DEEP STATE n. A hard–to–perceive level of government or super–control that exists regardless of elections and that may thwart popular movements or radical change. Some have said that Egypt is being manipulated by its deep state.
A Wordnado of Words in 2013 – NYTimes.com, Dec 21, 2013
“For some time I have been disturbed by the way the CIA has been diverted from its original assignment. It has become an operational and at times a policy–making arm of the government…. I never had any thought that when I set up the CIA that it would be injected into peacetime cloak and dagger operations.”
President Harry Truman
“For we are opposed around the world by a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy that relies primarily on covert means for expanding its sphere of influence – on infiltration instead of invasion, on subversion instead of elections, on intimidation instead of free choice, on guerrillas by night instead of armies by day.
It is a system which has conscripted vast human and material resources into the building of a tightly knit, highly efficient machine that combines military, diplomatic, intelligence, economic, scientific and political operations. Its preparations are concealed, not published. Its mistakes are buried not headlined. Its dissenters are silenced, not praised. No expenditure is questioned, no rumor is printed, no secret is revealed.“
President John F. Kennedy (speech on April 27, 1961)
While the rank–and–file military are among the most patriotic of Americans and show unwavering support for the Constitution, there is a class of elite national security establishment who, whatever they may say on ceremonial occasions, believe they are above the Constitution. The “national security establishment” is colloquially known as the Deep State . In the past military leaders were part of the ruling class, intelligence agencies did not exist and there were no danger of a rogue national security establishment in 1789. That why for all their brilliance, the Framers of the Constitution did not foresee the emergence this treat. JFK assassination was the Rubicon, they crossed, and the tail started wagging the dog. Brennan 2016 elections machinations were yet another vivid demonstration that the national security establishment spun out of control.
This threat emerged only after WWII and national security state when Truman established intelligence agencies which comprise the core of the Deep State ( CIA, NSA FBI and Pentagon. Add to this State Department and you get what is called “Trumanites“. They brought with them the three cornerstones of American (Five Eyes) foreign policy
- Exceptionalism – our unique status should exempt us from the rules we expect others to follow.
- Militarism – favor the use of force to advance US security and priority matters of national interest.
- Hegemony – America ought to fight hard not to let any other power challenge our post WWII position.
Gradually the national security bureaucracy became so large and omnipotent that the Madisonian branches of government became mainly ceremonial institution providing legitimacy to the ruling elite via national election. Something like the British House of Lords, symbolically important but in reality without much power. Intelligence agencies “Nomenklatura“, not Trump, are moving the nation toward autocracy, operated at an increasing removed from constitutional limits and restraints manner (Welcome to the Potemkin Village of Washington Power The American Conservative)
Tufts law professor Michael Glennon points out in a recent essay in Humanitas that the Cold War brought something new and ominous in military-civilian relations. The national security bureaucracy became so large and omnipotent that the Madisonian branches of government became something like the British House of Lords, symbolically important but in reality without much power. The executive, legislature, and judiciary became a kind of Potemkin village, with real national security power lodged in, as Glennon describes it, “a largely concealed managerial directorate, consisting of the several hundred leaders of the military, law enforcement and intelligence departments.” As this bureaucracy grew, Glennon argues, “those managers…operated at an increasing remove from constitutional limits and restraints, moving the nation slowly toward autocracy.”
Glennon also points out that, prior to Trump, there was an unwritten pact between the bureaucracy and the Madisonian government: never publicly disagree. While national security policies have long been crafted and maintained by deep state bureaucracies, everyone played along and told the public these were the result of “intense deliberations.” Yet a few people noticed that, whether under Republican or Democrat administrations, national security policies never really changed, intelligence operations were never disrupted, and even peacenik-seeming presidential candidates became warlike presidents. For decades, neither elected officials nor bureaucratic leaders publicly acknowledged that American national security policy was being run by what Glennon describes as a “double government,” with elected officials largely impotent.
However, with the staggering intelligence failure that was 9/11 and two protracted and losing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, some have begun to question whether the “grown-ups” in the national security bureaucracy are even competent. Trump gave voice to those concerns in the 2016 campaign, and the result has been a breakdown in the Cold War truce between the two components of the double government. Leaders of the national security establishment, who know they have real power, took precautions in the unlikely event of a Trump victory and then proceeded to try to overturn Trump’s election. When they failed, they partnered with Congress to have Trump removed through impeachment, taking full advantage of the fractured nature of civilian control of national security institutions. Impeachment witnesses, such as Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, have been unanimous in their implicit belief that the foreign policy of the United States should be managed by a professional class of bureaucrats, not by the elected president.
The American constitutional order is thus in great peril. Those obsessed with getting rid of the president should consider that, were Trump to be removed, it could be the constitutional equivalent of Julius Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon.
In the mind of ordinary American, the term “Deep State” and “democracy” happily coexist. Most do not even understand that they are infected with what in famous George Orwell novel 1984 is called “Doublethink“. The existence of uncontrollable elite in the form of the “Deep State” that core of which constitute Wall Street bankers, MIC and the top brass of the intelligence agencies is incompatible with the existence of the democracy, unless we assume that democracy exists for the top 1% or even less of the population. It is something like modernized feudalism for all the rest. This strange, but stable combination is called neoliberalism . As neoliberalism came to power with coup d‘état facilitated by thinks tanks specifically created for this purpose (the army of “professional revolutionaries” in Bolsheviks terms ;-) neoliberalism and Deep State are closely interrelated. This interrelation is reflected in the Sheldon Wolin term “Inverted totalitarianism” which is the actual name of the somewhat strange social order established in the USA since 70th which US propaganda calls democracy.
In a way, the concept of Corporatism and the concept of “deep state” are very close. Corporatism presuppose the merger of government and corporations. It can be done openly as was the case in Mussolini Italy, or via back door including the “revolving door” mechanism as it was done in the USA. In both case corporations control the government, although in Mussolity case thier absolute power is moderated by the esitable of the fascist party with its program. In the latter case, the case of the USA inverted totalitarism regime a tiny part of power of the “surface state” is preserved. But enough to provid the legitimacy to the rule of the “Deep State” or “Inner Party in terms of Orwell dystopia 1984.
Deep State just adds another component to pre–existing since the end of WWII concept of military industrial complex (see Eisenhower warning about MIC which is a warning about the victory of corporatism in the USA ) — intelligence agencies. With this addition elections became simply device to legitimize the governance of the current elite, with undesirable for the elite candidates filtered before they can compete in election by various means, including radical as was the case with JFK assassination. Elections serve just of Potemkin village legitimizing the candidate that was chosen by tiny elite (the top 1% or 0.1% depending on how you count).
With the exception of deep social crisis like was the case with election of Trump, who definitely was less preferred by the deep state candidate then Hillary Clinton but manage to win )or more correctly the faction of the elite that tanded behind Trump managed to win) due to the crisis of neoliberalism in the USA due to which the current elite lost legitimacy in the eyes of the majority of population. And, especially, working people and lower middle class which constitute the majority of voters. As many observers pointed out, the election of Trump was essentially a middle finger shown to the current neoliberal elite in the USA, particularly the Clinton‘s wing of Democratic Party which betrayed working class as a part of “Clintonization” of the Party in early 90th duing which it became the party of Wall Street and later, under Obama, the second war party. The same happened with Labor Party in the UK under war criminal Blair.
Elections serve just of Potemkin village legitimizing the candidate that was chosen by tiny elite, an important part of which are now intelligence agencies, which acquired political role . The problem of control by the civil society of intelligence agencies so far is unresolved.
We can say that Deep State emerged simultaneously with powerful intelligence agencies after WWII. In case of the USA it was Truman who created added CIA to the roster of intelligence agencies and as such he can be called a godfather of the US deep state. This concept became more well known recently in view of color revolution against Trump launched by Clinton wing of Democratic party (so called “soft neoliberal” wing) in association the supporting them elements of intelligence agencies such as State Department, CIA and FBI.
The concept of the Deep State is related to the answer the another fundamental question: Can democracy exists in a state with powerful intelligence agencies like NSA, CIA, FBI (which plays the role of counterintelligence agency in the USA; look at Russiagate) and the State Department (which has functions, which duplicate those of CIA). Thus the concept of the “deep state” can be viewed as a reformulation of the iron law of oligarchy on a new level (state level), explaining the role of intelligence agencies as an immanent part of the ruling elite. For example, the neoliberals elite which rules the USA since late 70th (Carter not Reagan was the first neoliberal president of the USA).
The concept of the Deep State is related to the answer the another fundamental question: Can democracy exists in a state with powerful intelligence agencies like NSA, CIA, FBI
Intelligence agencies acquired a special status under corporatism. They became the backbone and the intellectual center of the Media–Military–Industrial Complex (MIC) which also now includes major Wall Street banks (which historically have very close ties with CIA; CIA was formed by lawyers which served their interests such as Allen Dulles). . Under neoliberalism the financial oligarchy became an important part of MIC (especially oligarchy of such banks as Goldman Sachs and Citibank)becaue the power of the US military secure their global expansion. Recently Silicon Valley mega corporations also joined it. And all of them are closely connected to NSA and CIA (especially Amazon, Google and Facebook). In a way, military–industrial complex mutated into Media–Military–Financial–Industrial–Silicon Valley complex.
This is a new unelected aristocracy with huge financial resources and zero accountability. Members of this clan stand above law and can‘t be easily demotes from their positions by civil authorities. They now are a new incarnation of the “royal court“, or in more modern term Nomenklatura, which can, like in old times, to depose a monarch (or Supreme Leader) or even kill him.
This is a new unelected aristocracy with huge financial resources and zero accountability. Members of this clan stand above law and can‘t be easily demotes from their positions by civil authorities (on intelligence agencies level, J. Edgar Hoover who managed to die in his official position, much like the USSR members of Politburo, is an excellent example here). They now are a new incarnation of the “royal court“, or in more modern term Nomenklatura, which can, like in old times, to depose a monarch (or Supreme leader) or even kill him.
So in a way the concept of “deep state” implies and emphasizes the hypertrophied role of three letter agencies among unelected government bureaucracy. They are joined at the heap with financial oligarchy, MIC and Silicon Valley in national politics. Especially in formulating foreign policy. Influence of MIC on the US foreign policy is nothing new and power of neocon, who are, in essence, lobbyists of MIC attests that. They dominate the USA foreign policy since then end of WWII. After all one of the most plausible hypotheses of why JFK was killed ( most probably via CIA plot ) because his policies limited the power of intelligences agencies (especially CIA which he hated) and international expansion which Wall Street and MIC depended upon to maintain the current rate of profits.
But devil is always in details and some features of the USA Deep State are unique and different the deep state in other neoliberal countries such as EU, GB, Turkey, or Russia. BTW the term “deep state” originated in Turkey.
The “deep state” victory over voters and political dominance is always “incomplete.” The “surface state” is still keeping some positions and periodically even try to counterattack deep state in certain areas (Church Committee.) Second, the merger of interests of three letter agencies like CIA/NSA/ FBI also has its own internal contradictions. For example NSA and CIA competes for funds. State Department, which is forth most important intelligence agency in the USA (and the oldest of all four) now lost its independence and can generally be viewed as a subsidiary of CIA, see Emailgate and Strzogate for details ). Alliance of CIA and Wall Street also can never be absolute. They have somewhat different worldviews on both the USA foreign policy priorities and methods of achieving them. Also there is a fierce competition between intelligence agencies for state resources, which pitch, for example, CIA against NSA and both of then against DIA (just look at Sacrifice of Michael Flynn to neocons story). As we can see from Syria war such differences can lead to essentially supporting hostile to each other groups of insurgent while trying to achieve the same color revolution based “regime change” in the country.
The statement that relations between three letter agencies are far from harmonious are supported by leaked story about how CIA (‘humint“) was very concerned about recent rise of status and capabilities of NSA (“sigint“) and tried to duplicate its capabilities (e.g. the Vault 7 scandal) They lie to each other and try to poach funds from the other agencies. Vault 7 scandal is a strong confirmation that CIA brass is very concerted about increased role and influence of NSA in the era on Internet communications and is trying to counterattack and undermine it.
Add to this a special, more independent, status and role of military intelligence which also now is not in best relations with both CIA and NSA. Destiny of General Flynn, who served as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, and in 2017 was entrapped by FBI with the help of NSA and CIA is a strong sign there not much love left between DIA and other agencies (with DIA probably being the most competent of them all three). So in certain areas they are more like spiders in the cage with CIA perfectly capable attacking NSA and DIA and visa versa. That gives us some hope.
The rise of intelligence agenizes inevitably led to conversion of the state into national security state and we can talk about “election democracy” in such state only with great reservations. Yes some freedom to chose candidatures still exist (as Sanders and, possibly, Trump emergence in 2016 elections attests), but the final choice is more often then not is determined by intelligence agencies, not so much by voters (FBI derailing of Sanders in favor of establishment candidate — Hillary Clinton — quite vividly attests this fact; not that Sanders fought a good fight in this respect serving more like a sheep dog in the elections).
Two party system invented by elite of Great Britain proved to be perfect for inverted totalitarism type of regimes, including the US neoliberalism . But there is second trend here which increase the elite control of the county: this is dramatic transfer of power to institutions of “deep state“, which in certain sense now like TBTF are beyond civil control. As well as a secret alliance between Wall Street and CIA and other three letter agencies.
All those factors essentially make Presidential and Congress election in the USA truly optional, serving mostly ceremonial, decorative function. Yes elections still continue to exist and sometime provide good theater, within the strict rules of an emasculated “two parties, winner takes all” system, which if you think about it is not that different from one party elections in the USSR.
They still have a role in legitimizing the current rulers, although actual rules are not the same as those who were elected. This is especially true about the two recent US Presidents: George W Bush and Barack Obama. And that explains why Barack Obama foreign policy is essentially a continuation of policy of George W Bush with minor tweaks. Just the fact that neocon Victoria Nuland who worked for Cheney was promoted to the key role of the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs tells that Obama controls very little in foreign policy area and that ‘deep state” is functioning autonomously and without control of “surface state“.
The USA political system does not have a single government. It actually has two distinct governments. They are called “surface state” or Madisonians and “deep state” or Trumanites (national security establishment in alliance with selected members of financial oligarchy, media owners and technocrats). The latter term emerged because it was Harry Truman who signed National Security Act of 1947 which created major three letter agencies (CIA, DOD, FBI and NSA).
Simplifying the complex relation between those two US governments (sometimes Madisonians fight back and have Trumanites to make a temporary retreat) we can say that:
- The “surface state” exists mainly to provide legitimacy and the illusion of democracy and consist of traditional three branches of government (the Congress, the presidency, and the courts.). elections does not change anything they just a tool for providing legitimacy to government. That explains strange continuity between foreign policies of different presidents (for example Bush and Obama; in the latter case Obama foreign policy was completely opposite is election promised)
- The “deep state“ is represented by unelected alliance by top level government bureaucrats (and first of intelligence brass of three major intelligence agencies), selected members of financial oligarchy, think tanks, manufactures and media. Its institutions (and first of all three letter agencies and military–industrial complex in general) actually create and implement country foreign policy without any feedback from electorate (Trump complete betrayal of three key foreign policy election promises (detente with Russia, finishing foreign wars and dissolution of NATO) is a nice example of the power and efficiency of this mechanism). A large part of domestic policies (especially national security policy) also created and implemented without any control of electorate and with very little control, if any, of traditional three branches of government. Just look at PATRIOT Act.
In other words, the “Deep state” represents the actual government of the society by unelected elite, which is composed of high–level officials within the intelligence services, military, law enforcement, judiciary and, often, organized crime. It should be viewed as an extended and more realistic variant of military industrial complex dominance (see Media–Military–Industrial Complex ) as it includes selected members of financial oligarchy along with industrialists, Internet moguls, and media owners.
In British author John le Carré’s latest novel, A Delicate Truth: character describes the Deep State as “… the ever-expanding circle of non-governmental insiders from banking, industry and commerce who were cleared for highly classified information denied to large swathes of Whitehall and Westminster.”
Conversion of system of governance to “deep state” which happened in the USA almost immediately after 1947 essentially made large part of federal elections including Presidential elections optional, but they still continue to exist as a ceremonial function for the sake of providing the legitimacy of the government in an emasculated “two parties system” form. While relationship is more complex then simple dominance, in essence “deep state” is the tail that wags the dog. And JFK assassination (Nov 22, 1963) meant first of all the triumph of “deep state” over “surface state“. In this sense 9/11 was just the last nail in the coffin of democracy.
The term “Deep State” was coined in Turkey (and actually Wikipedia discusses only it) but it is widespread modern phenomenon which is a typical model of governance in all major neoliberal states, including the USA, GB and France. For example, it able to govern the United States without reference to the consent of the governed as expressed through the formal political process. That‘s why elected candidates swiftly perform “bat and switch” maneuver and conduct polices radically different from those for which they were elected. As any elite dominance project it is deeply anti–democratic although it uses fig leaf of democracy for foreign expansion via color revolutions and wars.
Like in Third Reich, this dominance is supported by relentless propaganda and brainwashing with mechanisms polished since Reagan to perfection. There is now no problem to create an “enemy of the people” when the elite wants and it does not matter which country or individual is selected as an enemy. The essence of elite politics in this area was best formulated by Hermann Goering, President of the Reichstag, Nazi Party, and Luftwaffe Commander in Chief.
Naturally the common people don’t want war: Neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.
In other words this is a hidden set of political actors and powerful institutions that are concealed within the wider, “visible” state which, essentially, took over the functions of traditional state, leaving such organization of Executive branch, President, congress and courts mainly ceremonial role. Such transformation is well explained by the Iron Law of Oligarchy and in various forms happened in Third Reich, the USSR, Turkey, China and many other countries.
The American “Deep State” is the Washington-Wall-Street-Silicon-Valley Establishment
“When I asked the military advisors if they could assure me that holding fast would not result in the death of five hundred million human beings, they looked at me as though I was out of my mind, or what was worse, a traitor. The biggest tragedy, as they saw it, was not that our country might be devastated and everything lost, but that the Chinese or the Albanians might accuse us of appeasement or weakness. So I said to myself, “To hell with these maniacs. If I can get the United States to assure me that it will not attempt to overthrow the Cuban government, I will remove the missiles.” That is what happened, and now I am reviled by the Chinese and the Albanians.… They say I was afraid to stand up to a paper tiger. It is all such nonsense. What good would it have done me in the last hour of my life to know that though our great nation and the United States were in complete ruins, the national honor of the Soviet Union was intact?“
“When I asked the military advisors if they could assure me that holding fast would not result in the death of five hundred million human beings, they looked at me as though I was out of my mind, or what was worse, a traitor. The biggest tragedy, as they saw it, was not that our country might be devastated and everything lost, but that the Chinese or the Albanians might accuse us of appeasement or weakness. So I said to myself, “To hell with these maniacs. If I can get the United States to assure me that it will not attempt to overthrow the Cuban government, I will remove the missiles.” That is what happened, and now I am reviled by the Chinese and the Albanians.… They say I was afraid to stand up to a paper tiger. It is all such nonsense. What good would it have done me in the last hour of my life to know that though our great nation and the United States were in complete ruins, the national honour of the Soviet Union was intact? “
“The nuclear arms race is like two sworn enemies standing waist deep in gasoline, one with three matches, the other with five.” ― Carl Sagan
Daniel Ellsberg The Doomsday Machine Talks at Google was very interesting talk in which he described why Washington establishment is pro–war as it is (full transcript is availbe from The Singju Post ). In it he addresses how the regime of secrecy allows to built multi–layer lies, which justify of even make noble any criminal action by the US government:
But what made that dangerous at any time, then or now? And the answer was that the government secrets that they were holding onto were secrets about criminal activity, actions that would be extremely embarrassing to a president, because they were illegal or unconstitutional or simply incredibly reckless, dangerous, horrible priorities, unlikely ever to succeed in any sense or to end. The public would not have applauded if they understood the actual strategy and the actual prospects.
Every member of Congress has taken that oath. Every member of the Executive Department has taken that same oath. The president’s wording is a little bit different, protect, preserve and defend or something. But support and defend, everybody else takes it.
And all of us violated it every day. we heard the president lying to Congress and lying to the public about what he intended, where the prospects were, what he was going to do in Vietnam, elsewhere. We all heard the president lying the public into a war, keeping the war going, letting him know the costs would be much less than internal estimates all indicated. And no one broke.
There were no leaks, including me. So was I observing that oath or violating it, when I knew that Congress, which has the exclusive authority to take us to war, at least that’s the best interpretation, I think, controverted by president’s men, was entirely delegating that secretly to a president who was determined to enlarge the war. That’s how you get wars that go on 10 years or 11 years, whatever.
The truth is the United States, as I learned from the Pentagon Papers, when I read all of them, had begun the war in 1945 and ’46, supporting a French effort to reconquer a colony which had declared its independence in August and September of 1945. And actually Ho Chi Minh had been recognized as a head of state, at least of the north, in Paris when they were negotiating in ’45, ’46.
But in terms of American traditions, we thought of ourselves as– we didn’t think– of having run the first war of national liberation. But it could have been called that, the first war of separation for an empire. And we thought of ourselves as anti-imperial. And we still think of ourselves that way, as not an empire like the others. That’s false.
That’s very clear from the Pentagon Papers where we’re deciding who should run Vietnam this year or next year or how they should stay in power, what criminal acts they’re entitled to take, how much we need to support them. And so it’s very obviously the documents of an empire. In fact, that’s what I said to my wife, when she said, at one point, before they came out, does it really matter to get this history out? And I said, well, among other things, it’s the first real history of imperial operations since the Nuremberg documents were discovered, covered after the Second World War. And before that, it probably goes back to Punic times, to the Syrian empire, to Sumerian empire, and so probably all the same, but we don’t have the documents for it.
And here they are. And yet, even so, I managed to think of it as an aberration. We had somehow gotten ourselves into acting like an empire. Let me say just very briefly now– I could spend the whole time on this. But I’ll just say, I’ve come recently to see what we are as a covert empire. And covert refers to plausibly denial covert operations.
Covert operations, I should say, are defined as operations that are not just secret, that you’re not just keeping it safe, but that you lie about plausibly. And to make it plausible, you provide in advance evidence, false evidence, misleading evidence as to what’s really going on and who’s running it and why it’s happening and who did it and so forth, a false flag in some cases, whatever.
But you provide several layers of cover for what’s being done to protect the president from the notion that he is murdering, overthrowing governments, installing coup governments in democracies and so forth, as so often in the third world then and now, up until now. Well, you don’t want the US to be associated with that. It’s happening over there.
And if somehow a US hand surfaces, he or she wasn’t working for any agency. And if you find the agency, it wasn’t the CIA. And if it was the CIA, it wasn’t the president. So you have layer after layer of cover stories with documents. I didn’t know this. It didn’t come to my attention. This so-and-so did it and so forth. The Vietnam War was run from beginning to end like that. That’s how we run our empire.
We deny that we are an empire. And what is an empire? A country that determines the regime of other countries, decides who the police chief was, who shall live and who shall die, what the basic foreign policies are. We do that throughout Central America and always have, often many other parts of the world as far apart as Indonesia, now the Middle East. In general, we decide: Who do we want? Is this guy OK? We don’t decide every detail but any more than you decide every detail of a military commander’s operations.
But generally, they work. If they don’t do what we want, we replace them with somebody else. We deny that we’re an empire. We’re against empire. When other people do the same sort of thing, they’re empires. They’re acting imperially. First level of denial on the American part. And then second, how do they get in power? Who has to be killed? What paramilitary forces have to be paid and go in, as into Nicaragua, for example, and other places? So the efforts are also plausibly denied OK, I could spend time. And I don’t know if people have it in mind.
… … …
And, by the way, “The Day After” is just a tiny, little sliver of what the actual consequences of a nuclear war would look like. Movies that have come closer to that, there’s one called “Threads” in England that they’ve never allowed to be on BBC, to be shown. And again, it really just focuses on the long-term degradation and disintegration of everything, like Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road,” pretty much.
So no nuclear state has ever been willing to tell its own people or to hold others accountable to the risks we are posing over their head. And a movie like that today would be very worthwhile. But I don’t know what prospect there is of it.
Here is how The American Conservative covers this topic:
Steve Sailer links to this unsettling essay by former career Congressional staffer Mike Lofgren, who says the “deep state” — the Washington-Wall-Street-Silicon-Valley Establishment — is a far greater threat to liberty than you think. The partisan rancor and gridlock in Washington conceals a more fundamental and pervasive agreement.
These are not isolated instances of a contradiction; they have been so pervasive that they tend to be disregarded as background noise. During the time in 2011 when political warfare over the debt ceiling was beginning to paralyze the business of governance in Washington, the United States government somehow summoned the resources to overthrow Muammar Ghaddafi’s regime in Libya, and, when the instability created by that coup spilled over into Mali, provide overt and covert assistance to French intervention there. At a time when there was heated debate about continuing meat inspections and civilian air traffic control because of the budget crisis, our government was somehow able to commit $115 million to keeping a civil war going in Syria and to pay at least £100m to the United Kingdom’s Government Communications Headquarters to buy influence over and access to that country’s intelligence. Since 2007, two bridges carrying interstate highways have collapsed due to inadequate maintenance of infrastructure, one killing 13 people. During that same period of time, the government spent $1.7 billion constructing a building in Utah that is the size of 17 football fields. This mammoth structure is intended to allow the National Security Agency to store a yottabyte of information, the largest numerical designator computer scientists have coined. A yottabyte is equal to 500 quintillion pages of text. They need that much storage to archive every single trace of your electronic life.
Yes, there is another government concealed behind the one that is visible at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue, a hybrid entity of public and private institutions ruling the country according to consistent patterns in season and out, connected to, but only intermittently controlled by, the visible state whose leaders we choose. My analysis of this phenomenon is not an exposé of a secret, conspiratorial cabal; the state within a state is hiding mostly in plain sight, and its operators mainly act in the light of day. Nor can this other government be accurately termed an “establishment.” All complex societies have an establishment, a social network committed to its own enrichment and perpetuation. In terms of its scope, financial resources and sheer global reach, the American hybrid state, the Deep State, is in a class by itself. That said, it is neither omniscient nor invincible. The institution is not so much sinister (although it has highly sinister aspects) as it is relentlessly well entrenched. Far from being invincible, its failures, such as those in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, are routine enough that it is only the Deep State’s protectiveness towards its higher-ranking personnel that allows them to escape the consequences of their frequent ineptitude. Per
Bill Moyers – “Anatomy of the Deep State”.
Washington is the most important node of the Deep State that has taken over America, but it is not the only one. Invisible threads of money and ambition connect the town to other nodes. One is Wall Street, which supplies the cash that keeps the political machine quiescent and operating as a diversionary marionette theater. Should the politicians forget their lines and threaten the status quo, Wall Street floods the town with cash and lawyers to help the hired hands remember their own best interests. The executives of the financial giants even have de facto criminal immunity.
On March 6, 2013, testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Eric Holder stated the following: “I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications that if you do prosecute, if you do bring a criminal charge, it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy.” This, from the chief law enforcement officer of a justice system that has practically abolished the constitutional right to trial fortrial for poorer defendants charged with certain crimes. It is not too much to say that Wall Street may be the ultimate owner of the Deep State and its strategies, if for no other reason than that it has the money to reward government operatives with a second career that is lucrative beyond the dreams of avarice — certainly beyond the dreams of a salaried government employee.
The corridor between Manhattan and Washington is a well-trodden highway for the personalities we have all gotten to know in the period since the massive deregulation of Wall Street: Robert Rubin, Lawrence Summers, Henry Paulson, Timothy Geithner and many others. Not all the traffic involves persons connected with the purely financial operations of the government: In 2013, General David Petraeus joined KKR (formerly Kohlberg Kravis Roberts) of 9 West 57th Street, New York, a private equity firm with $62.3 billion in assets. KKR specializes in management buyouts and leveraged finance. General Petraeus’ expertise in these areas is unclear. His ability to peddle influence, however, is a known and valued commodity. Unlike Cincinnatus, the military commanders of the Deep State do not take up the plow once they lay down the sword. Petraeus also obtained a sinecure as a non-resident senior fellow at theBelfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard. The Ivy League is, of course, the preferred bleaching tub and charm school of the American oligarchy.
Lofgren goes on to say that Silicon Valley is a node of the Deep State too, and that despite the protestations of its chieftains against NSA spying, it’s a vital part of the Deep State’s apparatus. More:
The Deep State is the big story of our time. It is the red thread that runs through the war on terrorism, the financialization and deindustrialization of the American economy, the rise of a plutocratic social structure and political dysfunction. Washington is the headquarters of the Deep State, and its time in the sun as a rival to Rome, Constantinople or London may be term-limited by its overweening sense of self-importance and its habit, as Winwood Reade said of Rome, to “live upon its principal till ruin stared it in the face.”
The Cathedral — The self-organizing consensus of Progressives and Progressive ideology represented by the universities, the media, and the civil service. A term coined by blogger Mencius Moldbug. The Cathedral has no central administrator, but represents a consensus acting as a coherent group that condemns other ideologies as evil. Community writers have enumerated the platform of Progressivism as women’s suffrage, prohibition, abolition, federal income tax, democratic election of senators, labor laws, desegregation, popularization of drugs, destruction of traditional sexual norms, ethnic studies courses in colleges, decolonization, and gay marriage. A defining feature of Progressivism is that “you believe that morality has been essentially solved, and all that’s left is to work out the details.” Reactionaries see Republicans as Progressives, just lagging 10-20 years behind Democrats in their adoption of Progressive norms.
You don’t have to agree with the Neoreactionaries on what they condemn — women’s suffrage? desegregation? labor laws? really?? — to acknowledge that they’re onto something about the sacred consensus that all Right-Thinking People share. I would love to see a study comparing the press coverage from 9/11 leading up to the Iraq War with press coverage of the gay marriage issue from about 2006 till today. Specifically, I’d be curious to know about how thoroughly the media covered the cases against the policies that the Deep State and the Shallow State decided should prevail. I’m not suggesting a conspiracy here, not at all. I’m only thinking back to how it seemed so obvious to me in 2002 that we should go to war with Iraq, so perfectly clear that the only people who opposed it were fools or villains. The same consensus has emerged around same-sex marriage. I know how overwhelmingly the news media have believed this for some time, such that many American journalists simply cannot conceive that anyone against same-sex marriage is anything other than a fool or a villain. Again, this isn’t a conspiracy; it’s in the nature of the thing. Lofgren:
Cultural assimilation is partly a matter of what psychologist Irving L. Janis called “groupthink,” the chameleon-like ability of people to adopt the views of their superiors and peers. This syndrome is endemic to Washington: The town is characterized by sudden fads, be it negotiating biennial budgeting, making grand bargains or invading countries. Then, after a while, all the town’s cool kids drop those ideas as if they were radioactive. As in the military, everybody has to get on board with the mission, and questioning it is not a career-enhancing move. The universe of people who will critically examine the goings-on at the institutions they work for is always going to be a small one. As Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”
A more elusive aspect of cultural assimilation is the sheer dead weight of the ordinariness of it all once you have planted yourself in your office chair for the 10,000th time. Government life is typically not some vignette from an Allen Drury novel about intrigue under the Capitol dome. Sitting and staring at the clock on the off-white office wall when it’s 11:00 in the evening and you are vowing never, ever to eat another piece of takeout pizza in your life is not an experience that summons the higher literary instincts of a would-be memoirist. After a while, a functionary of the state begins to hear things that, in another context, would be quite remarkable, or at least noteworthy, and yet that simply bounce off one’s consciousness like pebbles off steel plate: “You mean the number of terrorist groups we are fighting is classified?” No wonder so few people are whistle-blowers, quite apart from the vicious retaliation whistle-blowing often provokes: Unless one is blessed with imagination and a fine sense of irony, growing immune to the curiousness of one’s surroundings is easy. To paraphrase the inimitable Donald Rumsfeld, I didn’t know all that I knew, at least until I had had a couple of years away from the government to reflect upon it.
When all you know is the people who surround you in your professional class bubble and your social circles, you can think the whole world agrees with you, or should. It’s probably not a coincidence that the American media elite live, work, and socialize in New York and Washington, the two cities that were attacked on 9/11, and whose elites — political, military, financial — were so genuinely traumatized by the events.
Anyway, that’s just a small part of it, about how the elite media manufacture consent. Here’s a final quote, one from the Moyers interview with Lofgren:
BILL MOYERS: If, as you write, the ideology of the Deep State is not democrat or republican, not left or right, what is it?
MIKE LOFGREN: It’s an ideology. I just don’t think we’ve named it. It’s a kind of corporatism. Now, the actors in this drama tend to steer clear of social issues. They pretend to be merrily neutral servants of the state, giving the best advice possible on national security or financial matters. But they hold a very deep ideology of the Washington consensus at home, which is deregulation, outsourcing, de-industrialization and financialization. And they believe in American exceptionalism abroad, which is boots on the ground everywhere, it’s our right to meddle everywhere in the world. And the result of that is perpetual war.
This can’t last. We’d better hope it can’t last. And we’d better hope it unwinds peacefully.
I, for one, remain glad that so many of us Americans are armed. When the Deep State collapses — and it will one day — it’s not going to be a happy time.
Questions to the room: Is a Gorbachev for the Deep State conceivable? That is, could you foresee a political leader emerging who could unwind the ideology and apparatus of the Deep State, and not only survive, but succeed? Or is it impossible for the Deep State to allow such a figure to thrive? Or is the Deep State, like the Soviet system Gorbachev failed to reform, too entrenched and too far gone to reform itself? If so, what then?
Professor Michael J. Glennon book “National Security and Double Government.”
The second important thinker in this area is Professor Michael J. Glennon who wrote the book “National Security and Double Government.”. The strong point of his views on the subject is that he assumes that there is an internal struggle between those two forms of government, not just passive submission one to another, but in most cases deep state prevails. This move led the USA “beyond a mere imperial presidency to a bifurcated system — a structure of double government — in which even the President now exercises little substantive control over the overall direction of U.S. national security policy.”
The “deep state” (call by Professor Michael J. Glennon) The Trumanites, exercise their power due to alliance with Wall Street, almost unlimited funding (with many hidden sources belong US budget), higher efficiency, abuse of secrecy, exaggerated threats, peer pressure to conform, and corruption of the key decision–makers.
Here is how Amazon reviewer Mal Warwick summarized the book in his review written on December 22, 2014
Why does Barack Obama’s performance on national security issues in the White House contrast so strongly with his announced intentions as a candidate in 2008? After all, not only has Obama continued most of the Bush policies he decried when he ran for the presidency, he has doubled down on government surveillance, drone strikes, and other critical programs.
Michael J. Glennon set out to answer this question in his unsettling new book, National Security and Double Government. And he clearly dislikes what he found.
The answer, Glennon discovered, is that the US government is divided between the three official branches of the government, on the one hand — the “Madisonian” institutions incorporated into the Constitution — and the several hundred unelected officials who do the real work of a constellation of military and intelligence agencies, on the other hand. These officials, called “Trumanites” in Glennon’s parlance for having grown out of the national security infrastructure established under Harry Truman, make the real decisions in the area of national security. (To wage the Cold War, Truman created the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Department of Defense, the CIA, the NSA, and the National Security Council.) “The United States has, in short,” Glennon writes, “moved beyond a mere imperial presidency to a bifurcated system — a structure of double government — in which even the President now exercises little substantive control over the overall direction of U.S. national security policy. . . . The perception of threat, crisis, and emergency has been the seminal phenomenon that has created and nurtures America’s double government.” If Al Qaeda hadn’t existed, the Trumanite network would have had to create it — and, Glennon seems to imply, might well have done so.
The Trumanites wield their power with practiced efficiency, using secrecy, exaggerated threats, peer pressure to conform, and the ability to mask the identity of the key decision-maker as their principal tools.
Michael J. Glennon comes to this task with unexcelled credentials. A professor of international law at Tufts and former legal counsel for the Senate Armed Services Committee, he came face to face on a daily basis with the “Trumanites” he writes about. National Security and Double Government is exhaustively researched and documented: notes constitute two-thirds of this deeply disturbing little book.
The more I learn about how politics and government actually work — and I’ve learned a fair amount in my 73 years — the more pessimistic I become about the prospects for democracy in America. In some ways, this book is the most worrisome I’ve read over the years, because it implies that there is no reason whatsoever to think that things can ever get better. In other words, to borrow a phrase from the Borg on Star Trek, “resistance is futile.” That’s a helluva takeaway, isn’t it?
On reflection, what comes most vividly to mind is a comment from the late Chalmers Johnson on a conference call in which I participated several years ago. Johnson, formerly a consultant to the CIA and a professor at two campuses of the University of California (Berkeley and later San Diego), was the author of many books, including three that awakened me to many of the issues Michael Glennon examines: Blowback, The Sorrows of Empire, and Nemesis. Johnson, who was then nearly 80 and in declining health, was asked by a student what he would recommend for young Americans who want to combat the menace of the military-industrial complex. “Move to Vancouver,” he said.
Another good summary of the book can be found is review by Bruce Morgan (Shadow Government ):
Elected officials are no longer in charge of our national security—and that is undermining our democracy, says the Fletcher School’s Michael Glennon
“We are clearly on the path to autocracy,” says Michael Glennon. “There’s no question that if we continue on that path, [the] Congress, the courts and the presidency will ultimately end up . . . as institutional museum pieces.”
Michael Glennon knew of the book, and had cited it in his classes many times, but he had never gotten around to reading the thing from cover to cover. Last year he did, jolted page after page with its illuminating message for our time.
The book was The English Constitution, an analysis by 19th-century journalist Walter Bagehot that laid bare the dual nature of British governance. It suggested that one part of government was for popular consumption, and another more hidden part was for real, consumed with getting things done in the world. As he read, Glennon, a professor of international law at the Fletcher School, where he also teaches constitutional law, saw distinct parallels with the current American political scene.
He decided to explore the similarities in a 30-page paper that he sent around to a number of his friends, asking them to validate or refute his argument. As it happens, Glennon’s friends were an extraordinarily well-informed bunch, mostly seasoned operatives in the CIA, the U.S. State Department and the military. “Look,” he told them. “I’m thinking of writing a book. Tell me if this is wrong.” Every single one responded, “What you have here is exactly right.”
Expanded from that original brief paper, Glennon’s book National Security and Double Government (Oxford University Press) takes our political system to task, arguing that the people running our government are not our visible elected officials but high-level—and unaccountable—bureaucrats nestled atop government agencies.
Glennon’s informed critique of the American political system comes from a place of deep regard. Glennon says he can remember driving into Washington, D.C., in the late spring of 1973, at the time of the Senate Watergate hearings, straight from law school at the University of Minnesota, to take his first job as assistant legislative counsel to the U.S. Senate. Throughout his 20s, he worked in government, culminating in his position as legal counsel to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee under Sen. Frank Church from 1977 to 1980. Since entering academic life in the early 1980s, Glennon has been a frequent consultant to government agencies of all stripes, as well as a regular commentator on media outlets such as NPR’s All Things Considered, the Today show and Nightline.
In his new book, an inescapable sadness underlies the narrative. “I feel a great sense of loss,” Glennon admits. “I devoted my life to these [democratic] institutions, and it’s not easy to see how to throw the current trends into reverse.” Tufts Now spoke with Glennon recently to learn more of his perspective.
Tufts Now: You’ve been both an insider and an outsider with regard to government affairs. What led you to write this book?
Michael Glennon: I was struck by the strange continuity in national security policy between the Bush administration and the Obama administration. Obama, as a candidate, had been eloquent and forceful in criticizing many aspects of the Bush administration’s national security policies, from drone strikes to Guantanamo to surveillance by the National Security Agency—the NSA—to covert operations. Yet as president, it turned out that he made very, very few changes in these policies. So I thought it was useful to explain the reason for that.
Were you surprised by the continuity?
I was surprised by the extent of it. I knew fundamentally from my own experience that changing national policies is like trying to change the course of an aircraft carrier. These policies in many ways were set long ago, and the national security bureaucracy tends to favor the status quo. Still, I thought that a president like Obama would, with the political wind in his sails and with so much public and congressional support for what he was criticizing, be more successful in fulfilling his promises.
You use the phrase “double government,” coined by Walter Bagehot in the 1860s. What did he mean by that?
Walter Bagehot was one of the founders of the Economist magazine. He developed the theory of “double government,” which in a nutshell is this. He said Britain had developed two sets of institutions. First came “dignified” institutions, the monarchy and the House of Lords, which were for show and which the public believed ran the government. But in fact, he suggested, this was an illusion.
These dignified institutions generate legitimacy, but it was a second set of institutions, which he called Britain’s “efficient” institutions, that actually ran the government behind the scenes. These institutions were the House of Commons, the Cabinet and the prime minister. This split allowed Britain to move quietly from a monarchy to what Bagehot called a “concealed republic.”
The thesis of my book is that the United States has also drifted into a form of double government, and that we have our own set of “dignified” institutions—Congress, the presidency and the courts. But when it comes to national security policy, these entities have become largely for show. National security policy is now formulated primarily by a second group of officials, namely the several hundred individuals who manage the agencies of the military, intelligence and law enforcement bureaucracy responsible for protecting the nation’s security.
What are some components of this arrangement?
The NSA, the FBI, the Pentagon and elements of the State Department, certainly; generally speaking, law enforcement, intelligence and the military entities of the government. It’s a diverse group, an amorphous group, with no leader and no formal structure, that has come to dominate the formation of American national security policy to the point that Congress, the presidency and the courts all defer to it.
You call this group the “Trumanite network” in your book. What’s the link to Harry Truman?
It was in Truman’s administration that the National Security Act of 1947 was enacted. This established the CIA and the National Security Council and centralized the command of the U.S. military. It was during the Truman administration as well that the National Security Agency [NSA] was set up, in 1952, although that was a secret and didn’t come to light for many years thereafter.
In contrast to the Trumanites you set the “Madisonians.” How would you describe them?
The Madisonian institutions are the three constitutionally established branches of the federal government: Congress, the judiciary and the president. They are perceived by the public as the entities responsible for the formulation of national security policy, but that belief is largely mistaken.
The idea is driven by regular exceptions. You can always point to specific instances in which, say, the president personally ordered the killing of Osama bin Laden or Congress enacted the War Powers Resolution. But these are exceptions. The norm is that as a general matter, these three branches defer to the Trumanite network, and that’s truer all the time.
So the trend is toward increased power on the Trumanite side of the ledger.
If that’s true, why has there not been a greater outcry from the public, the media—all the observers we have?
I think the principal reason is that even sophisticated students of government operate under a very serious misunderstanding. They believe that the political system is self-correcting. They believe the framers set up a system of government setting power against power, and ambition against ambition, and that an equilibrium would be reached, and that any abuse of power would be checked, and arbitrary power would be prevented.
That is correct as far as it goes, but the reality is that’s only half the picture. The other half is that Madison and his colleagues believed that for equilibrium to occur, we would have an informed and engaged citizenry. Lacking that, the entire system corrupts, because individuals are elected to office who do not resist encroachments on the power of their branches of government, and the whole equilibrium breaks down.
What role, if any, have the media played?
The media have pretty much been enablers. Although there are a handful of investigative journalists who have done a heroic job of uncovering many of the abuses, they are the exception, for a number of reasons. Number one, the media are a business and have a bottom line. It takes a huge amount of money to fund an investigative journalist who goes about finding sources over a period of years. Very few newspapers or television concerns have those sorts of deep pockets.
Second, access for the press is everything. There is huge incentive to pull punches, and you don’t get interviews with top-ranking officials at the NSA or CIA if you’re going to offer hard-hitting questions. Look, for example, at the infamous 60 Minutes puff piece on the NSA, a really tragic example of how an otherwise respectable institution can sell its soul and act like an annex of the NSA in order to get some people it wants on the TV screen.
What is the role of terror in this environment?
The whole transfer of power from the Madisonian institutions to the Trumanite network has been fueled by a sense of emergency deriving from crisis, deriving from fear. It’s fear of terrorism more than anything else that causes the American people to increasingly be willing to dispense with constitutional safeguards to ensure their safety.
Madison believed that government has two great objects. One object of a constitution is to enable the government to protect the people, specifically from external attacks. The other great object of a constitution is to protect the people from the government. The better able the government is to protect the people from external threats, the greater the threat posed by the government to the people.
You’ve been involved with the U.S. government for 40 years. How has your view of government changed?
Double government was certainly a factor in the 1970s, but it was challenged for the first time thanks to the activism stemming from the civil rights movement, Vietnam and Watergate. As a result, there were individuals in Congress—Democrats and Republicans like William Fulbright, Frank Church, Jacob Javits, Charles Mathias and many others—who were willing to stand up and insist upon adherence to constitutionally ordained principles. That led to a wave of activism and to the enactment of a number of pieces of reform legislation.
But there is no final victory in Washington. Those reforms have gradually been eaten away and turned aside. I think today we are in many ways right back where we were in the early 1970s. NSA surveillance is an example of that. The Church Committee uncovered something called Operation Shamrock, in which the NSA had assembled a watch list of antiwar and civil rights activists based upon domestic surveillance. Church warned at the time that NSA capabilities were so awesome that if they were ever turned inward on the American people, this nation would cross an abyss from which there is no return. The question is whether we have recently crossed that abyss.
To what degree are we still a functioning democracy? I’m sure you know that President Jimmy Carter told a German reporter last year that he thought we no longer qualified as a democracy because of our domestic surveillance.
We are clearly on the path to autocracy, and you can argue about how far we are down that path. But there’s no question that if we continue on that path, America’s constitutionally established institutions—Congress, the courts and the presidency—will ultimately end up like Britain’s House of Lords and monarchy, namely as institutional museum pieces.
Bruce Morgan can be reached at email@example.com
Here is how Christopher Bellavita in Homeland Security Watch summarize an interesting discussion at Cato think tank which I highly recommend to watch:
That’s the question Michael J. Glennon asks in his book “National Security and Double Government.”
His answer: national security policy is determined largely by “the several hundred managers of the military, intelligence, diplomatic, and law enforcement agencies who are responsible for protecting the nation and who have come to operate largely immune from constitutional and electoral restraints.” The president, congress and the courts play largely a symbolic role in national security policy, Glennon claims.
You can read a Harvard National Security Journal article that outlines Glennon’s argument at this link: http://harvardnsj.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Glennon-Final.pdf.
His book adds more analysis to the argument, using (from Graham Allison’s Essence of Decision) the rational actor model, the government politics model, and the organizational behavior model. Glennon extends that framework by discussing culture, networks, and the myth of alternative competing hypotheses. The book is richer, in my opinion. But the core of Glennon’s position is in the paper.
This link takes you to a video of Glennon talking about his book at the Cato Institute: http://www.cato.org/events/national-security-double-government (the talk starts at the 5:20 mark).
From the Cato site:
In National Security and Double Government, Michael Glennon examines the continuity in U.S. national security policy from the Bush administration to the Obama administration. Glennon explains the lack of change by pointing to the enervation of America’s “Madisonian institutions,” namely, the Congress, the presidency, and the courts. In Glennon’s view, these institutions have been supplanted by a “Trumanite network” of bureaucrats who make up the permanent national security state. National security policymaking has been removed from public view and largely insulated from law and politics. Glennon warns that leaving security policy in the hands of the Trumanite network threatens Americans’ liberties and the republican form of government.
Some blurb reviews:
- “If constitutional government is to endure in the United States, Americans must confront the fundamental challenges presented by this chilling analysis of the national security state.” –
- “Glennon shows how the underlying national security bureaucracy in Washington – what might be called the deep state – ensures that presidents and their successors act on the world stage like Tweedledee and Tweedledum.” – John J. Mearsheimer
- “National Security and Double Government is brilliant, deep, sad, and vastly learned across multiple fields–a work of Weberian power and stature. It deserves to be read and discussed. The book raises philosophical questions in the public sphere in a way not seen at least since Fukuyama’s end of history.” – David A. Westbrook
- “In our faux democracy, those we elect to govern serve largely ornamental purposes, while those who actually wield power, especially in the realm of national security, do so chiefly with an eye toward preserving their status and prerogatives. Read this incisive and richly documented book, and you’ll understand why.” – Andrew J. Bacevich
- “…Michael Glennon provides a compelling argument that America’s national security policy is growing outside the bounds of existing government institutions. This is at once a constitutional challenge, but is also a case study in how national security can change government institutions, create new ones, and, in effect, stand-up a parallel state….” – Vali Nasr
- “Instead of being responsive to citizens or subject to effective checks and balances, U.S. national security policy is in fact conducted by a shadow government of bureaucrats and a supporting network of think tanks, media insiders, and ambitious policy wonks. Presidents may come and go, but the permanent national security establishment inevitably defeats their efforts to chart a new course….” – Stephen M. Walt, Robert and Renee Belfer
I’ve spoken to three people I consider to be members of the “shadow national security state.” One person said Glennon’s argument is nothing new. The second told me he’s got it exactly right. The third said it’s even worse.
Professor Peter Dale Scott book and articles
If Michael Glennon conceded defeat, but still has some hope, here we enter perfect Dante hell picture along the lines “Leave all hopes those who dare to enter“
Professor Peter Dale Scott book and article represent probably the most comprehensive coverage, especially his book. But the article in the Asia–Pacific journal represents fair summary of his views on the subject (The State, the Deep State, and the Wall Street Overworld (Updated March 13, 2014):
In the last decade it has become more and more obvious that we have in America today what the journalists Dana Priest and William Arkin have called
two governments: the one its citizens were familiar with, operated more or less in the open: the other a parallel top secret government whose parts had mushroomed in less than a decade into a gigantic, sprawling universe of its own, visible to only a carefully vetted cadre – and its entirety…visible only to God.
And in 2013, particularly after the military return to power in Egypt, more and more authors referred to this second level as America’s “deep state.” Here for example is the Republican analyst Mike Lofgren:
There is the visible government situated around the Mall in Washington, and then there is another, more shadowy, more indefinable government that is not explained in Civics 101 or observable to tourists at the White House or the Capitol. The former is traditional Washington partisan politics: the tip of the iceberg that a public watching C-SPAN sees daily and which is theoretically controllable via elections. The subsurface part of the iceberg I shall call the Deep State, which operates according to its own compass heading regardless of who is formally in power.
At the end of 2013 a New York Times Op-Ed noted this trend, and even offered a definition of the term that will work for the purposes of this essay:
DEEP STATE n. A hard-to-perceive level of government or super-control that exists regardless of elections and that may thwart popular movements or radical change. Some have said that Egypt is being manipulated by its deep state.
The political activities of the deep state are the chief source and milieu of what I have elsewhere called “deep politics:” “all those political practices and arrangements, deliberate or not, which are usually repressed rather than acknowledged.”
Others, like Tom Hayden, call the deep state a “state within the state,” and suggest it may be responsible for the failure of the Obama administration to follow the policy guidelines of the president’s speeches:
We have seen evidence of a “state within the state” before, going back as far as the CIA’s operations against Cuba. In Obama’s time, the president correctly named the 2009 coup in Honduras a “coup”, and then seemed powerless to prevent it.
This development of a two-level or dual state has been paralleled by two other dualities: the increasing resolution of American society into two classes – the “one percent” and the “ninety-nine percent” – and the bifurcation of the U.S. economy into two aspects: the domestic, still subject to some governmental regulation and taxation, and the international, relatively free from governmental controls. All three developments have affected and intensified each other – particularly since the Reagan Revolution of 1980, which saw American inequality of wealth cease to diminish and begin to increase. Thus for example we shall see how Wall Street – the incarnation of the “one percent” – played a significant role in increasing the deep state after World War Two, and how three decades later the deep state played a significant role in realigning America for the Reagan Revolution.
In earlier books I have given versions of this America-centered account of America’s shift into empire and a deep state. But another factor to be mentioned is the shift of global history towards an increasingly global society dominated by a few emergent superpowers. This trend was accelerated after the Industrial Revolution by new technologies of transport, from the railroad in the 19th century to the jet plane and space travel in the 20th.
In the fallout from this rearrangement we must include two world wars, as a result of which Britain ceased to act as the dominant superpower it had been since Napoleon. Not surprisingly, the Soviet Union and the United States subsequently competed in a Cold War to fill the gap. It was not however predetermined that the Cold War would be as thuggish and covertly violent as for decades it continued to be. For that we should look to more contingent causes on both sides of the Iron Curtain – starting with the character of Stalin and his party but also including the partly responsive development of the American deep state.
The Deep State, The Shadow Government and the Wall Street Overworld
The “deep state” was defined by the UK newsletter On Religion as “the embedded anti-democratic power structures within a government, something very few democracies can claim to be free from.”
The term originated in Turkey in 1996, to refer to U.S.-backed elements, primarily in the intelligence services and military, who had repeatedly used violence to interfere with and realign Turkey’s democratic political process. Sometimes the definition is restricted to elements within the government (or “a state-within-the state”), but more often in Turkey the term is expanded, for historical reasons, to include “members of the Turkish underworld.” In this essay I shall use “deep state” in the larger sense, to include both the second level of secret government inside Washington and those outsiders powerful enough, in either the underworld or overworld, to give it direction. In short I shall equate the term “deep state” with what in 1993 I termed a “deep political system:” “ one which habitually resorts to decision-making and enforcement procedures outside as well as inside those publicly sanctioned by law and society.”
Like myself, Lofgren suggests an ambiguous symbiosis between two aspects of the American deep state:
1) the Beltway agencies of the shadow government, like the CIA and NSA, which have been instituted by the public state and now overshadow it, and
2) the much older power of Wall Street, referring to the powerful banks and law firms located there.
In his words: “It is not too much to say that Wall Street may be the ultimate owner of the Deep State and its strategies, if for no other reason than that it has the money to reward government operatives with a second career that is lucrative beyond the dreams of avarice – certainly beyond the dreams of a salaried government employee. I shall argue that in the 1950s Wall Street was a dominating complex. It included not just banks and oil firms but also the oil majors whose cartel arrangements were successfully defended against the U.S. Government by the Wall Street law firm Sullivan and Cromwell, home to the Dulles brothers. This larger complex is what I mean by the Wall Street overworld.”
The Long History of the Wall Street Overworld
Lofgren’s inclusion of Wall Street is in keeping with Franklin Roosevelt’s observation in 1933 to his friend Col. E.M. House that “The real truth … is, as you and I know, that a financial element in the larger centers has owned the Government ever since the days of Andrew Jackson.”
FDR’s insight is well illustrated by the efficiency with which a group of Wall Street bankers (including Nelson Rockefeller’s grandfather Nelson Aldrich and Paul Warburg) were able in a highly secret meeting in 1910 to establish the Federal Reserve System – a system which in effect reserved oversight of the nation’s currency supply and of all America’s banks in the not impartial hands of its largest.
The political clout of the quasi-governmental Federal Reserve Board (where the federal Treasury is represented but does not dominate) was clearly demonstrated in 2008, when Fed leadership secured instant support from the successive administrations of a Texan Republican president, followed by a Midwest Democratic one, for public money to rescue the reckless management of Wall Street banks: banks Too Big To Fail, and of course far Too Big To Jail, but not Too Big To Bail.
Wall Street and the Launching of the CIA
Top-level Treasury officials, CIA officers, and Wall Street bankers and lawyers think alike because of the “revolving door” by which they pass easily from private to public service and back. In 1946 General Vandenberg, as Director of Central Intelligence (DCI), recruited Allen Dulles, then a Republican lawyer at Sullivan and Cromwell in New York, “to draft proposals for the shape and organization of what was to become the Central Intelligence Agency in 1947.” Dulles promptly formed an advisory group of six men, all but one of whom were Wall Street investment bankers or lawyers. Dulles and two of the six (William H. Jackson and Frank Wisner) later joined the agency, where Dulles proceeded to orchestrate policies, such as the overthrow of the Arbenz regime in Guatemala, that he had previously discussed in New York at the Council on Foreign Relations.
There seems to be little difference in Allen Dulles’s influence whether he was a Wall Street lawyer or a CIA director. Although he did not formally join the CIA until November 1950, he was in Berlin before the start of the 1948 Berlin Blockade, “supervising the unleashing of anti-Soviet propaganda across Europe.” In the early summer of 1948 he set up the American Committee for a United Europe (ACUE), support of what became by the early 1950s “the largest CIA operation in Western Europe.”
The Deep State and Funds for CIA Covert Operations
Wall Street was also the inspiration for what eventually became the CIA’s first covert operation: the use of “over $10 million in captured Axis funds to influence the [Italian] election [of 1948].” (The fundraising had begun at the wealthy Brook Club in New York; but Allen Dulles, still a Wall Street lawyer, persuaded Washington, which at first had preferred a private funding campaign, to authorize the operation through the National Security Council and the CIA.)
Dulles’s friend Frank Wisner then left Wall Street to oversee an enlarged covert operations program through the newly created Office of Policy Co-ordination (OPC). Dulles, still a lawyer, campaigned successfully to reconstruct Western Europe through what became known as the Marshall Plan. Together with George Kennan and James Forrestal, Dulles also “helped devise a secret codicil [to the Marshall Plan] that gave the CIA the capability to conduct political warfare. It let the agency skim millions of dollars from the plan.”
This created one of the earlier occasions when the CIA, directly or indirectly, recruited local assets involved in drug trafficking. AFL member Irving Brown, the assistant of AFL official Jay Lovestone (a CIA asset), was implicated in drug smuggling activities in Europe, at the same time that he used funds diverted from the Marshall Plan to establish a “compatible left” labor union in Marseilles with Pierre Ferri-Pisani. On behalf of Brown and the CIA, Ferri-Pisani (a drug smuggler connected with Marseilles crime lord Antoine Guerini), hired goons to shellack striking Communist dock workers.
An analogous funding source for the CIA developed in the Far East: the so-called
“M-Fund,” a secret fund of money of enormous size that has existed in Japan [in 1991] for more than forty years. The Fund was established by the United States in the immediate postwar era for essentially the same reasons that later gave rise to the Marshall Plan of assistance by the U.S. to Western Europe, including the Federal Republic of Germany….. The M-Fund was used not only for the building of a democratic political system in Japan but, in addition, for all of the purposes for which Marshall Plan funds were used in Europe.
For at least two decades the CIA lavishly subsidized right-wing parties in countries including Japan and Indonesia, possibly still using captured Axis funds. (One frequently encounters the claim that the source of the M-fund was gold looted by Japan during World War Two (“Yamashita’s gold”).
As a general rule the CIA, rather than assimilating these funds into its own budget, appears to have left them off the books in the hands of cooperative allied powers – ranging from other U.S. agencies like the Economic Cooperation Administration (ECA. set up in 1948 to administer the Marshall Plan) to oil companies to powerful drug kingpins.
The CIA never abandoned its dependency on funds from outside its official budget to conduct its clandestine operations. In Southeast Asia, in particular, its proprietary firm Sea Supply Inc., supplied an infrastructure for a drug traffic supporting a CIA-led paramilitary force, PARU. The CIA appears also to have acted in coordination with slush funds from various U.S. government contracts, ranging from the Howard Hughes organization to (as we shall see) the foreign arms sales of U.S. defense corporations like Lockheed and Northrop.
But we’re the good guys, right?
I’d be all on board with that axiom if only we presented the world a bit more Shakespeare and Kerouac and a lot less Simon Cowell and Gordon Ramsay as paradigm human beings. And better schooling so we beat the Chinese machine and stop this nihilistic old-age decay. You silly bastards!