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Deep Throat Revealed

The 2005 revelation in Vanity Fair magazine that W. Mark Felt, the No. 2 official at the FBI in 1972–73, was Woodward’s Watergate source “Deep Throat” all but ended decades of charges and speculation that the source was a composite of several sources.

Woodward’s own book, The Secret Man (Simon and Schuster, 2005) and A G-Man’s Life by Felt and his attorney John O’Connor, described Felt’s motives and how he concluded that the Nixon administration’s corruption and obstruction of justice were so ingrained that he had to go to a reporter. Because of his failing health and dementia, Felt was not able to answer some of the questions about his role in Watergate and assistance to the Woodward-Bernstein team.

Felt died in December 2008 at the age of ninety-five. At a memorial service for Felt in Santa Rosa, Calif., on January 16, 2009, Woodward recalled that Felt faced a well-organized, well-funded cover-up of Watergate by the most powerful officials in the Nixon administration, including the President himself. So, Woodward said, Felt was “a truth teller. He knew his oath of office in the end was to the people of the country and to the Constitution. He served both creatively and ably and courageously. It was the highest loyalty.”

Ed Gray writes in In Nixon’s Web that he still believes Deep Throat was a composite. Gray is the son of the late L. Patrick Gray III, who was acting director of the FBI from 1972-73 and Felt’s boss. Ed Gray cites notes at the University of Texas, which bought Woodward and Bernstein’s Watergate papers and files for $5 million, that he says attribute a meeting with Donald Santarelli, a former Justice Department official during Watergate, to Felt. This is apparently one page of typed notes for a March 24, 1973, meeting. Woodward has never said there was a meeting with Deep Throat then, and there is no such meeting described in All the President’s Men or The Secret Man, which provide the most detailed accounts of the Woodward-Felt meetings. These notes obviously are not notes of a conversation with Felt because the notes twice quote the source referring to “Felt” by name.

Stephen Mielke, an archivist at the University of Texas who oversees the Woodward-Bernstein papers, said that the original page of notes is in the Mark Felt file but “The carbon is located with the handwritten and typed notes attributed to Santarelli.” Mielke says it is likely the page was misfiled under Felt because no source was identified. Ed Gray said that Santarelli confirmed to him that he was the source behind the statements in the notes.