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How Heroic Was 'Deep Throat'?

The mystery over the identity of "Deep Throat" is over but one question remains: Was the former FBI executive who spilled Watergate's secrets to The Washington Post a hero?

The Washington Post confirmed Tuesday that W. Mark Felt (search), the former No. 2 at the FBI, is the famous source credited with helping unravel Richard Nixon's presidency.

Felt's family said they considered the 91-year-old to be a "great American hero" and the two Post reporters who tracked Watergate, Bob Woodward (search) and Carl Bernstein (search), said in a statement Felt was a huge help to their coverage.

But some who worked in the Nixon administration — including some who others speculated might have been Deep Throat — were not as complimentary.

"'Hero' is not the first word that comes to my mind," Henry Kissinger (search), President Richard Nixon's secretary of state, told FOX News on Wednesday.

"I view him as a troubled man. I don't think it's heroic to act as a spy on your president when you're in high office. I could fully understand if he resigned ... or if he went to the prosecutor. That would be heroic," Kissinger said.

G. Gordon Liddy (search), the Nixon associate who led the break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate hotel and office complex, told FOX News on Wednesday that if Felt had concerns, he should not have taken them to reporters.

"What you are ethically bound to do is go to a grand jury and seek an indictment and not go to a single news source," said Liddy, who was convicted and served nearly five years in prison for his role in the scandal.

Alexander Haig (search), Nixon's former chief of staff who had been fingered by Nixon White House counsel John W. Dean III as Deep Throat, also said he doesn't view Felt in a favorable way. "I don't think I would categorize him as a hero in any way," he said.

"I live by a code that if you work for a president, you stay loyal to that president and if you can't for whatever reasons, then you have the obligation to resign and take whatever steps necessary in your power," he said.

Asked if he wanted Felt to be punished for his role, Liddy noted that Felt already had been prosecuted and he didn't feel anything else was necessary. Felt was convicted in the 1970s for authorizing illegal break-ins at homes of people associated with the radical Weather Underground. He was pardoned by President Reagan in 1981.

"You're not going to take a 91-year-old guy whose mind is wandering someplace and put him in jail," Liddy said.

'It Was the Post's Great Story'

In a statement issued on Tuesday, Woodward and Bernstein confirmed Felt's role in their reporting.

"W. Mark Felt was 'Deep Throat' and helped us immeasurably in our Watergate coverage. However, as the record shows, many other sources and officials assisted us and other reporters for the hundreds of stories that were written in The Washington Post about Watergate," they said in the statement.

Ben Bradlee (search), the Post's top editor during the Watergate scandal, said in an interview with his old paper that he wouldn't recognize Felt if he had seen him, but he knew all along that "Deep Throat" was a high-ranking FBI official and learned his name within a couple of weeks after Nixon's resignation.

"The No. 2 guy at the FBI, that was a pretty good source," Bradlee told The Washington Post. "I knew the paper was on the right track." The "quality of the source" and the soundness of his guidance made him sure of that, he said.

Bradlee told FOX News on Wednesday that the Watergate story "was such excitement — the fact is, it was the Post's great story."

Haig said he figured Deep Throat was a high-level FBI official but warned the public not to overestimate the source's importance in history.

"I think we're always tempted when these things happen to overblow the importance of Deep Throat in the overall outcome of Watergate. It's very important to remember it was the tapes that finally turned the country against the president and that was the real death blow to Richard Nixon, but it was politics that brought us there," Haig told FOX News on Wednesday.

President Bush was asked how he felt about the revelation during a joint press appearance with South African President Thabo Mbeki on Wednesday.

Bush noted that he was not long out of college when the Watergate scandal took the country by storm.

"All I can tell you is, it was a revelation that caught me by surprise," Bush said. "I thought it was very interesting, I look forward to reading about it … it's a brand new story for those of us who were wondering who it [Deep Throat] was."

'Beyond the Call of Duty'

Felt, 91, is said to be in poor mental and physical health because of a stroke, and earlier on Tuesday, his family asked the news media to respect his privacy "in view of his age and health."

Following the Post's confirmation, a frail but smiling Felt greeted the media from the doorway of his Santa Rosa, Calif., home. He did not make a statement.

He was flanked by his grandson and daughter, Joan Felt, who told the press she was proud of her father's "role in history."

Felt revealed his central role in the newspaper's investigation in a Vanity Fair magazine article published on Tuesday, and family members advanced the claims.

"The family believes my grandfather, Mark Felt, Sr., is a great American hero who went well above and beyond the call of duty, at much risk to himself, to save this country from a horrible injustice," said Felt's grandson Nick Jones. "We all sincerely hope the country will see him this way as well."

Felt kept the secret even from his family until 2002, when he confided to a friend that he had been Woodward's source, the magazine said.

"My grandfather is pleased he is being honored for his role as Deep Throat with his friend Bob Woodward," Jones said.

"As he recently told my mother, 'I guess people used to think Deep Throat was a criminal, but now they think he was a hero."'

The existence of Deep Throat, nicknamed for a popular porn movie of the early 1970s, was revealed in Woodward and Bernstein's best-selling book "All the President's Men." In the hit movie based on the book, Deep Throat was played by Hal Holbrook.

To learn more about Watergate and to review documents related to the case, click here for a FindLaw library of material.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.