Deep Throat: Former top FBI official Mark Felt is

Beth Gorham - Canadian Press

WASHINGTON -- A former top FBI official has broken a 30-year silence that lasted through seven presidencies, revealing he's the notorious secret source nicknamed Deep Throat who helped two young reporters break the Watergate scandal that toppled then-president Richard Nixon.

Mark Felt, 91, finally told a close friend and his family in 2002, but was reluctant to go public until his children convinced him that he deserved recognition and should make some money from the story, lawyer John O'Connor reveals in the July issue of Vanity Fair magazine.

The Washington Post's Bob Woodward, who unravelled the Watergate story with Carl Bernstein and inspired a generation of investigative journalists, confirmed Felt's identity late Tuesday. Felt helped the newspaper at a time of tense relations between the White House and the FBI hierarchy after the death of former director J. Edgar Hoover, said Woodward.

It's a shadowy tale of political espionage that earned Woodward and Bernstein a Pulitzer Prize, became a bestseller called All the President's Men, and spawned a popular movie starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman. In the film, Redford meets frequently in a parking garage with a mysterious man, played by Hal Holbrook, to pursue what initially seemed like a small-time burglary of a Democratic National Committee office in June 1972.

Nixon was re-elected that November. But the trail of the Watergate break-in, aided by Deep Throat, eventually led to the White House. Nixon's fate was sealed with the release of tapes outlining his plots to spy on Democratic rivals and then cover it up. He resigned in August 1974.

Felt was the No. 2 man at the FBI at the time, apparently angry that he wasn't named to replace Hoover and upset that the Watergate investigation was stalled by the CIA and the White House.

Speculation over the years, including Nixon's, often centred on him as the source, nicknamed for the famous porn movie from the early 1970s.

O'Connor, who met Felt's grandson Nick Jones in 2002, was encouraged by the family to meet with the retired agent and perhaps broker a deal with Woodward to go public.

"They were beginning to realize that it might make sense to enlist someone from the outside to help him tell his story his way before he passed away, unheralded and forgotten," O'Connor, a lawyer based in San Francisco, writes in the Vanity Fair issue due out next week.

"He was particularly concerned about how bureau personnel, then and now, had come to regard Deep Throat. He seemed to be struggling inside with whether he would be seen as a decent man or a turncoat ... Nevertheless, the more we talked, the more forthright Felt became. On several occasions, he confided to me: "I'm the guy they used to call Deep Throat."

The article details Felt's views of what he did, telling his daughter Joan at one point that he wasn't trying to bring down Nixon but was "only doing his duty."

"I don't think (being Deep Throat) was anything to be proud of," he told his son Mark Jr. "You should not leak information to anyone."

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