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Deep Threat

With all the hubbub today about the Vanity Fair article in which former high-ranking FBI official W. Mark Felt claims he was Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein's Deep Throat source during the Watergate era, it's worth looking back at why Felt denied being the mysterious figure for so long. One interesting answer lies in the interview he granted to Timothy Noah, Slate's "Chatterbox" columnist, in 1999. Noah pressed Felt on his denial, asking hypothetically what would be so bad if he were the legendary leaker. Here's Felt's response: "It would be contrary to my responsibility as a loyal employee of the FBI to leak information." There you have it: In the popular imagination, Deep Throat was the ultimate whistleblower, who ultimately took down a president. But in his own mind, apparently, he was just another federal employee who couldn't keep his mouth shut with the media.