In 2005, 32 years after Nixon’s resignation, it was revealed that the informant, “Deep Throat,” was Mark Felt, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) associate director at the time. Many believed that Deep Throat was merely a story concocted by the journalists as for 30 years Woodward and Bernstein refused to reveal the name of their source. Deep Throat became the biggest mystery in American journalism.
In 2005, Vanity Fair published an article identifying Felt as Deep Throat. Felt confirmed this was the case. This claim was refuted in 2005 by L. Patrick Gray, director of the FBI at the time of the scandal, in a book titled “In Nixon’s Web: Watergate and the FBI.” However, Woodward and Bernstein have since confirmed Deep Throat’s identity and provided further details of their relationship and dealings with Felt.
On June 17, 1972, Woodward and Bernstein reported exclusively on the apprehension of five men breaking into the offices of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). The men were attempting to install electronic listening devices at DNC headquarters. The journalists revealed that one of the men was a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee, Jim McCord, Jr., who was also employed in defensive security by the Nixon administration.
Following Nixon’s implication in the Watergate scandal he resigned from office in 1974.
Later, Woodward and Bernstein wrote an internationally acclaimed bestseller about the incident, “All The President’s Men,” which was later made into a movie. The book is considered a milestone in investigative journalism of recent years.
Former FBI Director Gray published a book challenging the accepted knowledge about Watergate in 2008. Gray was prosecuted for destroying documents received by him on June 28, 1972, just days after the Watergate burglary. He claims in the book that the Nixon administration in the White House manipulated him into destroying the documents.
Gray also claims that the White House knew the identity of Deep Throat, that Felt himself had wanted Gray’s position as FBI director and that Attorney-General Richard G. Kleindienst had advised him in 1972 to fire Felt. On Friday the FBI released all classified documents relating to the Watergate incident, including the personnel file of Felt, referred to as “the Vault” in the records. The files shed light on how former attorneys-general were politicized and encouraged to act to the benefit of President Nixon in trying the prevent the FBI investigation into the Watergate scandal:
It is stated in the documents that “there can be no question that the actions of former Attorneys-General Mitchell and Kleindienst served to thwart and/or impede the Bureau’s investigative effort.”
The documents also shed light on the involvement of the White House in attempting to thwart or mislead the investigation, reading: “The actions of John W. Dean at the White House and Jeb S. Magruder at the Committee to Re-elect the President were purposefully designed to mislead and thwart the Bureau’s legitimate line of inquiry. At every stage of investigation there were contrived covers placed in order to mislead the investigators.”
In the released documents it is revealed that the FBI believed Felt was deeply involved in many FBI controversies, as well as later identifying himself as Deep Throat. The documents include Felt’s FBI personnel file (67E-HQ-276576), which covers the years 1941-1978, and paperwork concerning a 1956 investigation into an extortion threat made against Felt (9-33482).
*Aydoğan Vatandaş is an investigative reporter based in New York.