William Mark Felt was born in Twin Falls, Idaho, on 17th August, 1913. After graduating from the University of Idaho in 1935 he worked for James Pope, the Democratic senator for Idaho. Pope lost his seat after discovering details of corruption concerning arms dealings during the First World War.
Felt studied at the George Washington University Law School at night and joined the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1942. He worked at FBI headquarters for several years. He was also stationed at a number of field offices before being appointed head of FBI's Inspection Division in 1964.
By the early 1970s Felt was third in the FBI hierarchy after J. Edgar Hoover and William Sullivan. When Hoover died in May 1972, Felt expected to become the new director of the FBI (Sullivan had left the FBI in 1971). However, Richard Nixon decided to appoint an old friend, L. Patrick Gray, to the post.
Charles Nuzum was placed in charge of the FBI investigation into Watergate. However, as associate director, it was Felt's responsibility to compile all the information that came from from all FBI agents before it was sent to L. Patrick Gray.
On 19th October, 1972, White House Chief of Staff H. R. Haldeman told Nixon a secret source had identified Felt as someone who was leaking information about Watergate to the press. Nixon considered sacking Felt but Haldeman urged caution: "He knows everything that`s to be known in the FBI. He has access to absolutely everything... If we move on him, he'll go out and unload everything."
L. Patrick Gray was forced to resign on 27th April, 1973, after the disclosure that he destroyed papers from the White House safe of E. Howard Hunt, the former CIA agent who had organized the Watergate break-in. Felt now became deputy director under William Ruckelshaus. Felt left the FBI in June 1973.
During the Watergate Scandal some people speculated that Mark Felt was Deep Throat. "It was not I and it is not I," Felt told Washingtonian magazine in 1974. In a press conference in August 1976 Felt denied once again being Deep Throat. He added that he would admit it if it was true as he thought it would have been his moral duty to remove a corrupt politician from power. However, he said, it was not possible to take credit for something he did not do.
In 1979 Felt published his autobiography, The FBI Pyramid: Inside the FBI. He once again denied he was Deep Throat: "I was supposed to be jealous of Gray for having received the appointment as Acting Director instead of myself. They felt that my high position in the FBI gave me access to all the Watergate information and that I was releasing it to Woodward and Bernstein in an effort to discredit Gray so that he would be removed and I would have another chance at the job. Then there were those frequent instances when I had been much less than cooperative in responding to requests from the White House which I felt were improper. I suppose the White House staff had me tagged as an insubordinate. It is true I would like to have been appointed FBI director... but I never leaked information to Woodward and Bernstein or anyone else!"
The FBI Pyramid: Inside the FBI was co-written with Ralph de Toledano. He told Felt that the book would sell more copies if he admitted to being Deep Throat. Toledano later claimed: "Felt swore to me that he was not Deep Throat, that he had never leaked information to the Woodward-Bernstein team or anyone else. The book was published and bombed."
In 1980 Felt and Edward S. Miller were charged with conspiring to violate the constitutional rights of Americans by authorising illegal break-ins and wire taps of people connected to suspected domestic bombers. This related to the investigation of the terrorist group, the Weather Underground. Richard Nixon, who had encouraged the FBI to destroy the group that had planted bombs at the Capitol, the Pentagon, and the State Department, appeared as a defense witness during the trial.
Felt and Miller were convicted by a jury on November 6, 1980. Although the charge carried a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, Felt was fined $5,000 (Miller was fined $3,500). President Ronald Reagan pardoned both on 15th April, 1981. The president said they had "acted on high principle to bring an end to the terrorism that was threatening our nation."
Several writers have suggested that Mark Felt was Deep Throat. This includes Ronald Kessler (The Bureau: The Secret History of the FBI), James Mann (Atlantic Monthly) and Jack Limpert (Washingtonian). The first person to provide any real evidence that Felt was Deep Throat was Chase Culeman-Beckman. The 17 year old exposed Felt in high-school history paper in 1999. He revealed how as a 8 year old he was told Deep Throat’s identity by Jacob Bernstein, the son of Carl Bernstein. Culeman-Beckman's history teacher was not impressed and did not even give the essay an 'A' grade.
The reason why Felt was rejected as a serious Deep Throat candidate concerns the information he was giving to Bob Woodward. Some of it did include evidence acquired from the FBI investigation. However, most of the important information that Deep Throat revealed came from the CIA and the White House. How did Felt get hold of this information?
For example, one of the most important pieces of information Deep Throat gave Woodward was that Nixon’s was tapping his conversations at the White House. Woodward leaked this information to a staff member of Sam Ervin Committee. He in turn told Sam Dash and as a result Alexander P. Butterfield was questioned about the tapes. Only a very small number of people knew about the existence of these tapes. If Felt knew about these tapes he had his own Deep Throat. If this is the case, it was possibly William C. Sullivan, his former colleague at the FBI who was working for the White House during this period.
Felt, who leaked information to Time Magazine about what became known as the “Kissinger taps”, later admitted that he got this information from Sullivan (one of the first things that Sullivan had done when he was appointed by Richard Nixon was to transfer the wiretap logs to the White House). Sullivan was playing a double-game. He provided information to Nixon about the CIA role in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. It was this information that Nixon tried to use to control Richard Helms. However, Sullivan, like Felt, was a pro-Kennedy Democrat.
On the 25th anniversary of Nixon's resignation in 1999, Felt told a reporter that it would be "terrible" if someone in his position had been Deep Throat. "This would completely undermine the reputation that you might have as a loyal employee of the FBI," he said. "It just wouldn't fit at all."
Felt retired to Santa Rosa, California. In 2001 Felt had a stroke that robbed him of his memory. Before this happened Felt had told his daughter Joan that he was Deep Throat. In May, 2005, Felt's lawyer, John O'Connor, went public with the news. Felt was quoted as saying: "I dont think being Deep Throat was anything to be proud of. You should not leak information to anyone." However, he added: "If you know your government is engaging in illegal and/or immoral acts, then you have an obligation to speak out that overrides confidentiality agreements and secrecy laws. It's never wrong to inform on serious criminal acts no matter who is perpetrating them."
Felt's daughter admitted that she had persuaded her father to admit being Deep Throat in an attempt to clear the family debts. She admits that the family have gone public in an attempt to obtain money. Joan Felt told journalists: "My son Nick is in law school and he'll owe $100,000 by the time he graduates. I am still a single mom, still supporting them (her children) to one degree or another."
Shortly afterwards Bob Woodward confirmed that Felt had provided him with important information during the Watergate investigation. Ben Bradlee also said that Felt was Deep Throat. However, Carl Bernstein was quick to add that Felt was only one of several important sources.
Ralph de Toledano, the co-author of The FBI Pyramid: Inside the FBI, was furious that Felt had lied to him about the identity of Deep Throat. De Toledano opened a lawsuit against Felt. In August 2007, a DC judge ordered the lawsuit, continued by De Toledano's sons, into arbitration.
Mark Felt died from heart failure on 18th December, 2008, at a hospice care facility in Santa Rosa, California.