Deep Throat: If It Isn't Tricia It Must Be...

In the June 1974 issue of Washingtonian Magazine, we speculated that Mark Felt was Deep Throat.

By: Jack Limpert

From the June 1974 issue of Washingtonian. Mark Felt, "Deep Throat," passed away today at the age of 95. Back in 1974, we were the first publication in the nation to guess that Mark Felt was the anonymous source for journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in their Watergate coverage. Here is the first article we wrote about it.

See also: Deeper into Deep Throat 

The best gossip in town these days is the Deep Throat guessing game. Who is the highly placed Nixon Administration source who gave so much guidance to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein's Washington Post investigation of Watergate? How many of the Deep Throat clues in Woodward and Bernstein's book, All the President's Men, can be believed?

Some insiders think Deep Throat is more than one source-that the character was invented by the authors to give readers of the book something to talk about. Post reporters are inclined to disagree—they think there was a single important source who helped unravel the story. But almost no one is willing to believe that Woodward and Bernstein are about to give away any clues that might actually lead to their most important source.

A lot of names are being bandied about. People magazine says Deep Throat was Pat Gray, FBI director from May 1972 to April 1973. Another FBI favorite is William Sullivan, an assistant FBI director fired by J. Edgar Hoover and then rehabilitated by the Nixon Administration after Hoover's death in May 1972. Much speculation centers on assistants to key White House people--how about Fred Fielding, assistant to John Dean?

Like a good detective, let's ignore all of Woodward and Bernstein's red herrings and look at motive and opportunity and method. Who wanted to knife the Nixon Administration in the back? Who had access to all the information as it was developed? Who had the savvy and the resources to use Woodward and Bernstein as the conduit?

Gray or Sullivan had access to the information.  But what's their motive? Both were Nixon people who had everything to gain by protecting the President. Unless one of them was a flaming idealist, and there is no reason to think either was, they should be eliminated from the game. Almost everyone at the White House—from Chuck Colson to Harry Dent to Robert Finch to Leonard Garment to Fred Fielding—is a possibility. The potential access is there and the motive—idealism or revenge against the Haldeman Ehrlichnun gang—is a possibility. But it would have been a very dangerous game for a key White House official to play alone—all those signals and secret meetings. Henry Peterson, the head of the justice Departments Criminal Division and the man Nixon thought was keeping the lid on the investigation, is another possibility. He had access but again it would have been a very hard game for him to play alone and there isn't much motive.

Who did have motive and opportunity and method? Who hated what Nixon was doing to him? Who had access to all the material? Who had the resources to set up a system to leak it?

The FBI, that's who. Not Gray or Sullivan, but the old-line Hoover people who were being harassed and offended and fired by Nixon and Mitchell and Gray and Sullivan. You want to take on the FBI, Mr. President? You want to shove Pat Gray down our throats? You want to tear down the organization John Edgar Hoover built over four decades? You want to let a lot of smart boys with their shirttails hanging out tell us how to do our job?

Read the February 28 and March 13 Presidential transcripts and then try someone like Mark Felt on for size. A Hoover loyalist and number-two man to Pat Gray, he had every reason and resource for leaking the Watergate story and destroying Nixon. Why would someone like Felt pick Woodward and Bernstein? Why not? Why pick someone like Jeremiah O'Leary of the Star-News who has been getting FBI leaks for years? Why not pick the last two reporters who would ever be suspected of being FBI conduits?

The story of how Woodward and Bernstein brought down the king is almost as good as the Watergate story itself; it tells you an awful lot more about how things happen in Washington. Watch this space for more on the subject.