May 31, 2005 -- Now that it has been confirmed that W. Mark Felt Jr. is indeed "Deep Throat," his lasting legacy may simply be as "the most famous anonymous person in U.S. history," as Vanity Fair reporter John D. O'Connor calls him.
Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein used Deep Throat as a key source to the Watergate scandal that led to President Richard Nixon's resignation in 1974.
Woodward, Bernstein and former editor Ben Bradlee confirmed on the Washington Post Web site late this afternoon that Felt is Deep Throat.
"W. Mark Felt was 'Deep Throat' and helped us immeasurably in our Watergate coverage," Woodward and Bernstein said in a statement. "However, as the record shows, many other sources and officials assisted us and other reporters for the hundreds of stories that were written in The Washington Post about Watergate"
The two reporters had agreed not to identify Deep Throat until after his death. Felt's family came forward after the Vanity Fair article was released to say Felt had admitted he was in fact the notorious source.
Many of the details of Felt's life would not seem extraordinary, except for the new revelation about his role in exposing the Watergate scandal.
Felt was born in 1913 in Twin Falls, Idaho, in 1913. According to Vanity Fair, he was an outgoing, ambitious man raised in "modest circumstances." He graduated from the University of Idaho and became the head of his fraternity. From there he went to George Washington University Law School and married a fellow Idaho graduate, Audrey Robinson.
Felt, 91, joined the FBI in 1942 and worked his way up to become the bureau's acting associate director when Nixon was in the White House. He became the FBI's No. 2 man in the '70s.
His ascent up the ranks of the FBI began in 1962 when he was named second in command of the FBI's training division after a successful turn at stifling Kansas City's mafia. Felt's succinct style appealed to FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. "In a move to rein in his power-seeking head of domestic intelligence, William C. Sullivan, Hoover promoted Felt to a newly created position overseeing Sullivan, vaulting Felt to prominence," O'Connor writes in Vanity Fair.
In their book "All the President's Men," Woodward and Bernstein described Deep Throat as a man "aware of his own weaknesses, he readily conceded his flaws. … He could be rowdy, drink too much, overreach. He was not good at concealing his feelings, hardly ideal for a man in his position."
In 1980, Felt was convicted of conspiracy to violate civil rights for his admitted role in arranging illegal break-ins, burglaries and other measures against friends and relatives of fugitive members of the Weather Underground, a leftist domestic terrorist organization.
President Reagan pardoned him in 1981, along with Edward S. Miller, former chief of the FBI's intelligence division.
Felt had long been considered one of several government figures who might have been Deep Throat.
In a 1992 article in Atlantic Monthly, James Mann, managing editor at the Post at the time of Watergate, brought a great deal of evidence together that pointed to Felt at being Deep Throat. He argued that the information Deep Throat gave Woodward could only have come from FBI files. He also said Felt was bitter at having been passed over for the director general position.
Nevertheless, Felt had consistently denied being Deep Throat until the Vanity Fair article. O'Connor told ABC News in an interview that Felt had for years thought he was a dishonorable man for talking to Woodward.
"Mark wants the public respect, and wants to be known as a good man," O'Connor said. "He's very proud of the bureau, he's very proud of the FBI. He now knows he is a hero."