Above the Law?

Will it never go away; will Deep Throat not peacefully fade into the sunset? It's over -- the greatest political mystery of modern times solved. But, alas, no. According to the Washington Post, Mssrs. Woodward and Bernstein, the investigative reporters who won Pulitzer prizes for bringing down the Nixon administration with the cooperation of Deep Throat, have a book coming out on July 6. These reporters are really something! I mean, I take a couple years to write a book; they have done it in a few weeks. Why would you hurry a book like this, or was it all written in advance? Did they know they were going to be surprised with the sudden disclosure that Mark Felt, the former FBI official, is Deep Throat? The same article said that Tom Hanks may play Mark Felt in a Deep Throat movie. His production company bought the rights from, yes, Mark Felt, 91 years old, suffering from dementia. It's a great heroic story, so says the press, worthy of a major film. I'm glad to see the sudden boon for the publishing industry and for new movies. If Mark Felt can take care of his family in his declining years, that's a lovely thing. But please, please, stop talking about Mark Felt as a hero -- we are sending a terrible, terrible message to the young people of America because we're telling them that they can employ any means if they think the cause is just. Think about what happened in this case. At the same time Mark Felt was breaking the law by taking secret files and giving them to reporters in the dark of night to bring down the corrupt Nixon administration -- the president, by the way, who had passed him over to be head of the FBI -- he was also ordering illegal burglaries into the homes of members of the Weathermen Underground. As Bill O'Reilly pointed out when he interviewed me, this is the supreme act of hypocrisy: breaking the law to bring down a law-breaking administration. One other note of irony: When Felt was indicted and tried for those illegal break-ins -- authorized while he was breaking the law to bring down Nixon -- who appeared for him as a character witness? Former President Nixon. Felt was convicted anyway, and Ronald Reagan pardoned him. And ironically, I was very glad at the time. But what lesson should we be learning from all of this confusion? I would hope that the overriding lesson is that the ends -- good ends, maybe -- do not justify the means. When I was sentenced to prison thirty years ago, the Watergate prosecutor said that my conviction underscored the truth that even those in high public office cannot ignore the law or break the law, no matter how noble they think their goals are. He was right. But today, even the Watergate prosecutors do not believe that. During a CNN interview hosted by Wolf Blitzer, I asked Richard Ben-Veniste, who headed up the Watergate taskforce that prosecuted me, whether he believes the ends justify the means. "Here," he said, "I think the lesson is that the perfect is the enemy of the good. Mark Felt didn't do it perfectly, but it was a good thing that that information came out." "Please don't teach that to the kids," I said. Please don't teach them that the ends justify the means. If we do that, the great moral lesson of Watergate will be lost, and we will have embraced relativistic ethics. And that will be the most tragic legacy of all from this sad chapter in American history.


Chuck Colson


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