Mark Felt and the Current State of Leaks

Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House is a biopic about the most famous whistleblower outside of Edward Snowden, and his legacy helps contextualize the modern state of leaks



Liam Neeson as Mark Felt in "Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House." (Bob Mahoney/Sony Pictures Classics/TNS)

Sam Hookom, [email protected]

Today, FilmScene, 118 E. College, will show the biopic Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House.

The film centers on Mark Felt, played by Liam Neeson, the FBI No. 2 official and informant who, for more than 300 days, provided information to the Washington Post‘s Bob Woodward anonymously under the name Deep Throat. Watergate is the most famous example of a major political leak, and the scandal caused the first and only resignation of a U.S president, Richard Nixon.

Felt, and what his story represents, has become much more important in recent years, as other whistleblowers such as Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning break major stories, and as many government entities, such as the State Department, become the major source of information not known to the public.

University of Iowa Associate Professor Frank Durham said leaks have long played a role in politics, and right now, under the current administration, the country is in uncharted waters in terms of the information and frequency of career government officials leaking to the public to undermine the Trump administration, and one person even went as far as to leak a memo about leaking.

However, leaking is nothing new. Before the Watergate scandal, The New York Times released The Pentagon Papers after a long legal battle. The papers, Durham said, contained dirt the conduct of the Vietnam War and on Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon, and Nixon, being as paranoid as he was, fought to bury them altogether.

Andrew Sherburne, a co-founder of Filmscene, said in the “current political moment, history seems like an important guide.”

“Examining [Felt’s] role in the Watergate saga seems timely, as we are inundated with news about possible wrongdoings in our current administration and that administration’s attempt to stop the leaks,” Sherburne said.

The frequency of the leaks has skyrocketed since the 2016 election, as the State Department, EPA, Justice Department, among others, become the hotbed of information about the government.

Another practice that is now under criticism again, as it was with Woodrow and Bernstein, is the use anonymous sources. When Watergate was being reported, few took it seriously at first because of Deep Throat’s identity being kept a secret, even though not revealing an anonymous source is an ethical move.

The practice is again under scrutiny as many major networks run stories about President Trump and other top officials using unnamed sources, and many believe these stories are simply false, calling into question the authenticity of the press as a whole.

Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House

When: times vary, Friday, 1, 3:30, 6, 8:15 p.m.

Where: FilmScene, 118 E College

Admission: $6.50-$10.50

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