- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 1, 2005

The No. 2 man in the Nixon-era FBI has announced that he was the “Deep Throat” who exposed key details of the Watergate scandal to The Washington Post more than three deaces ago.

W. Mark Felt, now 91, is the first credible senior-level official to come forward and claim to be the source of information used to bring down President Nixon, according to an article to be published in the July issue of Vanity Fair magazine.

The Post initially refused to comment on the report, but relented. The newspaper confirmed the magazine’s claim late yesterday, saying Mr. Felt was “the secretive source who provided information that helped unravel the Watergate scandal.”

In an interview, Ben Bradlee, former editor of The Post, noted, “The No. 2 guy at the FBI, that was a pretty good source. I knew the paper was on the right track.”

Deep Throat — named for a 1970s adult movie — was the code name of an anonymous source said to supply Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, reporters at The Post, with details of a break-in at Democratic National Committee Headquarters in the Watergate Hotel on June 17, 1972, and subsequent cover-up. Those involved in the break-in were five men working on behalf of the campaign to re-elect Mr. Nixon.

Mr. Nixon later was vilified and ultimately resigned from office two years later.

Vanity Fair says Mr. Felt — associate director of the FBI until June 1973 and now retired in California — revealed his secret identity at the urging of his two children, who became privy to the fact themselves three years ago, according to Vanity Fair.

“We’re very proud of him,” Mr. Felt’s daughter, Joan, told reporters yesterday, but she is quoted in the magazine story as saying, “Bob Woodward’s going to get all the glory for this, but we could at least make some money. … Let’s do it for the family.”

Although accounts in The Post and elsewhere said Mr. Felt was motivated to leak the break-in story because he had been passed over for the top FBI job by Mr. Nixon, his family cast their relative in heroic terms.

Grandson Nick Jones said his grandfather was “a great American hero who went well and above the call of duty at much risk to himself to save his country from a terrible injustice.”

Mr. Felt appeared in his California doorway, smiling and waving amid the lights of TV cameras. But he repeatedly denied involvement in Watergate over the years, responding to reports as they appeared. His name first surfaced in the popular press linked to Deep Throat in Washingtonian magazine as early as 1974.

In 1978, Mr. Felt was indicted and eventually convicted by the Justice Department for approving the use of illegal wiretaps on an underground political group; he was pardoned by President Reagan while the case was under appeal in 1981.

The events add up to a cultural moment of note.

“Just when the Dan Rather and Newsweek scandals were building momentum against the idea of anonymous sources, along comes the shining knight of anonymity, Deep Throat, to the rescue,” said Matthew Felling of the Center for Media and Public Affairs. “Not only does it finally create closure for the Watergate scandal, it also reminds the American public of the importance of this journalistic tool.”

Journalists intent on identifying Deep Throat have floated at least 20 names over the decades — from former Nixon speechwriter Pat Buchanan to former President George Bush, who was ambassador to the United Nations at the time. Mr. Felt’s named surfaced often.

He had a motive, according to the Washingtonian and other publications: “Nixon passed him over for the top FBI job,” noted the American Journalism Review in a 2004 story titled “Who is Deep Throat? Does It Matter?”

It mattered to The Post, though.

The original account in The Post became a book and a Hollywood movie. Watergate left a mythic legacy for Mr. Bernstein and Mr. Woodward — and fodder for pundits, hangers-on, sleuths and journalism classes intent on discovering the source’s identity.

In the aftermath, Watergate inspired more than 250 books, 2,400 articles and a half-dozen movies. The “-gate” suffix became a media fixture in its own right, attached to myriad scandals and investigations to follow. Watergate became the litmus test for wrongdoing for some.

“What’s Whitewater compared to Watergate?” actress Barbra Streisand asked in a Vanity Fair interview 11 years ago.

But the scandalous patina of Watergate has faded in public memory.

On the 25th anniversary of the break-in in 1997, an Associated Press poll revealed that more than half of respondents couldn’t remember the details of Watergate, and 62 percent said it had no impact on whether they still “trusted government.”

By the time the 30th anniversary rolled around in 2002, an ABC News poll found that 65 percent of those surveyed said they couldn’t even relate “the basic facts of Watergate” to someone else, and 59 percent said President Ford was “right” to pardon Mr. Nixon.

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