More on Deep Throat
Staff & wire reports
May 31, 2005
Mystery solved: Former FBI official W. Mark Felt stepped forward Tuesday as Deep Throat, the secret Washington Post source that helped bring down President Nixon during the Watergate scandal. Within hours, the paper ratified his claim. It's the last secret" of the story, said Ben Bradlee, the paper's top editor at the time the riveting political drama played out three decades ago. It tumbled out in stages during the day, first when a lawyer quoted Felt in a magazine article as having said he was the source; then when the former FBI man's family issued a statement hailing him as a "great American hero," & finally when the Post posted a story on its Web site confirming him as the secret leaker of long ago.
The paper made its announcement on its Web site after Felt, 91 & living in California, talked to a lawyer who wrote a magazine article for Vanity Fair. "The No. 2 guy from the FBI, that was a pretty good source," said Bradlee. (Related: Watergate timeline) "I knew the paper was on the right track" in its investigative stories, Bradlee said, citing the "quality of the source."
In a statement published on the Post web site, Woodward & Bernstein said, "W. Mark Felt was 'Deep Throat' & helped us immeasurably in our Watergate coverage. However, as the record shows, many other sources & officials assisted us & other reporters for the hundreds of stories that were written in The Washington Post about Watergate." Felt, the second-in-command at the FBI in the early 1970s, kept his secret even from his family for almost three decades before confiding he was Post reporter Bob Woodward's source on the Watergate scandal, according to a Vanity Fair article published Tuesday.
"I'm the guy they used to call Deep Throat," he was quoted as telling lawyer John D. O'Connor, author of the magazine article. The 91-year-old Felt, who lives in Santa Rosa, is said to be in poor mental & physical health because of a stroke. His family didn’t immediately make him available for comment, asking the news media to respect his privacy "in view of his age & health." "The family believes that my grandfather, Mark Felt Sr., is a great American hero who went well above & beyond the call of duty at much risk to himself to save his country from a horrible injustice," a family statement read by grandson Nick Jones said. "We all sincerely hope the country will see him this way as well."
The existence of Deep Throat, nicknamed for a popular X-rated movie of the early 1970s, was revealed in Woodward & Bernstein's best-selling book All the President's Men. A hit movie starring Robert Redford as Woodward, Dustin Hoffman as Bernstein & Hal Holbrook as Deep Throat was made in 1976. In the film, Holbrook's shadowy, cigarette-smoking character would meet Redford in dark parking garages & provide clues about the scandal.
The movie portrayed the cloak & dagger methods that Woodward & Deep Throat employed. When Woodward wanted a meeting, he’d position an empty flowerpot containing a red flag on his apartment balcony. When Deep Throat wanted to meet, the hands of a clock would appear written inside Woodward's New York Times.
The identity of the source has sparked endless speculation over the last three decades. Nixon chief of staff Alexander Haig, White House press aide Diane Sawyer, White House counsel John Dean & speechwriter Pat Buchanan were among those mentioned as possibilities. Felt himself was mentioned several times over the years as a candidate for Deep Throat, but he regularly denied that he was the source. "I would have done better," Felt told The Hartford Courant in 1999. "I would’ve been more effective. Deep Throat didn't exactly bring the White House crashing down, did he?"
Felt had expressed reservations in the past about revealing his identity, & about whether his actions were appropriate for an FBI man, his grandson said. According to the article, Felt once told his son, Mark Jr., that he didn’t believe being Deep Throat "was anything to be proud of...You (shouldn‘t) leak information to anyone." His family members thought otherwise, & persuaded him to talk about his role in the Watergate scandal, saying he deserves to receive accolades before his death. His daughter, Joan, argued that he could "make enough money to pay some bills, like the debt I've run up for the children's education." "As he recently told my mother, 'I guess people used to think Deep Throat was a criminal, but now they think he's a hero'," Jones said.
Woodward, who’d visited with Felt as recently as 1999, refused to confirm or deny, even to the man's family, that Felt was his source & wondered whether Felt was mentally competent to decide whether to go public after all these years, the magazine reported. Woodward & Bernstein were the first reporters to link the Nixon White House & the June 1972 break-in at the DNC Headquarters in Washington's Watergate complex. Nixon, facing almost-certain impeachment for helping to cover up the break-in, resigned in August 1974. Forty government officials & members of Nixon's re-election committee were convicted on felony charges.
In 2003, Woodward & Bernstein reached an agreement to keep their Watergate papers at the University of Texas at Austin. At the time, the pair said documents naming Deep Throat would be kept secure at an undisclosed location in Washington until the source's death. Felt was convicted in the 1970s for authorizing illegal break-ins at homes of people associated with the radical Weather Underground. He was pardoned by President Reagan in 1981.
Contributing: Steve Marshall of USATODAY.com
The Watergate scandal
A timeline of the Watergate scandal:
June 17, 1972: Five men are arrested in a break-in at the DNC headquarters at the Watergate Hotel in Washington.
June 20, 1972: Pres. Nixon & aide H.R. Haldeman discuss Watergate. Later, prosecutors find an 18-minute gap in tape of that conversation.
Sept. 15, 1972: Seven men, including two former White House aides, are indicted in Watergate break-in.
Jan. 11-30, 1973: Five of the men plead guilty to conspiracy, burglary & wiretapping. Two stand trial & are convicted.
April 30, 1973: Haldeman & Nixon aide John D. Ehrlichman resign. White House aide John Dean is fired.
July 16, 1973: Testimony before the Senate Watergate Committee reveals that all of Nixon's White House conversations were taped.
July 24, 1973: The Supreme Court rules that Nixon must provide the tapes & documents subpoenaed by special Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox.
Oct. 20, 1973: Cox refuses to compromise on the tapes & Nixon orders Attorney General Elliot Richardson to fire Cox. Richardson refuses & resigns in protest. Acting Attorney General Robert Bork fires Cox. This becomes known as the "Saturday Night Massacre."
July 24, 1974: The Supreme Court rules Nixon must hand over the tapes.
July 27-30, 1974: House Judiciary Committee approves three articles of impeachment: obstruction of justice, misuse of powers & violation of his oath of office & failure to comply with House subpoenas.
Aug. 9, 1974: Nixon resigns.
September 8, 1974: President Ford pardons Nixon.