will listen.
“Tom Hanks has already paid Mark Felt’s family for the rights to write the screenplay on ‘Deep Throat,’ and I can only surmise that they will only be willing to proceed with this if Hanks were planning on projecting Felt in a heroic manner. You don’t make too many films about the devil,” Mr. McDermott tells Inside the Beltway.
“Our aim is to see if we can inject some degree of perspective in this thing,” he says. “So I plan to accommodate them by making myself available for the sole purpose to get the proper slant on this thing — projected in a way consistent with accuracy. You try to save what you can — keep this from becoming historic revisionism.”
Mr. McDermott makes no secret of his disdain for former FBI Deputy Director W. Mark Felt, who after decades of secrecy has conceded to being “Deep Throat.” The retired SAC has charged that Mr. Felt’s repeated leaks to the press not only compromised the Watergate probe, but placed witnesses in jeopardy.
“[A]ll other arguments seeking to justify Felt’s actions are trash,” says Mr. McDermott, handing this column on Dec. 4 a three-page, unpublished summary he has written surrounding Mr. Felt’s secret role in Watergate.
“Felt was the bureau’s Benedict Arnold,” Mr. McDermott opines. “Having been entrusted with the highest levels of military command by [Gen. George] Washington and his staff, Arnold betrayed his oath, his country and his fellow citizen-soldiers to pursue his own ambitions. Felt did no less to the bureau and his fellow agents.
“Let’s not fool ourselves,” he says. “The bureau’s reputation for faithfulness and unselfish devotion to duty has been seriously diminished by this foul episode.”
Mr. McDermott acknowledges having “long admired most of Tom Hanks’ work product,” however, the retired SAC is concerned that the Hollywood actor and director is “sold” on a belief that “Deep Throat” is a champion of truth that otherwise would have been suppressed, rather than a cowardly bushwhacker, disloyal to his fellow agents and his oath of office.”
He concludes that “some have called Felt a hero; but heroes don’t lurk in the shadows for 33 years. [. . .] The man is without honor.”
Mr. McDermott retired in September 1979 as the FBI’s deputy associate director.