Even Deepest Of Throats Can't Keep Mum

By Donna Britt
Friday, June 3, 2005

What do you get the moment a long-provocative question is answered?

More questions.

Now that we know the answer to the three-decade-old question "Who's Deep Throat? -- the official Washington tattletale whose anonymous revelations helped to unseat a president -- new questions have arisen:

What was the motive of former FBI second-in-command W. Mark Felt for helping The Post break open the Watergate scandal? What's the deal with 91-year-old Felt's timing? His mental stability? How did he know facts to which he supposedly wasn't privy?

In a world in which suburban housewives and nerdy accountants romp naked on cable-TV reality shows, and in which Tom Cruise leaps onto Oprah's sofa to scream about his new flame, my question is more basic:

Can human beings -- a species whose members can no more help confessing their sins than committing them -- keep a hot secret?

For most people, including Felt, the answer is, "Not really."

We love secrets. The only thing some of us enjoy more than hearing about others' hidden stuff is cultivating our own -- and then blabbing it. Would Catholicism have thrived without that dark, enfolding booth into which believers can slip, confess their worst and leave, confident that the listener cannot tell without risking hellfire?

Some people keep secrets no matter what. Others remain silent only when they know that any bean-spilling would be traced to them, or when sharing a secret might mean sharing the responsibility -- and fallout -- for ugly truths that seep out.

Between us: If your tattling dismantled a presidency, could you keep mum?

Deep Throat's identity was a generation's best-kept secret, right up there with the whereabouts of Jimmy Hoffa. Just as several somebodies out there doubtless know what happened to the long-disappeared Teamsters boss, more people were aware of Mr. Throat's identity than anyone guessed.

Felt's late wife must have known; after her death, Felt blabbed to a lady friend -- who tattled to her son and his wife. After years of being questioned by by his daughter, Felt confessed his Deep Throatness to her -- and to his son, and his daughter's son. He even hinted at the truth to his Fijian caretaker. Three years ago, Felt confided in John D. O'Connor, the attorney whose article in the new Vanity Fair was Felt's first public acknowledgement.


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