Guest Post by Jim Kunstler
We’ve been hearing a lot about the so-called Deep State lately. What to make of this shadowy monster? Some observers link it to the paranoid fantasy called the New World Order, a staple of political talk radio (and a hobgoblin I don’t believe in). In popular movies such as the Jason Bourne epics and Mission Impossible, the Deep State launches hyper-complex schemes that work flawlessly and never fail. That is exactly why they have such high entertainment appeal. Viewers are thrilled by the precision, by the conceit of seeming infallibility. The Deep State definitely exists; it just doesn’t work the way it is depicted in the movies.
I like to say that I’m allergic to conspiracy theories because human beings are generally too inept to carry out schemes at the grand scale, as well as being poor secret-keepers. Insider knowledge is almost always swapped around, even in secretive organizations, often recklessly so, because doling it out confers status, tactical advantage, and sometimes money for the doler-outer. But the Deep State isn’t a secret. It operates in plain sight.
First, of course, is the Pentagon leviathan plus all of its suppliers, enablers, and lackeys — the beast that President Eisenhower warned his fellow citizens to beware of in his farewell address, calling it “the military-industrial complex.” It’s worse than ever, especially having engaged in two major fiascos on Asian soil the past decade, pointless escapades that cost the lives of 8,000 soldiers in action, many more maimed for life, and in suicides of servicemen returning home in despair to a spavined economy and the manifold indignities of a cruel and incompetent veterans’ bureaucracy completely unable to care for their needs. Iraq and Afghanistan proved the futility of America’s neurotic mission to try to control everything and every place in the world. In fact, the US military could not control the only two things that mattered in those faraway lands: the terrain and the behavior of the population. What else is there in a military campaign?
This did not stop President Obama from almost repeating the fiasco in Syria in 2013. Only some reality-testing by Vladimir Putin put the schnitz on that operation. For the moment, Putin has also juked Obama and his Secretary of State Kerry from further shenanigans in Ukraine, but the US looks like a sloppy drunk in a barroom at last call spoiling for a fight. We’d better hope we don’t find it. It’s one thing to fight a band of ragged Taliban in the Helmand highlands; it’s another thing to poke a country (Russia) with a thousand nukes targeting everything from Bangor to Bellingham.
Then there are the multiple vampire squids of Wall Street (shorthand for all of finance) engaged in funneling as much wealth out of the disintegrating middle class as possible, creaming off gargantuan transaction fees, premiums, and spreads from every transaction in the entire universe (especially in their carry-trade with the Federal Reserve), and buying off elected officials wholesale, by the hundredweight, to ensure that their swindling operations go unimpeded. Wall Street’s hired servelings now write the latest laws for financial regulation. It is nothing but racketeering on the grandest scale, plain and simple, and it is sponsored wholeheartedly by the Deep State. The Supreme Court has lent a hand in this by defining corporations as persons entitled to express political fellowship via unlimited cash contributions to election campaigns. Wall Street is assisted in turn by the thoroughly corrupt two major political parties. The fabled “revolving door” that shuffles Wall Street executives in and out of government now spins so fast that it is more like a turbine than a door. The degeneracy of Wall Street is covered sufficiently elsewhere in my writings to leave it at that for the purposes of this essay.
Present worries over the Deep State are focused on its massive security apparatus, made up of a combination of venerable old institutions such as the CIA and the Defense Intelligence services with some newer ones such as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), The National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Transportation Safety Agency (TSA), Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), the good ol’ IRS, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF), the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), and God knows how many out-of-sight “security” offices in the dark precincts of seemingly benign agencies like the National Parks Service and the Bureau of Weights and Measures. On top of all that, add the newly militarized local police all across this land with their camo-clad SWAT teams, bomb-proof Hummers, grenade-launchers, surveillance drones, 20-ton Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAPs), military-grade helicopters, and in the case of one Arizona sheriff’s department, a pre-owned US Army tank.
The sheer multiplication of “security” officialdom ought to give a sentient citizen a case of the vapors. The work of these outfits is supposedly coordinated by the new umbrella entity, the National Security Agency (NSA), but that’s probably too slippery a description for the organized chaos it represents. The NSA can only pretend to manage all these posses of tech-drunk cowboys. The NSA is a pretense wrapped in a wish shrouded in techno-narcissism.
Grafted onto this armature of old and new bureaucracies is a matrix of private contractors who do much of the actual dirty work and heavy lifting for the official agencies. These private contractors are hugely overpaid (by taxpayers) and are subject to little oversight outside the agencies who hire them — who, in turn, have a keen interest in concealing any misbehavior perpetrated by their private contractors. Outside of that ring of techies, hit men, and errand boys is an asteroid belt of domestic spying infrastructure based in the internet, featuring companies that, willingly or not, funnel information about the myriad activities of individual citizens to the government. These include online retailers, Google and other search engines, banks, credit card companies, health care orgs, phone companies, universities, etc. Then, of course, there is the gigantic corps of lobbyists, public relations spinners, media pimps, corporate consultants, legislative staffers, and other enablers and fixers of Deep State operations. These highly-paid parasites are the ones largely responsible for Washington becoming the third-richest ranked metro area in the nation.
This ever-growing network has been constructed right out in the open with a long lead-up after World War Two, and then an exponential ramp-up following the attacks of 9/11/01 and the paranoia entailed by it. It is surely a remarkable thing that there have been no terror acts on the grand scale in America since 9/11. The 2013 Boston marathon “pressure cooker” bombs that killed 3 people and maimed over 250 others was a way smaller op than 9/11 and relatively amateurish, and the Deep State did not prevent the Chechen Tsarnaev brothers from pulling it off despite the fact that the elder brother, Tamerlan, had been on an FBI watch list for two years prior to the bombing. The Fort Hood massacre of 2009 (13 fatalities) was perpetrated by, of all things, an army psychiatrist Major Nidal Malik Hasan. You’d think the army would have been onto this fellow… he being right under its nose… but what better illustration of basic institutional failure?
There has been surprisingly little else. Perhaps that is due to the diligent work of these bureaucracies. But I find it hard to believe that they had much to do with the absence of terror acts against the countless “soft targets” across the nation. For instance, a small squad of half a dozen jihadists might have entered any one of a thousand big regional shopping malls across America with enough ordnance in a duffle bag to kill a few hundred people. It hasn’t happened, but can anyone say it’s because the National Security apparatus prevented it? I’ve been in many malls the past thirteen years and none of them had any security screening at their doors whatsoever. Anyone could stroll in with an Uzi tucked under his London Fog and blast away. Yet, the known attempted dastardly deeds that were prevented by the Deep State — the 2010 Times Square car bomber, the airplane underwear bomber — you can count on the fingers of one hand. Of course, the airplane shoe bomber wasn’t stopped until the very moment he tried (and failed) to light his Nikes. Lucky he was a klutz.
In any case, the monumental new combined security apparatus has been given carte blanche to elaborate itself, to grow ever more branches and buds so that it is now a kind of creeping, suffocating, parasitical vine entombing the edifice of the Republic behind a scrim of toxic administrative overgrowth. The remarkable thing all along has been the lack of protest from just about any quarter of the American polity, either the citizens themselves or their elected representatives. Now and again an elderly airline passenger will complain about being groped by an ardent TSA officer, but on the whole the broad public does not seem to care about having its privacy stripped away, even after Edward Snowden burst on the scene with his revelations of what should have been perfectly obvious to anyone who thought about it for half a minute — namely, that government agents could not possibly resist the temptation to harvest those bounteous crops of data accumulating in all the humming server farms all over the country.
It was really only a few weeks ago when one politician did offer a few yelps of objection. That would be Senator Diane Feinstein who, as chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, was investigating torture carried out by the CIA following 9/11 and in the wars engendered by it. The CIA response to the committee’s requests for information was a 6.2 million-page data-dump of un-collated, un-indexed memos and cables — obviously designed to confound, impede, and delay any discovery of misconduct. On a number of occasions both the CIA and White House staff lied to the committee about the handling of documents, which, of course, distracted attention from the substance of what was in the documents: evidence of programmatic torture. It would be fair to say that CIA personnel jerked the committee around in every way possible to avoid providing coherent answers to straightforward questions and requests. CIA Director John Brennan repeatedly stonewalled Senator Feinstein’s letters, simply refusing to reply. As the tussle heated up, the CIA hacked the Senate committee staff’s computers. Then they went a step further and referred senate committee staffers to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution in mishandling secret documents. The CIA’s general counsel who made the referral was, in fact, a lawyer in the CIA’s counter-terrorism unit when the alleged tortures took place — meaning, he had approved them — and his name appeared 1,600 times in the Senate committee’s report.
Senator Feinstein, formerly a dogged supporter of the CIA and its redundant cousin agencies, finally lost it. She held a press conference and pretty much denounced the whole wicked business as an attempt to intimidate the committee and obstruct constitutional oversight of the CIA’s activities.
Who Is Watching The Watchmen?
The affair raises very troubling questions, chiefly: has this vast “security” apparatus become by stealth a fourth branch of the United States Government? Does it think itself to be more equal than the other branches? Does its existence undermine the rule of law in this nation? And what do we ordinary citizens of this republic do about it? (Assuming we are still a republic.)
We’ll touch on these matters in Part 2: How To Oppose The Deep State.