RINF Alternative News
What follows here is a synopsis of a discussion between Bill Moyers and Mike Lofgren, a disillusioned government insider who now says in his book and article that the Deep State is the red thread that runs through the history of the last three decades. Here then are insights about how we came to have too much deregulation, a harmful “financialization” of the economy, the Wall Street & bankster rip-offs, the erosion of our civil liberties, and perpetual warfare. Here too described are the derivative forces, methods and people that now surreptitiously guide and control our government, so that billions can be cleverly if not criminally extracted from our economy, no matter the party in power.
If you’ve read the espionage novels of John le CarrÃ©, you know that no other writer today has so brilliantly evoked the subterranean workings of government, perhaps because he himself was once a British spy. Le CarrÃ© gave a name to that invisible labyrinth of power. He dubbed it the “Deep State.” And now Mike Lofgren has seized on that concept to describe the forces he has seen controlling our government, no matter the party in power.
While not an intelligence agent himself, Lofgren had a top secret security clearance. He was a Congressional staff member for 28 years with the powerful House and Senate Budget Committees. Over those years, the budgetary numbers he saw allowed him a good view of America’s own Deep State within which elected and unelected figures collude to protect and serve powerful vested interests. And he was so disgusted with what he discovered that he not only left Capitol Hill, he left the Republican Party and wrote this book , “The Party Is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless and the Middle Class Got Shafted.” He has also written a great article, “Anatomy of the Deep State.”
The “Deep State” is not some cabal that was hatched in the dark of night. Rather, it is something that hides in plain sight. It’s something almost all of us know about, superficially, yet most of us still don’t connect most of the dots that are right in front of us. The Deep State inconspicuously grew out of the fact that so much money and political control came to be at play in the most powerful country in the world. Essentially it is an evolved hybridization of corporate America and the national security state.
Everyone knows about the military-industrial complex that Eisenhower described it in his farewell address: “We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence whether sought or unsought by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes.”
Everyone also knows about Wall Street and its depredations, and about how corporate America acts: It’s about sucking as much money out of the nation’s economy as possible. And to do that most effectively, they need to have behind-the-scenes political control. Thus the opportunistic evolution of the Deep State, i.e. the shadow government operating behind the scenes that gives Wall Street and corporate America the political and financial control that this unprecedented wealth extraction requires.
The Deep State transcends congressional gridlock
The commonly understood narrative of the last five years is that government is broken. It’s dysfunctional. It’s gridlocked. This is the visible government, the constitutional government we learn about in Civics 101. And yet, in spite of the limits on presidential power that we learn about in Civics 101, Obama can somehow go into Libya without congressional approval, can order the assassination of US citizens, and can, through the NSA, collect all our phone and Internet records without permission from anyone. He can even force down a jet airliner carrying a president of a sovereign country without asking anyone’s permission. And no one seems to connect this failure of our visible constitutional government and this shadow government, or Deep State, within it, which operates according to no constitutional rules or any constraint by the governed.
But it’s not just the executive branch that is at the heart of the Deep State. Also at its heart are all the national security functions of our government, i.e. the Pentagon, Homeland Security, the State Department, and even the Treasury Department, which all have a symbiotic relationship with Wall Street, another Deep State constituent.
Wall Street and the Treasury Department (in conjunction with the Federal Reserve) not only control the flow of money; there is a constant exchange of personnel between them. In addition, there’s also involvement by a small portion of the judiciary, the so-called Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Courts; yet most of Congress doesn’t fully know how all this operates.
The flow of money and personnel between Wall Street and the national security state
What kind of money are we talking about? Consider the New York restaurant that will sell you a truffle for $95,000. Or the painting by Francis Bacon that Christie’s sold at auction for $142 million. Who buys this stuff? Wall Streeters, banksters and the CEOs of big corporations mostly.
Meanwhile, the NSA spends $1.7 billion of our tax money to build a facility in Utah that will annually collect one yottabyte of our personal information. That’s as much information as has ever been written in the history of the world. Then too, a gallon of gasoline costs $400 by the time the Pentagon finishes paying contractors to haul it into Afghanistan and get it into some vehicle’s tank. And we’ve been using many thousands of gallons over there annually, for nearly a decade. Another example is the development of the new F-35 fighter jet which iscosting us billions, and the government is planning to build more than 2400 of them. So boththe national security state and the corporate state, are sucking money out of the US economy at rates most people do not comprehend. The Deep State is at the heart of this and it is flourishing.
Meanwhile, our infrastructure collapses. We have a Tinkertoy power grid that goes out every time there’s inclement weather. Tens of millions of people are on food stamps. We incarcerate more people than dictatorial China, an authoritarian state with four times our population. But how many of us clearly see this enormous and growing disparity between Deep State extravagance and the penury that is being forced on much of the rest of the country? This isn’t the result of any kind of natural or apolitical evolution. This happened by way of political decisions and collusion taking place behind the scenes.
The result is a situation where the Deep State is essentially out of control, unconstrained. Since 9/11 we have built the equivalent of three Pentagons around the DC metropolitan area, providing office space to defense contractors, intelligence contractors, and government civilians involved in the military-industrial complex. There are over 400,000 contractors — private citizens — who have top-secret security clearances!
And they are heart and soul of the Deep State, which is being privatized. This means that power is gradually shifting from supposedly accountable government officials to definitely unaccountable contractors. About 70 percent of the intelligence budget now goes to contracts managed by these contractors.
Back in 2010, the Washington Post published a stunning investigation of what the editors called “Top-secret America.” Here are some of the findings of that investigation:
* Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States.
* An estimated 854,000 people — nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C. — hold top-secret security clearances.
* In Washington and the surrounding area, 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001. Together they occupy the equivalent of almost three Pentagons or 22 U.S. Capitol buildings — about 17 million square feet of space.
* Many security and intelligence agencies do the same work, creating redundancy and waste. For example, 51 federal organizations and military commands, operating in 15 U.S. cities, track the flow of money to and from terrorist networks.
* Analysts who make sense of documents and conversations obtained by foreign and domestic spying share their judgment by publishing 50,000 intelligence reports each year — a volume so large that many are routinely ignored.
Problem is, the intelligence functions of the government are too important to outsource in the manner we have been doing. It’s something where absolute discretion is needed along with absolute trust that they are not violating civil liberties. And to put this kind of a burden on private-contract employees is a colossal mistake.
At the end of 2001, our government appropriated a lot of money for operations in Afghanistan, the alleged source of the 9/11 attacks, but all that money didn’t seem to be going there. Instead most of it ended up in the Persian Gulf region, even though Saddam Hussein didn’t bring down the twin towers (as many Americans were led to believe).
Washington is clearly and obviously the headquarters of the Deep State. But Wall Street is the ultimate backstop to the whole operation. How so? It generates so much money that it can provide second careers for a lot of the Deep State operatives. In this second career of theirs, these operatives are very richly rewarded for their loyalty and unquestioning service to the Deep State. A good example of this is the most celebrated soldier of the last decade, David Petraeus. He was warmly and richly welcomed into the fold at Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, a Wall Street buyout firm with $90 billion in assets under management. In fact, the vast majority of generals seem to end up on the boards of defense contractors where they are all very amply rewarded.
And then there is the role of Silicon Valley. The National Security Agency could not do what it does, the CIA could not do what it does, without Silicon Valley, which mostly sells to private individuals and companies. It’s not a big government vendor. However, its services are absolutely essential to the operations of the Deep State. And of course they have also become a very important part of the NSA’s operations, especially the gathering of the personal information of unknowing citizens. And of course this has been going on for quite a while. So now, like Inspector Renault, Valley CEOs are “shocked, shocked” to find out. Yet these Silicon Valley moguls, when asked, pass themselves off as libertarians. They make a big pretense about believing in rugged individualism, personal responsibility and so forth. But they’ve been every bit as willing to be as intrusive as the NSA has been, in terms of violating our right to privacy, by taking our personal data to sell for commercial purposes as well as for “national security” purposes. And — surprise, surprise — they then “somehow’ manage to get the intellectual property laws rigged so that you are theoretically subject to a fine of up to $500,000 for “jail-breaking” your phone — which means that if you don’t like the carrier on your phone that the manufacturer dictates you shall have, and you change it without authorization, you no longer have the right to something you bought.
In short, this symbiotic relationship between Silicon Valley and the Deep State explains the indulgence Washington has shown Silicon Valley on matters of intellectual property. Therefore, people no longer really and completely own their property if it comes from Silicon Valley. They only have a kind of lease on it.
The ideology of the Deep State is neither democrat nor republican, neither left nor right, for the actors in this drama tend to steer clear of social issues. They pretend to be merrily neutral servants of the state, giving the best advice possible on national security or financial matters. But they do hold to the very deep ideology of the Washington consensus, which encompasses deregulation, outsourcing, de-industrialization and financialization. Plus, they believe in American exceptionalism abroad, which refers to our national right to put boots on the ground anywhere and everywhere it might be necessary, in order to guard our strategic/national interests. In other words, it’s now our national right to meddle anywhere and everywhere in the world. And the sorry result of this is perpetual warfare, and millions of dead and injured, which results in ever more jihadists who are ready to harm or kill Americans, which in turn results, quite insanely, in ever more spending on the effort to “combat’ (in reality, stimulate) terrorism. And so it is that the cycle accelerates, becoming ever more costly for all of us.
So this is more than simply implicating Wall Street or the military-industrial complex, or Silicon Valley, or the corporations. What we’re talking about instead is an increasingly diabolical and deadly symbiosis of all four. Therefore, as long as appropriation bills get passed on time, promotion lists get confirmed, black or secret budgets get rubber stamped, special tax subsidies for certain corporations are approved without controversy, and as long as too many awkward questions are not publicly asked, the gears of this nightmare hybrid state will mesh noiselessly — at enormous expense and peril for all of us.
Essentially we are talking about a government within a government, one that operates surreptitiously from within its visible host government, yet by way of the taxpayers who unknowingly pay its bills. Problem is, it’s not constrained in a constitutional sense by said taxpayers and their government representatives.
Is there a remedy for the way this diabolical system works?
Fortunately we’re starting to see some discord in the ideology of the factions that make up the Deep State. We’re seeing Silicon Valley starting to jump ship. They are beginning to protest against the NSA. We’re also seeing the Tea Party beginning to bail out and talk against the Deep State. (They may be wrong on many economic issues, but not about this one.)
Also, state legislators are beginning to protest against NSA spying: “Pull their plugs, shut off their water!”
So some portion of the public seems to be gradually waking up to what’s going on. There’s a much more vivid debate going on in the country about surveillance ever since the revelations by Edward Snowden, who may very well go down in history as the man who precipitated the turnaround that put an end to the Deep State.
Several years after receiving my M.A. in social science (interdisciplinary studies) I was an instructor at S.F. State University for a year, but then went back to designing automated machinery, and then tech writing, in Silicon Valley.