Mark Felt Claims to Be Deep Throat: Part II

As a supplement to the previous post, it’s worth highlighting various sources that had suggested Mark Felt’s identity.

James Mann, “Deep Throat: An Institutional Analysis,” Atlantic Monthly, May 1992

Even though Mann focused on bureaucratic interests, he noted:

As I said at the outset, I didn’t know who Deep Throat was. I know from conversation with Bob Woodward at the time only that he was from the FBI.

He could well have been Mark Felt, who admitted that he harbored ambitions to be the FBI director — not only at the time of Hoover’s death but also in the spring of 1973, when Gray’s nomination as permanent director failed to win confirmation and Nixon named William Ruckelshaus acting director. Felt was known in Washington as a person willing to talk to the press. He has denied that he was Deep Throat. “I never leaked information to Woodward and Bernstein or to anyone else!” he wrote in his 1979 book. Felt retired from the FBI in 1973, not long after Ruckelshaus’s appointment.

Mann quoted these telling lines from Felt’s 1979 memoir, The FBI Pyramid from the Inside:

“Look,” I told [L. Patrick] Gray, “the reputation of the FBI is at stake…. We can’t delay the Ogarrio interview any longer! I hate to make this sound like an ultimatum, but unless we get a request in writing from [CIA] Director Helms to forego the Ogarrio interview, we’re going ahead anyway….

“That’s not all,” I went on. “We must do something about the complete lack of cooperation from John Dean and the Committee to Reelect the President. It’s obvious they’re holding back — delaying and leading us astray in every way they can….


In fact, no one could have stopped the driving force of the investigation without an explosion in the Bureau — not even J. Edgar Hoover. For me, as well as for all the Agents who were involved, it had become a question of our integrity. We were under attack for dragging our feet and as professional law enforcement officers we were determined to go on.

Mann concluded that, “for a senior FBI official like Deep Throat, talking to Woodward and the Post about Watergate was a way to fend off White House interference with the investigation.”

David Daley, “Boys at Camp May Have Uncovered ‘Deep Throat,'” Hartford Courant, July 28, 1999 (The link is to a Slate summary; the article is offline)

Daley reported:

Chase Culeman-Beckman, 19, of Port Chester, N.Y., says Carl Bernstein’s son, Jacob, let slip the identity of Deep Throat when the boys attended a day camp in 1988.

The name: W. Mark Felt.


Culeman-Beckman said the young Bernstein told him the information came straight from his dad.

“He told me, I’m 100 percent sure that Deep Throat was Mark Felt. He’s someone in the FBI,’ ” Culeman-Beckman said.

There were denials from all corners yesterday.

“No, it’s not me,” said Felt, now 86 and living in California. “I would have done better. I would have been more effective. Deep Throat didn’t exactly bring the White House crashing down, did he?”

Carl Bernstein laughed the story away, and said he didn’t have time to call his son to ask him about it. “I hate to ruin your story, but Jacob Bernstein has not a clue as to the identity of Deep Throat. Bob and I have been wise enough never to tell our wives, and we’ve certainly never told our children.”

Bernstein would not rule out Felt as a candidate, however.

Ronald Kessler, The Bureau: The Secret History of the FBI, 2002

Kessler hit the target. His book recounts a “mysterious meeting between Bob Woodward and W. Mark Felt suggesting that the former FBI official was Deep Throat.” I haven’t read it, but according to a 2002 Washington Times article, discussed by Timothy Noah:

In the summer of 1999, [Bob] Woodward showed up unexpectedly at the home of Felt’s daughter, Joan, in Santa Rosa, California, north of San Francisco, and took him to lunch, Joan Felt, who was taking care of him at her home, told me.

She recalled that Woodward made his appearance just after a mini-controversy broke in the press late July 1999 about whether Bernstein had told his then-wife, Nora Ephron, that Felt was Deep Throat. Woodward had been interviewing former FBI officials for a book he was writing on Watergate.

However, now confused because of the effects of a stroke, Felt was in no shape to provide credible information. Joan said her father greeted Woodward like an old friend, and their mysterious meeting appeared to be more of a celebration than an interview, lending support to the notion that Felt was, in fact, Deep Throat.

“Woodward just showed up at the door and said he was in the area,” Joan Felt said. “He came in a white limousine, which parked at a schoolyard about 10 blocks away. He walked to the house. He asked if it was OK to have a martini with my father at lunch, and I said it would be fine.”

This seems like the August 1999 story with which John O’Connor begins his Vanity Fair piece.

Postscript: In 2003, students at the University of Illinois claimed to have solved the mystery– but they selected Fred Fielding. Oh well.

Update: The Washington Post responds in the affirmative:

Washington Post Confirms Felt Is ‘Deep Throat’

The Washington Post today confirmed that W. Mark Felt, a former number-two official at the FBI, was “Deep Throat,” the secretive source who provided information that helped unravel the Watergate scandal in the early 1970s and contributed to the resignation of president Richard M. Nixon.

The confirmation came from Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the two Washington Post reporters who broke the Watergate story, and their former top editor, Benjamin C. Bradlee. The three spoke after Felt’s family and Vanity Fair magazine identified the 91-year-old Felt, now a retiree in California, as the long-anonymous source who provided crucial guidance for some of the newspaper’s groundbreaking Watergate stories.

The Vanity Fair story said Felt had admitted his “historic, anonymous role” following years of denial.

In a statement today, Woodward and Bernstein said, “W. Mark Felt was ‘Deep Throat’ and helped us immeasurably in our Watergate coverage. 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.”

Thanks to Anderson for the tip.

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Robert Garcia Tagorda
About Robert Garcia Tagorda
Robert blogged prolifically at OTB from November 2004 to August 2005, when career demands took him in a different direction. He graduated summa cum laude from Claremont McKenna College with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics and earned his Master in Public Policy from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.


  1. Anderson says:
  2. Anderson says:

    And btw, you can’t really say it was such a mistake not making him FBI director, given his willingness to leak. I’m all for busting Nixon & using leaks, but I can see not wanting such a character type at the head of FBI.

  3. I’ve wanted to know the name of Deep Throat for years, and it’s now strangely anticlimactic.

  4. One other thing: how long before the press uses this to underline the importance of unnamed sources?

  5. dw says:

    One other thing: how long before the press uses this to underline the importance of unnamed sources?

    They have for years. The difference between then and now is that Woodward and Bernstein checked and cross-checked all the information Felt was giving them.

    Fact-checking has been sorely lacking in modern journalism. Lots of reasons — speed of news and short deadlines, media outlets slashing fact-checkers out of their budgets over the last 20 years, j-schools falling down on the job of training up reporters.

    A good set of fact checkers wouldn’t have let the Rather-gate story go to air without some confirmation from other sources. Ditto the Newsweek article. CBS and Newsweek cut those positions years ago, and they paid for it painfully.

  6. Spaceman says:

    Like who really cares at this point.

  7. reliapundit says:

    how and why did a dep director of the fbi – and a jedgar hoover protege – get access to all the inside dirt on tricky dick? was the fbi SPYING on the white house? if so – WHY? and was it legal?

  8. jedgar says:

    reliapundit: yep, the fbi watched everything. As LBJ said he’d rather have had me in the tent pissing out than outside pissing in. Remember we got our start in the Palmer raids of the twenties. Before that we couldn’t even carry guns. But we better than some. That stupid gunner joe mccarthy really fouled up the investigation of commies in government. Made me look liberal even though I fingered MLK. Of course gunner joe was a commie, his whole purpose was to sow confusion and create anti-anti communism. That’s why the Army and Tom Watson Jr (IBM) went after him.) McCarthy was turned by Burgess, blackmailed for his sexual peculiarities and Cohn kept him happy. Of course I liked a pretty skirt myself, but my driver never turned left because 3 rights were better. But most of the guys are the far right were useful idiots of the commie underground. Still are. Look how they’ve successfully silenced any criticism that might help in Iraq. They want us to fail.