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'Deep Throat' lived in SLC, supervising 40 FBI agents

Published June 2, 2005 1:10 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2005, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

In October 1956, W. Mark Felt, now confirmed as The Washington Post's source "Deep Throat," rolled into Salt Lake City to take charge of the FBI office.

Felt, who in the early 1970s helped guide reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein's investigation of President Nixon and the Watergate scandal, spent 15 months in the Beehive State supervising some 40 agents who worked throughout Utah and Nevada.

At the time, he told The Salt Lake Tribune he was "tickled to death" to be back in the Intermountain Region, where he lived with his wife and two children in a home at 1903 Yale Ave. (1075 South).

Salt Lake City was just one of many assignments the agent - who joined the FBI on Jan. 26, 1942 - would accept as he ascended the ranks of the bureau.

During World War II, Felt worked in the bureau's security division as superintendent of counterintelligence operations. Between 1945 and 1956, he was an assistant special agent in charge in Seattle, New Orleans and Los Angeles.

In February 1958, he received orders to swap jobs with Percy Wily, special agent in charge of the FBI's Kansas City office.

Felt went on to accept jobs in the bureau's training and inspection divisions before being handpicked by Director J. Edgar Hoover in 1971 as associate deputy director - a promotion that sparked widespread speculation about Felt's future with the FBI.

Hoover's successor, then-71-year-old associate director Clyde A. Tolson, was reportedly ill. Felt's position as associate deputy director placed him, in the FBI hierarchy, between Tolson and two assistants to the director, John P. Mohr and William C. Sullivan.

His new office suite in Washington was right across from Hoover's.

During his 1971 interview with The Salt Lake Tribune, Felt refused to assess the meaning of his appointment.

"I hope [Hoover] never retires," then-58-year-old Felt said. "Today he is just as alert and sharp as when I first met him 29 years ago."

Felt did tell the newspaper he regarded his new job as a challenge and that he was honored to have been placed "third in the line of command."

He never rose higher than associate director before retiring in 1973.

Felt's admission to being Deep Throat came as no surprise to Salt Lake attorney Pat Shea.

Shea, a former U.S. Senate staffer, recalled Felt's desire to get to the bottom of things during a congressional investigation of the U.S. intelligence community, including assassination plots against foreign leaders.

After an interview session with witnesses, Felt would suggest to investigators, "This is something you might want to ask when you guys go back in there," recounts Shea, assistant staff director for the Senate Intelligence Committee in 1975-76.

The information was usually excellent, leading investigators into areas of inquiry that might otherwise have been overlooked.

Shea, a longtime Democratic Party activist and Bureau of Land Management director during the Clinton administration, believes Felt was motivated by anger over not being named FBI director and by long-standing animosity between the FBI and CIA.

"But," added Shea, "he also was a kid from Idaho." Felt retained a lot of small-town idealism from the culture in which he had been raised, including the LDS notion that in the latter days the U.S. Constitution would be hanging by a thread.

"Mark Felt saw himself as that thread sometimes," says Shea.

Felt, now 91, is a 1931 graduate of Twin Falls High School and 1935 graduate of the University of Idaho.

He worked as an administrative assistant to U.S. Sen. D. Worth Clark, D-Idaho, before receiving his law degree from George Washington University and going to work for the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, D.C., as a lawyer in 1941. Felt told his secret to a lawyer his family had consulted. The attorney, John O'Connor, wrote a Vanity Fair magazine article revealing Felt's disclosure, and within hours of the story's release Tuesday, Felt's family and the Post confirmed it.

Although scholars and journalists frequently speculated about Felt's possible role in exposing the scandal that brought down the Nixon administration, Felt had consistently denied he was the source.

''I would not leak any information,'' Felt told the Twin Falls Times-News in a 1974 interview after the Washingtonian magazine named him as the likely Deep Throat.

The magazine, which has a long tradition of probing Deep Throat's identity, based its speculation on Felt's high-level position with the FBI, his friendliness with reporters and his possible irritation at the Nixon White House for overhauling the structure of the agency that had been established by Hoover.

Only days before Nixon resigned the presidency, Felt told the Times-News that he was considering suing the Washingtonian for being labeled Deep Throat and that secretly feeding information to the news media about the White House went against his principles.

''I did not and would not,'' Felt said. ''I don't operate that way.''


Tribune editor Dan Harrie and the Associated Press contributed to this story.






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