Deep State: a Shadow Gov’t … Not Up for Re-Election
|February 25, 2014||Posted by Staff under Politics|
This 2014 excerpt of Alternet, Feb 21, is by Mike Lofgren, a former congressional staffer on both the House and Senate budget committees, possessing a top secret security clearance.
The Deep State operates regardless of who is formally in power.
President Obama cannot enact his domestic policies and budgets; because of incessant GOP filibustering, not only could he not fill the large number of vacancies in the federal judiciary, he could not even get his most innocuous presidential appointees into office. This strategy amounts to congressional nullification of executive branch powers by a party that controls a majority in only one house of Congress.
Despite this apparent impotence, President Obama can liquidate American citizens without due processes, detain prisoners indefinitely without charge, conduct “dragnet” surveillance on the American people without judicial warrant, and engage in witch hunts against federal employees (the so-called “Insider Threat Program”). Within the United States, the chief executive displays intimidating force of militarized federal, state, and local law enforcement. Abroad, President Obama starts wars without so much as a by-your-leave from Congress; he forced the landing of a plane carrying a sovereign head of state over foreign territory.
We have heard very little from Republicans about these actions — with the exception of Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. Democrats, too, permit perjured testimony under oath by executive branch officials on the subject of illegal surveillance.
When there was heated debate about the budget crisis, our government committed $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, the government has spent $1.7 billion constructing a building in Utah that is the size of seventeen football fields for the National Security Agency to store a yottabyte of information, the largest numerical designator computer scientists have. A yottabyte is equal to 500 quintillion pages of text.
There is another government behind the one visible at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue. It’s a hybrid entity of public and private institutions. Its operators — the people who are, to quote George W. Bush, “the deciders” — mainly act in the light of day.
“Groupthink” — the chameleon-like ability of people to adopt the views of their superiors and peers — is endemic to Washington. As in the military, everybody has to get on board with the mission, and it is not a career-enhancing move to question the mission. As Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”
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 they simply bounce off one’s consciousness like pebbles off steel plate. It is easy to grow immune to the curiousness of one’s surroundings. 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.
The Deep State is a hybrid of national security and law enforcement agencies: the Department of Defense, the Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Justice Department. We also include the Department of the Treasury because of its jurisdiction over financial flows, its enforcement of international sanctions, and its organic symbiosis with Wall Street. All these agencies are coordinated by the Executive Office of the President via the National Security Council. Certain key areas of the judiciary belong to the Deep State, like the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, whose actions are mysterious even to most members of Congress. Also included are a handful of vital federal trial courts, such as the Eastern District of Virginia and the Southern District of Manhattan, where sensitive proceedings in national security cases are conducted. The final government component (and possibly last in precedence among the formal branches of government established by the Constitution) is a kind of rump Congress consisting of the congressional leadership and some (but not all) of the members of the defense and intelligence committees.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act of 2008 retroactively legalized the Bush administration’s illegal and unconstitutional surveillance and indemnified the telecommunications companies for their cooperation in these acts. The bill passed easily: all that was required was the invocation of the word “terrorism” and most members of Congress responded like iron filings obeying a magnet.
What is euphemistically called private enterprise is an integral part of its operations. There are now 854,000 contract personnel with top secret clearances — a number greater than that of top secret-cleared civilian employees of the government. Since 9/11, 33 facilities for top-secret intelligence have been built or are under construction. Combined, they occupy the floor space of almost three Pentagons — about 17 million square feet. Seventy percent of the intelligence community’s budget goes to paying contracts. And the membrane between government and industry is highly permeable: the Director of National Intelligence, James R. Clapper, is a former executive of Booz Allen, one of the government’s largest intelligence contractors. His predecessor as director, Admiral Mike McConnell, is the current vice chairman of the same company; Booz Allen is 99 percent dependent on government business.
Wall Street supplies the cash that keeps the political machine quiescent and operating as a diversionary marionette theater. The executives of the financial giants even have de facto criminal immunity. They’re too big to jail yet the justice system has practically abolished the constitutional right to trial for poorer defendants.
General David Petraeus joined KKR (formerly Kohlberg Kravis Roberts) of New York, a private equity firm with $62.3 billion in assets. KKR specializes in management buyouts and leveraged finance; General Petraeus’s expertise in these areas is unclear; his ability to peddle influence, however, is a known and valued commodity. He also obtained a sinecure as a non-resident senior fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard. The Ivy League is the preferred charm school of the American oligarchy.
Silicon Valley is a vital node of the Deep State as well. Unlike military and intelligence contractors, Silicon Valley overwhelmingly sells to the private market; but its business is so important to the government that a strange relationship has emerged. While the government could simply dragoon the high technology companies to do the NSA’s bidding, it would prefer cooperation with so important an engine of the nation’s economy, perhaps with an implied quid pro quo. Perhaps this explains the extraordinary indulgence the government shows the Valley in intellectual property matters — if an American “jailbreaks” his smartphone (i.e., modifies it so that it can use another service provider than the one dictated by the manufacturer), he could receive a fine of up to $500,000 and several years in prison; so much for a citizen’s vaunted property rights to what he purchases. The libertarian pose of the Silicon Valley moguls has always been a sham. Silicon Valley has long been tracking for commercial purposes the activities of every person who uses an electronic device.
Washington, the headquarters of the Deep State, has been extracting value from the American people in vampire-like fashion. Within the Beltway itself, the richest metropolitan area in the nation, virtually every time there is a severe summer thunderstorm, tens — or even hundreds — of thousands of residents lose power, often for many days. There are occasional water restrictions over wide areas because water mains, poorly constructed and inadequately maintained, have burst.
As long as appropriations bills get passed on time, promotion lists get confirmed, black (i.e., secret) budgets get rubber stamped, special tax subsidies for certain corporations are approved without controversy, the gears of the hybrid state mesh. But when one house of Congress is taken over by the Tea Party, life for the ruling class becomes more trying. Sequestration, the government shutdown, and the threat of default over the debt ceiling extension have been disrupting that equilibrium.
Also, Silicon Valley is losing billions in overseas business from companies, individuals, and governments that want to maintain privacy. For high-tech entrepreneurs, the cash nexus is ultimately more compelling than the Deep State’s demand for “patriotic” cooperation. Even legal compulsion can be combatted: unlike the individual citizen, tech firms have deep pockets and batteries of lawyers with which to fight government diktat. Silicon Valley is now lobbying Congress to restrain the NSA, a core component of the Deep State. Some tech firms are moving to encrypt their data.
Ed. Notes: The above is how nations shed their empires. Afterwards, the ordinary people are better off. Check out the regular citizens of former European powers that have lost all their colonies. Without its huge parasite — the military/industrial complex that President Gen. Dwgiht Eisenhower warned Americans about — perhaps America can get back to being the beacon of freedom and progress for the lagging parts of the world. We can stay number one in exporting pop culture, if the world still will want it, and forget about being war mongers.