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In guessing game, few can say 'I told you so'

Sun Staff

Esquire had it wrong; Atlantic Monthly had it right.

Leonard Garment's book missed the mark; Ronald Kessler's was on the money.

William Gaines' college journalism class flunked the test; Chase Culeman-Beckman's high school paper, though he didn't get an "A" when he turned it in in the late 1990s, should have put him at the head of the class.

A three-decade national guessing game is over: W. Mark Felt, former associate director of the FBI, has revealed to Vanity Fair magazine that he was "Deep Throat," the anonymous source who leaked information to The Washington Post that helped expose the Watergate scandal.

The Post confirmed on its Web site yesterday that Felt indeed was "Deep Throat."

Thus ends one of the nation's longest-running modern-day mysteries: Who was "Deep Throat"?

Felt, it turns out, is the answer - and not too many had it right. One can rightfully expect in the weeks ahead apologies from some of those who guessed wrong and a few "I-told-you-so's" from those who nailed it, including Culeman-Beckman.

Born well after Watergate, Culeman-Beckman was 8 when, he says, Post reporter Carl Bernstein's son Jacob revealed the identity of Deep Throat to him at a summer day camp in 1988.

Except for telling his mother, Culeman-Beckman would keep the secret for nearly 10 years - until spilling the beans in a high school research paper.

In a 1999 Hartford Courant article about Culeman-Beckman's disclosure, Felt denied that he was "Deep Throat." Bernstein said in an interview that neither he nor reporting partner Bob Woodward had ever told their wives or children their source's identity.

In fact, Woodward and Bernstein had agreed not to divulge his identity until after his death. They took pains to exclude any documents identifying him when they sold their Watergate papers two years ago to the University of Texas. And earlier yesterday, neither would confirm that Felt was "Deep Throat."

But by late afternoon, Woodward, Bernstein and former Washington Post Executive Editor Benjamin C. Bradlee - to whom the reporters confided the identity of Deep Throat - said in an article posted on the newspaper's Web site that Felt was the anonymous source.

Since Woodward and Bernstein's 1974 best seller, All the President's Men, disclosed the existence of "Deep Throat," speculation has been rampant.

Some, including the authors of Silent Coup: The Removal of a President, suspected Alexander Haig, President Richard M. Nixon's chief of staff. Some pointed to Nixon adviser David Gergen, whom Esquire picked in 1976 as the No. 1 candidate for "Deep Throat."

Watergate: The Secret Story, a documentary by CBS News and The Washington Post, concluded it was acting FBI Director L. Patrick Gray.

Garment, Nixon's acting special counsel and author of In Search of Deep Throat: The Greatest Political Mystery of Our Time, opted for fellow presidential lawyer John Sears.

Fred Fielding, deputy to former White House counsel John Dean, was the choice of Watergate conspirator H.R. Haldeman in his book The Ends of Power and Gaines' journalism classes at the University of Illinois, which spent four years investigating the identiry of "Deep Throat."

A relative handful of guessers had it right.

Felt was seen as the most likely suspect in The Bureau: The Secret History of the FBI, a book by former Washington Post reporter Kessler; in "Deep Throat: An Institutional Analysis," a 1992 Atlantic Monthly article by James Mann, a former Woodward colleague; and in articles in Washingtonian magazine by its editor, Jack Limpert.

Felt was even suspected by Nixon, according to the White House tapes:

Nixon: Well, if they've got a leak down at the FBI, why the hell can't Gray tell us what the hell is left? You know what I mean?...

Haldeman: We know what's left, and we know who leaked it.

Nixon: Somebody in the FBI?

Haldeman: Yes, sir. Mark Felt ... If we move on him, he'll go out and unload everything. He knows everything that's to be known in the FBI. He has access to absolutely everything ...

Nixon: What would you do with Felt? ... You know what I'd do with him, the bastard? Well, that's all I want to hear about it.

Haldeman: I think he wants to be in the top spot.

Nixon: That's a hell of a way for him to get to the top.

Felt, in his memoir, denied being "Deep Throat" and said he met with Woodward only once.

The name meant nothing to Culeman-Beckman when he heard it in 1988. Now a graduate student at Cornell University, Culeman-Beckman could not be reached for comment yesterday.

"I'm 100 percent sure that Deep Throat was Mark Felt," he quoted Bernstein's son as saying. "He's someone in the FBI." Culeman-Beckman told the Courant that the boy attributed the information to his father.

After the article, Bernstein, his son and his son's mother, author and director Nora Ephron, all denied that Bernstein had told anyone the identity of "Deep Throat." Ephron said then that she concluded on her own that it was Felt.

To Culeman-Beckman, turnabout was fair play.

"They've been cute about it long enough," Culeman-Beckman said at the time. "I just think if it's fair of them to dethrone a president, for all intents and purposes, and not tell anyone their source, I don't see why it's not fair for a person like myself to come forward. ... Let the cards fall where they may. There's a chance this could be the answer to one of the greatest political mysteries of our time."

Curiously enough, it was.

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