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Mark Felt, former FBI officer who revealed himself to be the key informant in exposing the Watergate Scandal (‘Deep Throat’), has died.
Felt, 95, breathed his last yesterday in a clinic close to his home in Santa Rosa, California. During the years of the scandal he was one of the highest ranking officers in the FBI, instrumental in investigating the break-ins and burglary at the Democratic National Office in Watergate Complex. The investigation subsequently uncovered a nebulous network of campaign fraud, illegal tax audits, political espionage and wiretapping associated with Nixon’s Re-election Committee; mounting bipartisan political pressure coupled with a series of futile court battles forced the President to resign in 1974.
Many of you might have seen Hal Holbrook’s performance as ‘Deep Throat’ in the famous movie ‘All the President’s Men’. Deep Throat’s identity was kept anonymous for 30 years by Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, until Mr. Felt himself revealed his informant status in 2005.
‘Deep Throat’ remains a legendary figure in investigative journalism circles and continues to be an inspiring icon for righteous officers of the State. Felt himself had come under heavy criticism for being a ‘traitor’ and letting down the Commander-in-Chief; many attributed his opposition to the President’s scheme to vindictiveness, for being superseded in the FBI Directorate by Nixon’s close political associate. However, there were many who disagreed.
As he himself wrote later,
The President wanted a politician in J. Edgar Hoover’s position who would convert the bureau into an adjunct of the White House machine.
Individuals like Felt are a rarity in today’s bureaucratic set-up; the extant legal regime must ensure that whistle-blowers and vanguards against corrupt official practices are protected.
To quote the American prosecutor, John Nields, from The Washington Post in 2005,
As Deep Throat, Felt helped establish the principle that our highest government officials are subject to the Constitution and the laws of the land.