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Felt Kept Justice System 'Clean and Incorruptible,' His Attorney Says

Susan Jones | Morning Editor | Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Felt Kept Justice System 'Clean and Incorruptible,' His Attorney Says

(CNSNews.com) - John O'Connor, the attorney who gave Mark Felt's story to Vanity Fair magazine, says Felt was a hero who did what he had to do to prevent the Nixon administration from obstructing justice during the Watergate investigation.

In an interview on NBC's Today show Wednesday, O'Connor described Felt as initially unwilling to admit that he was Deep Throat.

"He sort of stiffened - he tightened. You could just see he was sort of fighting me, as I told him that I had been a prosecutor and I admired Deep Throat - and I thought he kept the Justice Department clean and incorruptible - and that was [Deep Throat's] legacy."

O'Connor said Felt "sort of softened when I said that, and you could tell he wanted to hear that."

O'Connor said Felt used to be ashamed of what he'd done. "I've heard him say an FBI man shouldn't act like this." Felt repeatedly told that to his daughter," O'Connor said.

But over time, O'Connor added, the family convinced Felt "that he's a hero - and that he had to do what he had to do to keep the FBI incorruptible."

What about the family's financial motivation? NBC's Katie Couric asked O'Connor.

According to the Vanity Fair article, Felt's daughter Joan remembers saying, "Bob Woodward's going to get all the glory for this (revealing Deep Throat's identity), but we could make at least enough money to pay some bills, like the debt I've run up for the kids' education. Let's do it for the family."

Nothing to it, O'Connor said: He said Joan Felt originally used the financial argument to push her father: "She was trying to get Dad to do what she wanted him to do."

O'Connor told Couric the family's "main motivation" was "a heroic and permanent legacy" for Felt.

In the three years since he told his family he was Deep Throat, Felt has become convinced he's heroic, O'Connor said. "We wouldn't be coming out and doing this if it were for money, and it would be in a tabloid if that were our motivation."

O'Connor has described Felt as one of "America's greatest secret heroes." He told Couric that Felt "risked a lot" by leaking information to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. "He had a wonderful career; he was effectively running the [FBI]; if he just let this thing go, he would have done very, very well for himself...but he kept our whole system incorruptible."

According to O'Connor, Felt "made sure that the country, when it came to that fork in the road, the country went the right way."

Couric agreed: "It's interesting in people's lives, they sometimes have choice - when there's a fork in the road -- to do the right thing or to maintain the status quo and not buck the system."

O'Connor said Felt considered the FBI an "incorruptible crime-fighting organization," and he "knew exactly what was going to happen" when Watergate broke - that the Nixon administration would try to obstruct the investigation.

"I think he knew that his whole bureau depended upon this; that the country depended upon this. And he knew it right away. So he went to work."

O'Connor said his role is to help the Felt family. "If I can help put his legacy down as being heroic and start this conversation, then I've dome something that I'm proud of."

O'Connor's connection to Felt came through O'Connor's daughter, who was a friend of Nick Jones, Felt's grandson. It was Jones who told the O'Connors that his grandfather was Deep Throat.

O'Connor's article appears in July edition of Vanity Fair, on newsstands next week.

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