We hear a lot about the Deep State, but what exactly is it? What are its ingredients? Any names? It remains obscure, even as it’s continually invoked to explain various mishaps. It appears to be a very shadowy shadow government over which we seem to have no control. It’s not democracy in action – the opposite.
Donald Trump is noted for blaming his election loss and other troubles on the Deep State, and that has given some currency to its usage. But it has wider implications. Its seems there’s hardly an explosive event that has not been attributed to secret underlying forces that may have escaped our attention and conventional wisdom, from Pearl Harbor to the JFK assassination to 9/11 to the death of bin Laden to the collapse in Afghanistan. For all of these there are conspiratorial or shall we say, alternative theories by the dozen and growing. The deep state at work.
We have brought on this suspicion of secrecy by in fact being too secret. We now have 17 – yes, 17 – U.S. intelligence agencies doing secret work unknown to us because revealing it, we are told, would compromise sources and methods. Yet few successes have been noted along the way. When NSA chief Keith Alexander named fifty terrorist attacks his agency had prevented, they turned out to be false. Meanwhile, all agencies, including the FBI, disregarded a mountain of clues warning of the 9/11 attack. It didn’t help that afterwards some likely conspirators were rather quickly spirited out of the country.
The result was a mountain of counter theories, unflattering to the U.S. Government as well as perhaps to the people promoting them. But the formation of a group of “Truthers” contesting the official U.S. explanation is not surprising. The deep state got deeper.
We know from renegade NSA staffer Edward Snowden and many others that secret agencies have been spying on us for dubious reasons. Despite the revelations, this effort apparently continues, though not so obviously. It doesn’t help that according to U.S. Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, the FBI continues to abuse its investigative powers. His recent report claims that in examining some 7000 applications for surveillance, he found the FBI made extensive errors that call into question the whole investigative process. Another mark against the Deep State.
At the end of the U.S. Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin was asked what kind of government has emerged. He replied famously: “It’s a republic if you can keep it.” That’s the ongoing problem for the U.S., faced as it is today with the Deep State encroaching on it, perhaps enveloping it. There are ingredients beyond the intelligence agencies – elements of a monolithic media, a big tech of new found power and the usual assortment of shadowy politicians who prefer operating in the dark. Perhaps the intelligence agencies could set a precedent by issuing an annual report on their accomplishments for the year without in any way jeopardizing their mission. The best response to the Deep State is the sunlight of transparency.