Today in History: Deep Throat’s Identity is Revealed (2005)

Washingtonian

On May 31, 2005, decades of speculation ended when W. Mark Felt’s family admitted to Vanity Fair that he was the man who helped unravel the Watergate scandal that was the cause of Richard Nixon’s resignation.

The Watergate scandal took place in the 1970s. It all started when the Nixon administration played some role in a break in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate building in Washington DC. Following that break in, with help from the media, the public learned of vast abuses of power on the part of several people very high up in the Nixon administration. These abuses included planting listening devices in the offices of political opponents and ordering investigations of groups who opposed the reelection of Richard Nixon, using agencies like the FBI and the CIA to do so.

The scandal started when five men were arrested for breaking into the Watergate office building on Jun 17, 1972. The Federal Bureau of Investigation investigated and found that there was a connection between the cash found on those men and a fund that was designated for the group that organized Richard Nixon’s re-election campaign.

W. Mark Felt. History Channel

With sources like W. Mark Felt, much of the information that would likely have not reached the public at all was released over the course of the next two years. This included the existence of tapes that Richard Nixon had created after recording conversations in the Oval Office. These tapes would prove to be Nixon’s downfall when the Supreme Court ruled that he had to release them to the FBI and special prosecutors.

The tapes would show that Nixon tried (in vain thanks to Deep Throat) to cover up and derail the investigation into the Watergate break in. In the end, his efforts would be completely in vain, as he was forced to resigned in the face of almost certain impeachment and conviction on August 9, 1974. He is the only US President to have ever resigned from office.

W. Mark Felt was Assistant Director of the FBI at the time. In the years following the Watergate scandal, and all of the leaks to the Washington Post, Felt repeatedly denied being the man behind the name Deep Throat. It was only when his family released the truth in 2005 that he finally admitted to the truth.

Watergate complex. Wikipedia

Deep Throat leaked information regarding the Watergate scandal to Bob Woodward, contacting the reporter using several cloak and dagger methods that seem straight out of a Hollywood spy thriller. When the two men wanted to meet up, Woodward would move a flowerpot, complete with a red flag, to the balcony of his apartment in Washington DC. When Felt wanted to meet up, he would circle a number of page 20 of Woodward’s copy of the New York Times.

Felt would leak information on the Watergate situation to Woodward, who would then publish it in the Post. Nobody but Woodward and Felt knew that Felt was the man behind the name Deep Throat, but Nixon and his chief of staff suspected Felt of being behind the leaks. In one of the tapes that was released to investigators, Nixon and his chief of staff talked about putting pressure on the FBI to alter their investigation. In a later conversation, the Chief of Staff informed Nixon that Felt was speaking to Woodward. They could do nothing, however, as it would only implicate them further.

The Watergate scandal was an embarrassment for the United States. With the resignation of Richard Nixon in 1974, the country was able to finally move on after almost two years of constant political scandal. The scandal played out on the pages of newspapers around the world because of the leaks given to Bob Woodward by Deep Throat, a.k.a. W. Mark Felt.

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