March 5, 2024
Deep Throat Legacy

Deep Throat and his Legacy

In the pre-dawn hours of June 17, 1972, a security guard called police officers to the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. He had discovered a taped-open door. Once inside, the officers found and arrested five males in a highly unusual burglary.

The burglary was unusual not only because it was inside the offices of the Democratic National Committee, but also because the men had uncommon burgling gear. In addition to standard lock-picks, they held: $2300 in hundred-dollar bills; a walkie-talkie; a police radio scanner; cameras with 40 rolls of film; and sophisticated covert recording devices. Evidently, they intended to eavesdrop on the Democratic organizers.

Furthermore, the men seemed to have ties to the White House. At least one had been a Central Intelligence Agency employee, and two carried notebooks with a telephone number accompanied by the inscriptions “W. House” and “W.H.”

The Watergate Hotel scandal immediately attracted media attention. Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein covered the story for two years. Their investigative reporting contributed to implicating Nixon and his associates of crimes far beyond burglarizing the DNC. It became evident that Nixon’s staff had also: authorized campaign fraud; ordered political espionage and sabotage; created improper tax audits; conducted large-scale illegal wiretapping; and maintained secret funds (laundered in Mexico!) to pay off the men involved in break-ins.

But how did these young reporters, just embarking on their careers, gain access to top- secret Nixon-incriminating information? Woodward and Bernstein claimed that their journalistic advantage came from a single anonymous informant, whom their editor dubbed “Deep Throat”. But they vowed to not reveal their informant’s identity until he consented or passed away.

Thus, for thirty years Americans pondered the mystery of Deep Throat. Hundreds of theories were put forth, and several were widely considered credible. One leading candidate was Nixon’s White House Associate Counsel Fred Fielding, who had obvious close connections to the uncovered information. He also seemed to be as high-level as Deep Throat; each obtained information before the FBI was privy. Another candidate was Diane Sawyer. She’d been hired by Nixon’s press secretary, and one Nixon supporter made an odd deathbed “confession” revealing Sawyer as the informant. George H. W. Bush, Henry Kissinger, and Pat Buchanan also made the list. And although the journalists claimed to have had a single source, some speculators suggested that Deep Throat was really a composite of multiple informants.

At last, on May 31, 2005, Deep Throat publicly revealed his identity. Vanity Fair magazine revealed online that former Deputy Director of the FBI William Mark Felt, Sr., 91 years old, was the secret Watergate whistleblower. Later that day, Woodward and Bernstein’s former managing editor confirmed the claim. A few days later, the Washington Post ran an article by Bob Woodward. Therein he described his pre-Watergate relationship with W. Mark Felt. Apparently, the two first met by chance in a White House waiting room, and Woodward kept Felt’s business card. Woodward consulted with Felt even before the Watergate scandal.

Felt was instrumental in the Watergate scandal being understood. His information leaks exposed many misdeeds of Richard Nixon and members of his administration, ultimately bringing the first US presidential resignation. Administration members receiving prison terms included G. Gordon Liddy, who masterminded the first Watergate break-in; White House Chief of Staff H. R. Haldeman; chief counsel Charles Colson; and advisers John Ehrlichman and Egil Krogh.

Felt’s leaking of information also changed the face of national politics. The Senate and House had elections shortly after the Watergate scandal was publicized. Voters were now thoroughly disillusioned with Nixon’s party, and they elected Democrats in large numbers. The Democrats gained five seats in the Senate and a significant forty-nine in the House of Representatives.

As of 2007, Felt was residing in Santa Rosa, California.