Deep state is sometimes defined as a secret government-within-the-government, a perennial institution, having more power than elected officials, because elected officials and their appointees have term limits, but the covert ‘security’ apparatus remains from one administration to another, accumulating power and organisation that elected administrations don’t accumulate.
The phrase has various origins, Greg Grandin, a history teacher at New York University and the author of Kissinger’s Shadow; in his op-ed titled ‘What is the deep state?’ informs us that the first use of the phrase appeared in 1817 in John Fitzgerald Pennie’s play ‘The Varangian, or Masonic Honour’, where a servant states “Oh, could I but pry into these deep state secrets!”
In 2014, it was defined by Mike Lofgren, a former Republican US congressional aide in his essay: ‘Anatomy of The Deep State’ as “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.” It has become a key concept of the alt right movement as expressed by Steve Bannon,” former Chief Strategist of President Donald Trump, who was disavowed by Trump for critical comments, reported in Michael Wolff’s book Fire and Fury.
Professor Jason Royce Lindsey, in his book The Concealment of the State, argues that even without a conspiratorial agenda, the term ‘deep state’ is useful for understanding aspects of the national security establishment in developed countries, with emphasis on the United States. Lindsey reiterates that the deep state draws power from the national security and intelligence communities, a realm where secrecy is a source of power.
While many commentators discard President Trump or his supporters’ conspiracy theories of the ‘deep state’, Jon D. Michaels argues that the concept’s relevance is quite limited in the United States. He is of the opinion that it is a more useful perspective in the study of developing countries such as Egypt, Pakistan and Turkey
In the US, more so after 9/11, CIA, FBI and Department of Homeland Security (DHI) are working as ‘state within a state’ or ‘shadow government’. Deep state does not respond to the civilian political leadership. Whistle-blower Snowden’s leaks also exposed the overwhelming reach of the intelligence surveillance. The US Military Industrial Complex or (MIC), about which former US President Dwight D. Eisenhower, in his 1961 farewell address had warned, is an integral part of the ‘deep state’.
Ironically, recently President Trump has also alleged his own security agency, the CIA of interference with his agendas and termed its officers as ‘sick people’. Supporters of the Trump administration have used the phrase to support a variety of conspiracy theories to dislodge President Trump.
While many commentators discard President Trump or his supporters’ conspiracy theories of the ‘deep state’, Jon D. Michaels, writing for the political journal Foreign Affairs, argues that the concept’s relevance is quite limited in the United States. He is of the opinion that it is a more useful perspective in the study of developing countries such as Egypt, Pakistan and Turkey, “where shadowy elites in the military and government ministries have been known to countermand or simply defy democratic directives.”
Whereas, Pakistan’s intelligence and security agency the ISI is often accused, especially by India, of being a “Deep State”, the covert influence of CIA, NSA and FBI is far deeper in the internal affairs of the U.S. The undeclared intelligence budget of the U.S. is way higher than Russia or China’s. Dr. Michael E. Salla, in his research, ‘The Black Budget Report: An Investigation into the CIA’s Black Budget’ examines the existence of a CIA “black budget” and an extensive network of “deep black projects” that it funds.
Numerous examples of the machinations by the US deep state can be cited, which include the ‘justified; invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq; the militarisation of the USA civilian police forces and the un-examined and limitless support of the state of Israel.
This is only a partial list of the fingerprints of the deep state, whose rationale are most frequently opposed by a majority of public opinion, and not subject to any democratic process of approval, investigation, review or reversal.
Numerous publications gleaned from Greg Grandin’s research serve as an exposé of the deep state, albeit by other nomenclatures. David Talbot’s The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA and the rise of America’s Secret Government. Tom Engelhardt’s, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World. Engelbrecht and F.C. Hanighen, Merchants of Death: A Study of the International Armament Industry. Michael Glennon’s National Security and Double Government. Alfred McCoy, The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade. Jeffrey St. Clair and Alexander Cockburn, Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs, and the Press. Hugh Wilford, The Mighty Wurlitzer: How the CIA Played America. Tim Weiner, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA. Greg Grandin, Empire’s Workshop: Latin America, The United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism.
‘Deep state’ has apparently become an ominous phenomenon which negates the very principles of democracy that the US has been upholding.
The writer is a retired Group Captain of PAF. He is a columnist, analyst and TV Talk show host, who has authored six books on current affairs, including three on China
Published in Daily Times, January 20th 2018.