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Washington Post: Felt Is 'Deep Throat'

The Washington Post confirmed Tuesday that W. Mark Felt (search), the former No. 2 at the FBI, is "Deep Throat," the famous source credited with helping blow open secrets about President Nixon's Watergate (search) cover-up.

Ben Bradlee, 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.

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."

Bob Woodward (search) and Carl Bernstein (search) — the Post reporters whom Felt exhorted to "follow the money" — protected their source's identity for more than 30 years, in perhaps the greatest American political mystery of all time.

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.

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."'

According to the Vanity Fair article, Felt only allowed his secret to be revealed after prodding from his children, who argued his legacy should be established while he was still alive and that the family should reap some monetary rewards from his newly established place in history.

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.

Many names had been offered over the years as the source of Deep Throat. Among them were Assistant Attorney General Henry Peterson, deputy White House counsel Fred Fielding (search), and even ABC newswoman Diane Sawyer (search), who then worked in the White House press office. Also considered candidates were Ron Zeigler, Nixon's press secretary; White House aide Steven Bull; speechwriters Ray Price and Pat Buchanan; and John Dean, the White House counsel who warned Nixon of "a cancer growing on the presidency."

And some theorized Deep Throat wasn't a single source at all but a composite figure. Even in his own memoir published in 1979, Felt explicitly denied helping Woodward.

"I did talk to Bob Woodward on one occasion during the Watergate investigation. He requested an interview, which I gave him, but to make sure that what I said would not be misquoted, I asked my assistant, Inspector Wason G. Campbell, to be present. Woodward, however, was not looking for information. He simply wanted to check out the information he and Bernstein had collected and he asked me to tell him which was accurate and which was not. I declined to cooperate with him in this manner and that was that," he wrote.

In 1999, Felt told The Hartford Courant: "I would have done better. I would have been more effective. Deep Throat didn't exactly bring the White House crashing down, did he?"

Felt had hoped to succeed mentor J. Edgar Hoover as FBI director after Hoover's death, but was passed over by Nixon for the job.

Nixon chief counsel Charles "Chuck" Colson worked closely with Felt in the Nixon administration and expressed surprise at the disclosure.

"Mark first served this country with honor, and I can't imagine how Mark Felt was sneaking in dark alleys leaving messages under flower pots and violating his oath to keep this nation's secrets. I cannot compute that with the Mark Felt that I know," Colson said in an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press. Colson pleaded no contest to an obstruction of justice charge in the Watergate scandal and served time in prison.

Another Nixon associate who wound up behind bars, G. Gordon Liddy, said he didn't consider Felt a hero for going to the Post reporters.

"If he were interested in performing his duty, he would have gone to the grand jury with his information," Liddy, who was finance counsel at Nixon's re-election committee and helped direct the break-in, said in a televised interview.

The Vanity Fair article notes the denial from Felt's book, but offers no explanation as to why the former FBI agent would lie in print rather than remain silent about his role.

Though Felt's leaks to Woodward and Bernstein may have been punishable by law at the time, it is unlikely charges will be brought against him now. Felt did not emerge from Nixon's presidency entirely unscathed: he 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.

In 2003, Woodward and Bernstein reached an agreement to keep their Watergate papers at the University of Texas at Austin.

At the time, the pair said documents naming Deep Throat would be kept secure at an undisclosed location in Washington until the source's death.

In the family statement, Jones said his grandfather believes "the men and women of the FBI who have put their lives at risk for more than 50 years to keep this country safe deserve recognition more than he."

"On behalf of the Felt family we hope you see him as worthy of honor and respect as we do," Jones said.

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

FOX News' James Rosen and The Associated Press contributed to this report.