Redefining the Deep State
Like many conspiracy theories, the deep state actually exists, it can be tested and demonstrated and illustrated with innumerable historical examples.
“The concept of a deep state suggests that there exists a coordinated effort by career government employees and others to influence state policy without regard for democratically elected leadership.” (Italics mine).
The entry then correctly notes that the concept of the deep state originated within analysis of the Turkish polity, but admits that the term is achieving wide penetration due to the influential writing of Marc Abinder, David W. Brown, Peter Dale Scott, and Mike Lofgren.
The entry then adopts Mr. Lofgren’s definition:
“I use the term to mean a hybrid association of elements of government and parts of top-level finance and industry that is effectively able to govern the United States without reference to the consent of the governed as expressed through the formal political process.” (Italics mine).
Mike Lofgren, The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government, 2016.
This definition deftly explicates the and others that I italicized above, as “parts of top-level finance and industry,” a characterization that I accept, though I insist that any definition of the deep state that omits to mention the roles of the mainstream media and the alternative media is incomplete.
Indeed, most visible deep state activity today involves weaponized anonymous leaks to media.
While Mr. Lofgren’s definition has many correct elements, I do not think that the deep state “effectively governs the United States.” Rather, deep state actors compete and collaborate with other power centers within and without the US government, and sometimes they succeed, and sometimes they fail. They often fall short of the benchmark that Mr. Lofgren proposes of “effectively governing the United States.”
External protagonists like President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin perceive, for example, that “there is no change” between Democrat and Republican administrations.
From Mr. Putin’s position as an external observer, the bureaucratic elites that manage government policies on a daily basis remain in place no matter who is elected.
While this assessment would reinforce a perception that the deep state is monolithic and successful in “effectively governing” America, such an assessment lacks crucial nuance.
Here are links to the Oliver Stone interviews with Vladimir Putin on YouTube.
Part 1: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=b6YgjFxyT5E
Part 2: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=eVnWsjlBarw
Part 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GOeOcnng0to
Part 4: https://youtu.be/avr4gGxNP4k
The Wiki entry on the deep state seems to be obsessed with eschewing the idea that most deep state activity is by definition conspiratorial, as the editors on the article’s talk page fear the label of “conspiracy theorists.”
I do not fear conspiracy as an historical mechanism, and I think that it would be accurate to say that most deep state actors, depending on how they are comprised on a case by case basis, engage in conspiratorial behavior, particularly when you accept that deep state actors often act as members of cabals.
This observation then suggests that some deep state actors conspire in cabals, and that these cabals have some persistence. There are many cabals within the factions of the deep state, and some members of them collaborate with other cabals, or even participate in multiple cabals. But while some cabals are persistent, many come and go. They can be dynamic.
This may be a reflection of the Special Access Program concept of compartmentalization, a fundamental principle in the intelligence community, which many deep state actors work for, or previously worked for. Compartmentalization is a natural characteristic of conspiratorial deep state behavior.
Such cabals are often not persistent at all, they form to support specific purposes, and then they dissolve naturally when the purpose that brought them together is resolved.
What is persistent are the deep state factions from which cabals manifest. It seems self evident that an ill-defined, barely detectable, amorphous entity that often acts in defiance of formal political processes exists. What we cannot define are its margins, its internal organization, and who comprises it.
This essay is an attempt to refine our definition of the deep state and to consequently help us identify its margins, its internal organization, who comprises it, and its functioning. Behaviors of participants appear to be critical to our understanding.
It is important to add that some deep state members act alone, they do not always conspire with others, aside from their collusion with members of the media. So there are limits to the thesis that deep state actors conspire in cabals. Sometimes deep state leakers act alone, as singletons.
I have long said that the dominant struggle of our era is between globalism and nationalism, and one of the primary contemporary battlegrounds is between unelected deep state operatives and our elected government. Deep state activity is hence often illicit, if not illegal, though not always.
We watch it manifesting in the mainstream media almost every day. But deep state phenomena originates from within government, and sometimes from outside government, from former government employees or appointees, from lobbying firms, from think tanks, from corporations, or Wall Street, or from organizations like the Council on Foreign Relations, or the Trilateral Commission, or even the Bilderberg Group.
This observation accounts for infamous deep state operators like former Vice President Richard Cheney, surely one of the apex deep state operators of all time, former Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte, and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
I think that the Trump administration proposal to reduce the size of government must be seen within this context. If you reduce the size of government, you reduce government intrusion into the daily lives of the populace, and you reduce the very financial oxygen that some elements of the deep state suck in order to exist.
I believe that shrinking the size of the government will curtail the number of those bureaucrats who engage in deep state activities. Smaller budgets will force them to prioritize statutory responsibilities, and leave them with less time to plot.
I also suspect that the liberal elite media collusion that dominates mainstream consciousness today is orchestrated by a cabal led by former director of the Hillary Clinton campaign, John Podesta.
Mr. Podesta has a long pedigree in government service, serving as White House Chief of Staff for President Clinton, but most interestingly for this discussion, between 1994–6, he was appointed by President Clinton to the Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy, also known as the Moynihan Secrecy Commission.
As a result of this appointment, Mr. Podesta rubbed shoulders with mandarins of the intelligence community like former DCI John M. Deutch, former Director of the National Reconnaissance Organization Martin C. Faga, and Mr. Maurice Sonnenberg, member of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.
Though Mr. Podesta was never a formally trained intelligence officer, he was in a position to soak up enabling skills from those around him who were: the cellular organization of Special Activity Programs and similar entities, planning, operational security, information warfare and whispering campaigns, clandestinity, how to exploit secrecy, agent handling, compartmentalization, and other tradecraft.
Any self-taught operator will inevitably have gaps in his training. One subject that Mr. Podesta did not learn, that a school-trained intelligence officer would be taught in Clandestine Communications 101, was: cybersecurity and secure communications. And this was his downfall.
Hackers successfully phished him, for a time Mr. Podesta’s Gmail password was “password,” and the contents of his Gmail inbox were soon splashed across WikiLeaks, in a series of breaches which probably cost his candidate the 2016 presidential election.
It appears that the cabal coordinated by Mr. Podesta persists, coexists and collaborates with a remnant shadow government within the Obama Foundation and other enduring elements of the Clinton machine.
Former presidents receive funding for their offices from the government. This often supports the establishment of a presidential library and other activities. Former presidents also receive significant funding from private sources.
The incipient Obama machine harbors former National Security Advisor Susan Rice, former Director of Central Intelligence John Brennan, and protagonists like Dr. Evelyn Farkas, a former Deputy Assistance Secretary of Defense who shamelessly admitted leaking classified information on MSNBC.
Interested observers enjoyed an historic and unprecedented glimpse into the ways that such cabals operate with the Podesta email leaks published by WikiLeaks. Those leaks revealed many secrets, but media collusion is one that is less contentious: it was indisputable.
I have said that the deep state is not monolithic, it is characterized by dissident and loyalist conspiratorial cabals and singletons, it is not broadly cohesive, it is amorphous, dynamic and fluid, in some cases it is natural and organic, but most importantly, there are factions within the deep state, and President Donald J. Trump has his own deep state defenders and his own loyalists among them.
Trump supporters in the deep state are leaking to 4chan, to InfoWars, to Breitbart, to Dr. Steve Pieczenik, to the inimitable political operative Roger Stone, to YouTube journalists Mike Cernovich, Jack Posobiec, and David Seaman, and even to me.
Under some conditions natural and organic deep state activities could include hypothetical secure messaging between protagonists like Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and White House Counsel Don McGahn, for example.
As the lines of communication between them are formal, natural and organic, their activities are not characterized as deep state behaviors when they act in statutory ways. The deep state standard is met when they plot to influence other actors within government or outside government, for example, acting deniably, conspiratorially, in a coordinated fashion.
Much deep state conduct culminates in an anonymous leak to media. The deep state standard can also be met when the protagonists merely seek an outcome, a decision, perhaps, by a third party, and they plot to influence it.
The deep state standard is met in this hypothetical case when the protagonists plot activities that are not statutory to their roles and their bureaucratic positions within the administration.
Deep state protagonists in such cases are defined by their behaviors, and most of all, when they conspire in activities which are outside their statutory roles. Not necessarily illegal, but unusual, definitely bureaucratic, and transgressing their natural and organic official positions.
Conversely, when Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein secure messages to Senior Advisor for Policy Stephen Miller, for example, he is transgressing natural and organic lines of communication. When deep state actors secretly ignore formal lines of communication and leap over them, they can be said to be engaging in deep state activity, even when an anonymous leak to a media outlet is not the consequence.
Government bureaucrats can often be seen saying, “that is outside my lane,” for example. If they do nothing further and remain within their bureaucratic ambit, they are not engaging in deep state behaviors.
But when they say, “that is outside my lane,” and they then act secretly, transgressing the limits of their authorities, behaving in a bureaucratic fashion that is characterized by secrecy, the deep state standard is met and they can be said to be violating natural and organic bureaucratic norms, and they are engaging in deep state behaviors.
You have to ask whether such protagonists can properly be considered as part of the deep state, as they support the elected government. I think that they must be included in our refined definition of the deep state.
They remain part of those bureaucratic and extra-governmental elites that persist across elections, they collaborate with actors within government contractors, think tanks, lobbying firms, and both defense corporations and Wall Street, and they function secretly, favoring whispers and weaponized leaks.
It does not matter whether deep state operatives favor or disfavor the elected government. They are defined, rather, by their actions, by the ways that they operate. Is a leak to Alex Jones different from a leak to Maggie Haberman? As a political scientist I look at roles and functions and less at partisan loyalties.
One revised definition of the deep state would hence be:
“Dynamic conspiratorial cabals and singletons drawn from persistent factions of government, former government employees and appointees, and members of finance, media and industry, that exploit the cult of secrecy and collude, often serving as sources for anonymous leaks of classified information to the media and otherwise acting in order to influence the policies of the United States, often in defiance of the formal political process.”
While I do not explicitly state that some deep state actors act in support of the elected government, saying that they often act in defiance of the formal political process does not say that they always act in defiance of the formal political process.
A distilled definition of the deep state could consequently be:
“Dynamic conspiratorial actors drawn from persistent factions of government, former government personnel, finance, media and industry, secretly facilitating classified leaks and otherwise acting to influence United States policy, often in defiance of the formal political process and bureaucratic norms.”
As I say, President Trump has his adherents within the factions of the deep state, and they do act to benefit his administration.
A ZeroHedge article that incited me to write this analysis claims that factions within the current deep state are attempting to undermine the Presidency of Donald J. Trump, and they are actively seeking his overthrow.
Such a development would not be unique in American politics, as we saw the assassination of President John F. Kennedy happen before our very eyes, and then witnessed the coverup with the empanelment of the Warren Commission.
Other examples can be drawn, for example the Iran-Contra scandals that consumed the presidency of President Ronald Reagan, and the grandfather of all political conspiracies, Watergate, which saw an Assistant Director of the FBI, Mark Felt, as Deep Throat whispering into the ears of journalists Woodward and Bernstein in effecting yet another coup.
It is interesting to me that some members of the FBI are repeatedly seen acting despite its apolitical culture for their own sometimes quite partisan and personal reasons.
There are, for example, some observers who claim that disgraced former Director of the FBI James Comey undermined the political impartiality of that agency when he outlined numerous violations of federal statutes and then failed to recommend that Hillary Clinton and her aides be referred for indictment to the DOJ in a scandal now known as ServerGate.
Indeed, some analysts consider Mr. Comey a core participant in deep state resistance to the Trump administration, and it is in retrospect no surprise that he was fired in disgrace by President Trump. President Trump had no alternative. Some of Mr. Comey’s FBI associates characterized him to me as a “viper.”
Students of Watergate ask why Associate Director Mark Felt betrayed his country, though some defenders claim that his treason was motivated by love of country and intended to counteract abuses of executive branch power by the Nixon regime.
In the end analysis, it appears that Mr. Felt’s motives were quite pedestrian. This deep state singleton was mad that Nixon did not nominate him as Director after the death of J. Edgar Hoover, who was surely the ultimate deep state operator of all time.
Was that the reason that Nixon was hounded out of office? Because a bureaucrat was mad at him? I must remember to ask Roger Stone (@RogerJStoneJr) this question. He witnessed those events at close range.
We ask ourselves today, why are cabals within factions of the current deep state plaguing President Trump? The obvious reasons are partisan politics, and ideological opposition to the political and cultural values that President Trump embodies.
Others could include both neocon and neoliberal preference for Hillary Clinton, who would have facilitated a seamless consolidation of those factions that embedded themselves throughout government during the presidency of Barack Hussein Obama.
Indeed, Obama regime loyalists now witness the Trump administration rolling back policies which they long labored to implement, like participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or the Paris Climate Accord.
As they gnash their teeth, they plot, and they leak, and they wage an orchestrated campaign to undermine the legitimacy of an elected president, with palpable contempt for those deplorable Americans who voted him into office.
One thing that confuses me is, President Trump appears to be throwing more money at the military industrial complex than even Madame Clinton would have. You would think that this would appease many deep state actors, particularly those from the defense industry.
Apparently not, at least, not in this case. The predominate opposition deep state actors of this era appear to be acting primarily for partisan political reasons, exploiting the cult of secrecy, wielding weaponized classified information and illegal leaks.
It all seems so petty to me. I used to work for the US government myself. We considered ourselves outside politics. We served in the executive branch at the convenience of the president, and we followed his directives in all things. Yes, at times, bureaucratic friction would be introduced when we did not like policies, but we did not presume to defy a sitting president.
This may be because the agency that I worked for, DEA, consisted during that era, the early 1990’s, predominately of former military personnel. The military is historically and traditionally considered to be apolitical. Indeed, this is a defining characteristic of US political culture, one that we believe differentiates us from banana republics.
I suspect that this is one of the primary reasons that the military as an institution is the most popular among the American electorate. It is perceived to be apolitical.
The irony of course is that the Pentagon and the defense industry are hotbeds of deep state activity, in the endless battles over budgets, weapons systems, and contracts.
Regardless, the American people perceive that the generals obey the executive branch, no matter how asinine our wars may be.
And we are definitely fighting irrational wars now, in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, and Somalia. Nobody can explain why we are fighting those wars. Is it because the Pentagon wants those wars? For oil? For geopolitics? To justify its own existence and the financial windfall represented by the Trump administration?
Is it to “knock the hell out of ISIS?” Terrorism increasingly appears to be a fading rationale for military conflict, terrorism is rather a pretext for more invasive domestic surveillance and enhanced security in many nations, justifying increased expenditures.
While US government spokesmen said recently that US policy in Syria is focused on combatting ISIS, deep state actors succeeded in establishing regime change as an unstated strategic goal of the United States in Syria.
I remind you that US forces are uninvited invaders in Syria, and they are acting without even an Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) from the Congress, much less a Declaration of War.
Nobody can explain what our overarching strategic goals are. Nobody can define simple “victory” in any of those wars.
Some deep state actors are agitating for deeper military involvement in Syria, for a renewed effort in Afghanistan, and for an escalation of the long state of conflict between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the United States.
Our dispute with North Korea could erupt into open warfare at any time. That seems to suit some deep state actors just fine.
I edited this piece on 24 June, adding detail and a distilled definition.