Santa Rosa's W. Mark Felt, who as "Deep Throat" became America's most famous confidential source, received an honor Saturday presented by the New York Times reporter who recently spent 85 days in prison for refusing to name her source.
Times reporter Judith Miller presented the award at the California First Amendment Coalition's annual conference at Cal State Fullerton. The 92-year-old Felt's grandson Nick Jones accepted the award on behalf of his grandfather.
"Our profession and our country owe Mark Felt, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein and the Washington Post an enormous debt," Miller said.
Felt was a key source for Post reporters Woodward and Bernstein, whose investigation into the Watergate scandal of the early 1970s helped bring down President Richard Nixon. A Post editor tagged Woodward's source "Deep Throat," taken from the title of an X-rated movie.
Miller went to prison this summer after initially refusing to testify before a federal grand jury investigating the leak of a CIA operative's identity.
She later agreed to testify after receiving a personal release from confidentiality by her source, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff. As well, she said, the federal prosecutor agreed to limit his inquiry.
"Confidential sources are critical to a free and independent press and the public's right to know and that is why we protect them.. .. This is why I had to spend 85 days in jail to protect the identity of a confidential source," Miller said.
Miller's attorney, Floyd Abrams, said his client's actions make it more likely that journalists will be trusted by a "Mark Felt of the future."
Jones said he was "very pleased and honored" to be receiving the award for his grandfather.
"I think we can all agree that it took a lot of courage to do what he did," Jones said.
Felt, who came to Santa Rosa in 1990, also was honored recently by the Georgia-based Foundation for the Improvement of Justice. Felt's daughter, Joan Felt, and Jones traveled to Atlanta to accept that award.
Jones said of the honors, "It means that there are a lot of people who see what my grandfather did as heroic, or at least the right thing, as noble in some way, and that's important."