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WASHINGTON -- Long after the deaths of the chief players, a new book challenges some assumptions and offers new theories about Watergate, asserting for instance that President Richard M. Nixon and his aides suspected that W. Mark Felt, later revealed to be "Deep Throat," was leaking information to the press.

The book is by L. Patrick Gray III, who was acting director of the FBI from J. Edgar Hoover's death in May 1972 until April 1973, when he quit after it became clear that he had been manipulated by the Nixon White House.

The humiliation made him consider suicide, Gray's book says, but he did not want to be "a convenient dead target for Nixon and his rats."

Gray worked on the book for years before his death at 88 on July 6, 2005.

Titled "In Nixon's Web: A Year in the Crosshairs of Watergate," it was completed by his son Ed and is being published by Times Books, a publishing partnership between the New York Times and Henry Holt & Co.

In an interview from his home in Lyme, N.H., Ed Gray described his father as an intelligent but not very shrewd man whose salute-and-obey sense of duty had served him well as a Navy officer but left him adrift in what the son portrayed as a sea of sharks.

"Any mistakes he made were made in all honesty," he said.

The book asserts that the famous "smoking gun" tape recording of June 23, 1972, created a lasting misimpression.

On that tape, recorded just six days after the Watergate burglary, H.R. Haldeman, Nixon's chief of staff, is heard telling the president that the FBI is getting too close to the truth "because Gray doesn't exactly know how to control them."

Gray wrote that Haldeman had lied. "I never tried to 'control' the FBI in this or any other investigation," he wrote, recalling that he had warned Nixon that the president's top aides were interfering with the inquiry, even as he naively kept faith in the president himself.

The book says the White House learned early on that Felt, an FBI official who had wanted the job that Gray got, was a news leaker.

Attorney General Richard Kleindienst advised him in 1972 to fire Felt, Gray wrote.

"Where's all this coming from?" Gray asked.

"From John Mitchell," Kleindienst replied, referring to the former attorney general who was heading Nixon's re-election campaign. But who was Mitchell's source? "It's Roswell Gilpatric," Kleindienst said.

Gilpatric had been deputy secretary of defense under President John F. Kennedy and was close to the Kennedy family.

Kleindienst said Gilpatric, then a lawyer for Time, had learned from a magazine reporter that one of his sources was Felt. Because Gilpatric disapproved of what Felt was doing, he tipped off his acquaintance Mitchell, the book says.

Felt, 94, lives in Santa Rosa with his daughter, Joan. He retired from the FBI in early 1973. In 2005, it was revealed that he had been "Deep Throat," a chief source for the Washington Post's coverage of the Watergate affair.

Gilpatric died in 1996.

His son John, of Portsmouth, R.I., said that he found the book's account hard to believe and that the elder Gilpatric had never mentioned knowing Mitchell.

The book chips away at the images of Richard Helms, then director of central intelligence, and his deputy, Vernon Walters.

Their obituaries in 2002 credited them with resisting pressure to help in the Watergate cover-up. But the book asserts that Helms and Walters lied to Senate investigators to conceal CIA ties with Watergate conspirators E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy.

Gray wrote that he was furious when prominent senators said in 1973 that the CIA had stood up to the White House and that Walters had implicated him in the cover-up.

But Gray could hardly defend himself at the time. He had just resigned over disclosures that he had been sharing FBI files on the Watergate break-in with the White House and that he had burned papers from the White House safe of Hunt after being told by Nixon advisers that they were secret national security documents.

Investigators later determined that they were forgeries to be used in dirty tricks against the Kennedys.

In his 2007 book, "Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA," Tim Weiner, a reporter for the New York Times, wrote that Helms and Walters had gone along with the cover-up for about two weeks and had then balked. The cover-up failed because Helms "valued the CIA more than he valued Richard Nixon," Weiner wrote.

But Ed Gray maintained in the interview that the cover-up had been unraveling in any case because his father had pushed the investigation.

In 1978, L. Patrick Gray was indicted (along with Felt and another former FBI official) on charges of conspiring, in their pursuit of radicals, to violate the rights of citizens. In 1980, charges against Gray were dismissed for lack of evidence, after legal fees had nearly bankrupted him. Felt and the other defendant were convicted and fined but were pardoned by President Ronald Reagan.

Ed Gray said his father had been much too trusting during the Watergate era. "But those other guys, who were far less naive," he said of Nixon and top White House aides, "were criminals."

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