Some consider them heroes. Others see them as self-seeking traitors. No matter which side of the fence you stand, the courage of whistleblowers is an undeniable truth.
It takes a person of extraordinary character to speak up against wrongdoing for the greater good while going head-to-head with powerful public and private institutions in the process. Long before Edward Snowden came along, many whistleblowers have been helping topple governments, armies, and corporations around the world.
As iconic whistleblowers go, arguably nobody has been able to capture public imagination quite like Deep Throat. The story started in 1972 when five men were arrested for breaking into the headquarters of the Democratic National Convention in Washington DC’s Watergate office complex. The men were caught red-handed wiretapping phones and stealing documents inside the complex. The incident turned into an international scandal that would go down in history as Watergate.
Then-President Richard Nixon denied any involvement or knowledge of the incident, but evidence emerged of his participation in an extensive cover-up. On June 19, 1972, Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein received information from a high-level government official, who eventually earned the moniker 'Deep Throat.' Throughout the 1972 election campaign and beyond, Deep Throat disclosed a steady flow of information exposing Nixon’s knowledge and participation in the scandal. All evidence led back to President Nixon and his staff, resulting in his resignation in August 1974.
Who was Deep Throat?
Deep Throat’s identity remained a mystery long after Nixon's resignation. In a 2005 Vanity Fair issue, an article finally revealed that Deep Throat was Mark Felt – second-in-command at the FBI during Watergate. After his retirement in 1973, Felt went on to live with his daughter, Joan, keeping a low profile during this time. Curiosities around Deep Throat’s identity peaked particularly with the premiere of the classic film 'All the President’s Men'– but not a whiff still of who it could be.
During this time, Felt suffered a stroke followed by several bouts of serious illnesses. As time went by, his daughter, Joan, persuaded him to go public with his secret, resulting in Felt revealing his identity in the 31st of May 2005 issue of Vanity Fair. Journalists Woodward and Bernstein later confirmed this to be fact.
Mark Felt’s tips gave journalists the leverage needed for a widespread investigation of the White House's activities, significantly speeding up what could have turned into a lengthy trial and justice delayed. The televised trials in 1973 revealed multiple criminal acts such as campaign fraud, political espionage, breaking and entering, and illegal wiretapping. On December 18th 2008, Felt passed away in his sleep after suffering from congestive heart failure.