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Weissman writes: "He starts with the usual suspects - the national security and law enforcement teams from the departments of Defense, State, Homeland Security, and Justice, along with a handful of specialized courts and the spooks and spies at the CIA, FBI, NSA, and other agencies."

 (illustration: Moyers & Company)
(illustration: Moyers & Company)

Don't Let "the Deep State" Eat Your Homework

By Steve Weissman, Reader Supported News

04 March 14


ast month, Mike Lofgren published a widely-discussed essay called “A Shadow Government Controls America.” The former GOP operative and 28-year Congressional staffer looks beyond the consent of the governed and formal structures and processes of our deadlocked government. The people who actually run the country, he argues, are a hybrid of government and top-level finance and industry all “hiding in plain sight.” Lofgren calls this hybrid “the Deep State,” and sees it as “the big story of our times.”

This is tricky territory, as Lofgren well knows. Americans have long conjured up mostly mythical shadow government conspiracies, from the Federal Reserve and its supposed control of the American economy by Jewish bankers like the Rothschilds to the Bilderbergers, Trilateralists, East Coast Internationalists, and other Illuminati with blue UN helicopters plotting a New World Order at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Lofgren avoids most of the magical thinking, while highlighting many of the individuals and groups we need to study to arrive at a credible theory of how America’s true “deciders” exercise their power at home and abroad. He starts with the usual suspects – the national security and law enforcement teams from the departments of Defense, State, Homeland Security, and Justice, along with a handful of specialized courts and the spooks and spies at the CIA, FBI, NSA, and other agencies.

He also includes the private contractors, such as the iconic Booz Allen Hamilton, which is 99 percent dependent on government business. In one his many fascinating asides, Lofgren tells us that the current director of National Intelligence, James R. Clapper, worked as a Booz Allen executive and his predecessor as DNI, Admiral Mike McConnell, now works as vice chairman. A third alumnus is, of course, history’s most famous whistleblower, Edward Snowden, who was – but is no longer – one of some 854,000 private contractors with top-secret clearances.

Ever since the early Cold War, these agencies and departments have exercised enormous power, and possibly even more so since 9/11. But my journalistic research over the years suggests – as I argued in “What Did Merkel Know? And When Did Obama Know It?”– that the security and law enforcement apparatchiks were rarely rogue elephants, but “generally did what their civilian masters wanted them to do. If presidents and Congressional oversight committees did not know what an intelligence agency was doing, it was usually because they did not want to know and did not make the effort to find out.”

Others will disagree. Vehemently. But, to convince large numbers of Americans that we truly know how power works in our society, we should shun ideological or religious-like certainty, one way or the other. Independent journalists, historians, Congressional investigators, and good citizens need to probe the evidence in every significant case. Still, please note that Lofgren, a long-time veteran of these wars, presupposes that all these agencies and departments “are coordinated by the executive Office of the President via the National Security Council.”

Broadening his “Deep State,” Lofgren adds the Treasury Department, Wall Street, Silicon Valley, other financial and industry groups, along with the think tanks that sing from the corporate songbook. I think he should have gone much farther, including Big Oil, Big Pharma, Pentagon suppliers, and agro-chemical giants like Monsanto. His emphasis on national security and law enforcement is terribly significant, but it distorts the reality of power in America by drastically narrowing our field of vision.

My second reason for shying away from Lofgren’s concept should be even more obvious. He argues that his “Deep State” is “the 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.” It is not. If we do our homework, we find that America’s overlapping layers of undemocratic, unaccountable, secretive bureaucrats and power brokers do not work together as a state within the state anywhere nearly as much as he claims.

As Professor Juan Cole argues, most of Lofgren’s “Deep State” resisted the Bush administration’s Iraq War, which is why the “interlopers from Dallas and Houston” had to sell it so hard, to say nothing of the role of the neo-cons. Similarly, the National Security Council “had a virtual civil war over intervening in Libya, while “Wall Street historically dislikes foreign wars because they are inflationary.”

Or, ask yourself the obvious questions: What consequential role did Silicon Valley play in the War on Terror? Conversely, what of importance did the CIA and NSA do to promote the financialization and deindustrialization of the American economy? If someone can come up with something serious, I’d truly love to see the evidence. But I suspect it will be a real stretch.

In sum, Lofgren’s “Deep State” is too narrow and largely masks the huge policy differences among America’s movers and shakers. Like the prototypical military-industrial-Congressional complex, the perps of American power generally promote their own self-interested agendas, often indifferent to or fiercely competitive with the others, all within a pro-capitalist, predominantly neo-liberal, multi-hyphenated Corporate State.

A veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the New Left monthly Ramparts, Steve Weissman lived for many years in London, working as a magazine writer and television producer. He now lives and works in France, where he is researching a new book, "Big Money and the Corporate State: How Global Banks, Corporations, and Speculators Rule and How to Nonviolently Break Their Hold."

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


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+21 # PABLO DIABLO 2014-03-04 13:22
Time to get the Neoconservative s out of "our" government. They have spent trillions of dollars and have only pissed off our friends and fueled our enemies. Of course, they continue to make money off of creating hostilities. Vote these leeches out of office.
+2 # MidwesTom 2014-03-04 19:41
Neoconism is the one defining philosophy of the NYC based American Jewish bankers. Until we demand that people in government must be ONLY citizens of the United States, we will continue to be i war after war. A good book to read is Tragedy and Hope by Quigley.
+22 # Anarchist 23 2014-03-04 13:26
The Corporate State is the Deep State in are all the others. There have been many authors who have focused on this..both with and without the 'magical' thinking...Weis sman apparently did not see the article by Greenwald and Cole illustrated with the 'Trolls' Powerpoint pages using the word 'magic.' but Peter Dale Scott in his book 'Deep Politics and the Death of JFK', James W. Douglass in 'JFK and the Unspeakable' Fletcher Prouty's book 'JFK The CIA, Veitnam, and the Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy' All detail the various components. Danny Cassalaro died persuing something he called the'The Octupus'...asid e from Hastings, rumored to be pursuing something clandestine, there was another reporter who also 'died' under mysterious circumstances.. as did Hunter S. Thompson, shortly after 9/11.... the 'New Pearl Harbor' so longed for by the Neo-cons...stil l around of course. Ed Sulzbach, FBI profiler wrote in another context: 'There really aren't many coincidences in life. and to call coincidence after coincidence after coincidence a coincidence is just plain stupid.'
+9 # Arden 2014-03-04 14:19
"There really aren't many coincidences in life. and to call coincidence after coincidence after coincidence a coincidence is just plain stupid."
--Ed Sulzbach, FBI profiler

I had an art teacher once who had our class write our thoughts about "coincidence vs. design" I wish I could remember her entire quote, or question, but the gist as I understood her meaning was that there is no coincidence. It is all by design.
+1 # Arden 2014-03-04 14:06
What do you mean by "the financializatio n ... of the American economy"? I think I understand what you mean by the "deindustrializ ation of the American economy", though maybe not. That was trying to share the wealth and put the whole world on the same economy? so that $5 here means the same as $5 anywhere in the world? That's my guess, anyway.
+9 # PaineRad 2014-03-04 15:46
Financializatio n is a term attempting to describe the increased control of the US and the global economy by the FIRE (finance, insurance & real estate) sector. The sector in the early 70s controlled about 30% of the US economy. Today it controls about 70%. But more than that, financializatio n has been the tool that has pushed the deindustrializa tion of America, launched and sustained the destruction of unions, attacked the commons, imposed austerity on state governments and aims to buy up as many public assets from parks to utilities to parking meters to highways as possible. We frequently call the people and their organizations behind this Banksters and their puppets, like governors Scott Walker, John Kasich, Rick Snyder, Rick Scott, Paul LePage, Chris Christie, etc. and Congresspeople like Paul Ryan, Ted Cruz, Mitch McConnell, Cory Booker, Max Baucus, Mark Pryor, Jr, Chuck Schumer, Adam Smith, Collin Peterson, etc.
0 # Arden 2014-03-05 20:09
Thanks. I definitely noticed that going on in the 70s - mainly the big push of the real estate sector in my local area, less so the other two, but them also.
+5 # Nel 2014-03-04 14:14
The "Deep State" is no so deep: It is quite obvious the USA has been I's colony for a long time.
+12 # dickbd 2014-03-04 14:42
I paid attention to Lofgren's article, and I watched his interview with Bill Moyers, but I appreciate Weissman's comments on his book (which I haven't read).

I still think one of the main problems is that we citizens continue to put up with government secrecy. How can we have a functioning democracy that depends of an informed citizenry if the government over classifies everything? Where's all the transparency that Obama promised?

Of course, the CIA has been a tool of the executive branch and an absolute disaster for a long time. Shouldn't one of our goals be to cut down, if not eliminate secrecy, and to curtail, if not eliminate counterproducti ve spy agencies?

They all bear watching, including the FBI, which was once used for breaking unions. It seems to me that their focus should be mainly on banks. And maybe they should go back to the unarmed investigators they were before the mid 30s.
+13 # Anarchist 23 2014-03-04 15:46
The FBI was focusing on economic fraud, specifically , along with the SEC on World Com and Enron. Unfortunately on 9/11 when WTC 7 collapsed in a heap (suicidal after the loss of its friends, WTC 1 & 2) all the files went with it.Bush 2 pulled off FBI agents working on corporate fraud to investigate Al Qaida-talk about closing the stable door after the horses are gone... I congratulate you on your continued optimism that things will get better if an informed citizenry watches them. Too bad that is not the way it works.
+8 # dickbd 2014-03-04 16:43
Does it ever get the chance to work, with all this secrecy and the corporate media? I like to be optimistic about my fellow humans, but I'm a realist, too.
+1 # Arden 2014-03-05 20:15
And no one ever seemed to mention much that the NSA was also located in Building 7....
+13 # PaineRad 2014-03-04 16:07
It seems to me that Mr. Weissman relies too much on Juan Cole's argument that much or most of the establishment opposed the invasion of Iraq by the Bush administration.

The argument for the existence a Deep State encompasses far more than a few foreign policy events. One can examine the role of the DHS and FBI in the violence against the Occupy groups across the country. One can take notice of how public policy rarely reflects public desires in key areas that directly touch on elite interests. One can compare the vitality of the American middle class with that of, say Germany or France or Sweden. Once can compare the quality and spending per capita on education in the US vs. Finland or Japan. One can examine the trajectory of American state and municipal finances and the impact on public services and assets since the early 70s. We could take a look at how working people's real incomes stagnated, their disposable income plummeted and their productivity went unrewarded over the last 40 years.

The question then becomes, who did these trends benefit? Who did they harm? Were the benefits and harms consistent in who got what?

My point is that public policy in this country has facilitated the destruction of the middle and working classes. It did not have to. But it was not an accident. The quarter century long Great Compression of incomes and wealth that made the US a middle class powerhouse was killed in the late 60 to early 70s. Why? By whom?
+1 # Anonymot 2014-03-04 18:00
Welcome to France.

I got to Europe when the people I met were still camp survivors. Taxi drivers were marvelous old men who'd escaped the Russian revolution. I traveled in communist Eastern Europe and learned to speak 6 languages fluently so I could talk with THEM not just the English speakers. I spent 3 years in the interior of Africa. And all the while I was in & out of America earning a living.

Some of what you write is really excellent, but here, for whatever reason, you've let a big booboo slip a knot around your neck. I could care less about whatever divisions there may be among Republican, among neocons, among what few remaining Democrats are democratic. You've applies the fault line of Psychology to your line here. By splintering the causes of the diversity you can overlook that the body there is lifeless with a big knife sticking out of its chest. I don't really care that his mother spanked him, that his father was a drunk, that his wife loved the lady next door. I'm looking at the body.

So it's time we look at the acts. That Netanyahu has goaded several administrations to do this or that, that the source of the problem is that we do it for reason X or Y is beside the point.
+2 # ladypyrates 2014-03-04 18:16
C.K. McClatchy, the publisher of the McClatchy Newspaper Group during the early years of the 20th century, pulled no punches in describing the insidious role the international bankers played in luring the US into World War I for the purpose of strengthening the oligarchs grip on the globe. Why does Weissman try to convince us that it didn't happen that way and that the international banksters don't exist?
0 # ericlipps 2014-03-04 18:33
Quoting ladypyrates:
C.K. McClatchy, the publisher of the McClatchy Newspaper Group during the early years of the 20th century, pulled no punches in describing the insidious role the international bankers played in luring the US into World War I for the purpose of strengthening the oligarchs grip on the globe. Why does Weissman try to convince us that it didn't happen that way and that the international banksters don't exist?

Because "international bankers" is, all too often, code for "Jews," and Weissman has good reason to worry when people start talking about what could be interpreted as an international Jewish plot to rule the world. The world saw where that sort of thinking leads, in the 1930s and '40s.
+4 # Anonymot 2014-03-04 18:27
The effect is that the CIA and advisors of Presidents caused acts to be performed, from Pinochet to Bay of Pigs, to El Salvador, Panama, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, man the list is endless, Ukraine, Venezuela, now mumbling about 2/3 others and getting belligerent with Russia, China; let me suggest that all of this brilliant regime change is a contemporary panorama of anti-democratic ACTS not to say fascists building empires.

It's no longer crackpots & crack smokers who are getting a grasp on what's behind the curtain. Deep State (hate that term. Should be Shadow Government.) is a reality and it has been increasingly imposing its will on America's acts and almost invariably to our detriment.
Those who are getting their way are getting their way no matter what discussion, assassinations or blackmail is involved. That's the crux. And I could care less at this point that Obama is a nice guy or black or has a pretty family. He is not in control. I want the President I voted for to run things. Instead, for whatever reasons that I may or may not imagine he's in the rumble seat throwing out rose petals.

The only positive thing he's doing is seemingly at least, he's getting some balance with said Netanyahu by slowing down on the M-E where we have done such incredible damage to them and ourselves.

Lofgren has the real picture, but we're still short of lots of detail.
+2 # mighead 2014-03-05 00:43
So for's NED and they have the ability to coordinate their moves and funding so that there are MULTIPLE interests and beneficiaries.. .in many corporate and private individual areas.

There is also a new US military group...Special Ops...made up of elite forces drawn from the Seals, Rangers and like forces...SOCOM. ..their activities are generally 'top secret'...and basically they're a 'black ops' force.

Whose command SOCOM forces are under is unknown...but they are 70,000 strong and growing and were active (boots on the ground) in 134 countries in 2013.

I have not seen ANY WHISPER of a connection between NED and SOCOM...but I'm continuing to suspect that the one is the planner and the other is the action figure...
0 # anarchteacher 2014-03-04 18:37
Here's more food for thought on the important topic of the "deep state" and power elite analysis:

9/11, Deep State Violence and the Hope of Internet Politics

Hidden History: Where Organized Crime and Government Meet

Who Rules America: Power Elite Analysis and American History

'Naming Names'

Deep Politics, the Unspeakable, and Libertarian Class Analysis

Our Establishment Church: Its Rules and Credo

Servants of the Empire
0 # JSRaleigh 2014-03-06 11:02
Clearly the "Deep State" does exist. Just as clearly it is NOT monolithic. It is as riven by factions as is the Congress who are complicit in its machinations.

The extent to which it is “coordinated by the executive Office of the President via the National Security Council” seems to depend upon the political leanings of the incumbent. Reagan and the two Bushes were far more acceptable to the "National Security" apparatus than were Clinton and Obama.

It appears that the "Deep State" is the tail that wags the "Presidential" dog just as frequently as vice versa.

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