Now They Tell Us: Washington Knew

Times Staff Writer

One day after the disclosure that former FBI Deputy Director W. Mark Felt was “Deep Throat,” Washington was awash with claims from political celebrities that they’d known the identity of the secret source all along.

Nora Ephron, a screenwriter and author who was once married to Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein -- who with colleague Bob Woodward played leading roles in exposing Watergate -- put out word on a blog that “I knew that Deep Throat was Mark Felt because I figured it out.”

Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen wrote Wednesday that, even though he once reported that a mere Secret Service technician could have been Deep Throat, “I always suspected it was” Felt.


And longtime Washington pundit Robert Novak topped them all. Even though Deep Throat’s identity had been one of Washington’s most enduring and fascinating mysteries, Novak declared that just about everyone in the capital had known.

The morning-after rush to claim prescience was one more indication that to Washingtonians the worst crime is being out of the loop.

Ephron, whose first novel, “Heartburn,” was based on her marriage to Bernstein and became a 1986 movie directed by Mike Nichols, said on her blog that she did not learn of Felt’s identity from Bernstein.

She said “he was far too intelligent to tell me a secret like that. He refused to tell his children too, who are also my children, so I told them, and they told others, and even so, years passed and no one really listened to any of us.

“Years passed while unbelievably idiotic ideas of who Deep Throat was were floated by otherwise intelligent people,” Ephron wrote.

Novak, who writes a column for the Chicago Sun-Times that is nationally syndicated, was recently in the news for a controversy about a secret source. Novak identified Valerie Plame as a CIA operative -- based on a government leak that has sparked a federal investigation.

In a column posted Wednesday, Novak wrote that he was not alone in suspecting Deep Throat’s identity.

It was an open secret in Washington, he said. “Everybody knew that Felt was leaking information to Woodward and Bernstein about the Watergate investigation. The reporters made no secret of the fact that they were getting leaks from inside the FBI, and it was presumed that Felt was one of the leakers.”

Tom Brokaw, the former NBC anchor who covered the Nixon White House, said he deduced that Felt was the source because Woodward and Bernstein had pledged to keep Deep Throat’s identity a secret until after he died -- and few credible candidates were left on a short list.

“Well I had for a long time felt that he was kind of the last surviving possibility,” Brokaw said on MSNBC’s “Hardball With Chris Matthews” on Tuesday night. “There were a lot of people on that list for awhile. And they all seemed to fall away, either by absolute denials or they didn’t match up [with] all the various criteria.”

Some journalists did divine that Felt was Deep Throat, including James Mann, a former Los Angeles Times reporter. In an Atlantic Monthly article in 1992, Mann wrote that Deep Throat was an FBI man.

And Ephron once rejected speculation by former White House Counsel John W. Dean III that Nixon speechwriter David Gergen was Deep Throat by saying Gergen was “too tall” to have fit into the parking garage where Woodward met the source.