The American Deep State

The expression “Deep State” originated in Turkey, and it designates “a group of influential anti-democratic coalitions within the Turkish political system, composed of high-level elements within the intelligence services (domestic and foreign), Turkish military, security, judiciary, and mafia”, that compose a state within the state. The turkish Deep State appeared with the Kemal Ataturk revolution of 1923.

“Deep State” is an increasingly popular expression used to describe the powers behind the state, the set of forces that exercise power beyond and above a country’s government and constitution, in this case the American Constitution.

In this interview with Bill Moyers, Mike Lofgren, a congressional staff member for 28 years, talks about what he calls Washington’s “Deep State,” in which elected and unelected figures collude to protect and serve powerful vested interests. “It is how we had deregulation, financialization of the economy, the Wall Street bust, the erosion or our civil liberties and perpetual war,”

As one of the commentaries on the interview says: “Mike Lofgren manages to say what conspiracy theorists have been saying for years…without sounding like a conspiracy theorist.”

Lofgren also tackles the same issue in the essay, Anatomy of the Deep State. After describing in detail its components and operational methods, he ends his article with an optimist note, as if there was still time (and means) to dismantle it. Unfortunately, we do not share his optimism. We fear that the Deep State and its owners are here to stay. Nevertheless, having been a partial insider, Mike Lofgren makes a good service by offering this apt description of the american Deep State, the true operational power of America.

Some excerpts:

“How did I come to write an analysis of the Deep State, and why am I equipped to write it? As a congressional staff member for 28 years specializing in national security and possessing a top secret security clearance, I was at least on the fringes of the world I am describing, if neither totally in it by virtue of full membership nor of it by psychological disposition. But, like virtually every employed person, I became, to some extent, assimilated into the culture of the institution I worked for, and only by slow degrees, starting before the invasion of Iraq, did I begin fundamentally to question the reasons of state that motivate the people who are, to quote George W. Bush, “the deciders.””

“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….As Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.””

“The Deep State does not consist of the entire government. It 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. I 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, such as 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 rest of Congress, normally so fractious and partisan, is mostly only intermittently aware of the Deep State and when required usually submits to a few well-chosen words from the State’s emissaries.”

“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 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. [3]

“…avatars of the Deep State — the White House advisers who urged Obama not to impose compensation limits on Wall Street CEOs, the contractor-connected think tank experts who besought us to “stay the course” in Iraq, the economic gurus who perpetually demonstrate that globalization and deregulation are a blessing that makes us all better off in the long run — are careful to pretend that they have no ideology. Their preferred pose is that of the politically neutral technocrat offering well considered advice based on profound expertise. That is nonsense. They are deeply dyed in the hue of the official ideology of the governing class, an ideology that is neither specifically Democrat nor Republican. Domestically, whatever they might privately believe about essentially diversionary social issues such as abortion or gay marriage, they almost invariably believe in the “Washington Consensus”: financialization, outsourcing, privatization, deregulation and the commodifying of labor. Internationally, they espouse 21st-century “American Exceptionalism”: the right and duty of the United States to meddle in every region of the world with coercive diplomacy and boots on the ground and to ignore painfully won international norms of civilized behavior. To paraphrase what Sir John Harrington said more than 400 years ago about treason, now that the ideology of the Deep State has prospered, none dare call it ideology.That is why describing torture with the word “torture” on broadcast television is treated less as political heresy than as an inexcusable lapse of Washington etiquette: Like smoking a cigarette on camera, these days it is simply “not done.””

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 impliedquid pro quo.”

“That the secret and unaccountable Deep State floats freely above the gridlock between both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue is the paradox of American government in the 21st century: drone strikes, data mining, secret prisons and Panopticon-like control on the one hand; and on the other, the ordinary, visible parliamentary institutions of self-government declining to the status of a banana republic amid the gradual collapse of public infrastructure.”

“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.” “Living upon its principal,” in this case, means that the Deep State has been extracting value from the American people in vampire-like fashion.”

“They were too big to fail in 2008, they were too big to jail in 2009”

Bill Moyers interviews Neal Barofsky former Special Inspector General in charge of policing TARP (SIGTARP). Mr. Barofsky speaks with clarity about the roots of the present financial crisis, on why nobody has been prosecuted in Wall Street, on why another crash is inevitable, on why “playing ball with Wall Street” is the way to go if you want to succeed in the USA, on why big banks are back to their old tricks, on why they should be broken up and how difficult achieving this goal is going to be.

He does not mention America is now a feudal society, but that does not mean it is not.

Some excerpts either from Bill Moyers or from Neal Barofsky:

6:00 on why nobody in Wall Street has been prosecuted…“they were too big to fail in 2008, they were too big to jail in 2009”

7:30 “I thought, at the time, this was an incestuous orgy going on there, between inside players at Washington and inside players at Wall Street. Is that too strong?”…”It’s probably not too strong. It’s the fact that their ideology matches up. And look, one of the reasons why their ideology matches up is they all come from the same small handful of institutions. And the people I was dealing with on a daily basis came from the same financial institutions that helped cause the financial crisis and were the most generous recipients of bailouts, Goldman Sachs, Bear Sterns, which, of course, had been adopted by J.P. Morgan Chase. Goldman Sachs, Goldman Sachs, it seemed like every time I turned around, I bumped into someone from Goldman Sachs.”

9:20 “It was puzzling to outsiders like me that you had TARP money being used to concentrate further the size of these banks.”

10:30 “Are you suggesting that we could have another crash?”…”I think it’s inevitable. I mean, I don’t think how you can look at all the incentives that were in place going up to 2008 and see that in many ways they’ve only gotten worse and come to any other conclusion.”

12:40 “playing ball with Wall Street has become a novel way of life”

13:20 “And he said to me, he said, “Neil, you’re a smart guy. You’re a young guy. You’re a talented guy. You got your whole future in front of you. You’ve got a young family that’s starting out. But you’re doing yourself real harm.” And the reason why you’re doing yourself real harm is the harsh tone that I had towards the government as well as to Wall Street, based on what I was seeing down in Washington. And he told me that if I wanted to get a job out on the Street afterwards, it was going to really be hard for me.”

17:00 “And in some ways, it creates this false illusion that there are people out there looking out for the interest of taxpayers, the checks and balances that are built into the system are operational, when in fact they’re not. And what you’re going to see and what we are seeing is it’ll be a breakdown of those governmental institutions. And you’ll see governments that continue to have policies that feed the interests of — and I don’t want to get clichéd, but the one percent or the .1 percent — to the detriment of everyone else.”

18:30 “Based on the presumption of bailout, the banks get higher ratings from the credit rating agencies which means they can borrow money for less, because their debt is viewed by the credit rating agencies as being less risky. And they get these higher ratings on explicit presumption that the government will bail them out and make good on their debt.”

20:05 “If we really want to get to the point where we don’t have to bailout a bank, we have to make it so that no bank is so systemically significant and large that its failure could bring down the system.”

20:40 “And pressuring members of Congress to put pressure on the regulators, to water down the rules, to basically get as much back to the good old days where they would have free reign to print money, take advantage of their too big to fail status, bully and push out the little guys, take advantage of consumers. And that’s what all of these efforts area about are to preserve these very, very core profit streams that they had before.”