“Deep Throat, Watergate, and the Institutional Politics of the FBI,” Journal of Policy History, Spring 2012

On May 31, 2005, former FBI associate director W. Mark Felt revealed that he was “Deep Throat,” the shadowy high official whose leaks to the Washington Post helped to provoke the Watergate crisis and topple the Nixon presidency. Felt’s confession ended one of the capital’s longest-running guessing games; the hushed phone calls and parking-garage trysts of All the President’s Men ,
co-author Bob Woodward confirmed, were based on encounters with Felt. Media outlets framed the revelation as a drama of individual derring-do, assigning Felt the role of noble whistleblower or despicable traitor, liberal ally or conservative nemesis. As a result, they missed an opportunity to reconsider the larger story of Watergate, perhaps the most mythologized political scandal of the twentieth century. This article argues that Felt’s actions—and, by extension, Watergate itself—must be understood in the context of a long-standing institutional conflict between the Nixon administration and J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI.

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