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Forum Post: The "Deep State" - How Much Does It Explain?

Posted 6 years ago on Feb. 26, 2014, 3 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5909)
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The "Deep State" - How Much Does It Explain?

Wednesday, 26 February 2014 09:28 By Mike Lofgren, Moyers & Company | Op-Ed


Everyone knows about the military-industrial complex, which, in his farewell address, President Eisenhower warned had the potential to “endanger our liberties or democratic process” but have you heard of the “Deep State?”

Mike Lofgren, a former GOP congressional staff member with the powerful House and Senate Budget Committees, joins Bill to talk about what he calls the Deep State, a hybrid of corporate America and the national security state, which is “out of control” and “unconstrained.” In it, Lofgren says, elected and unelected figures collude to protect and serve powerful vested interests. “It is … the red thread that runs through the history of the last three decades. It is how we had deregulation, financialization of the economy, the Wall Street bust, the erosion or our civil liberties and perpetual war,” Lofgren tells Bill.

Lofgren says the Deep State’s heart lies in Washington, DC, but its tentacles reach out to Wall Street, which Lofgren describes as “the ultimate backstop to the whole operation,” Silicon Valley and over 400,000 contractors, private citizens who have top-secret security clearances. Like any other bureaucracy, it’s groupthink that drives the Deep State.

In conjunction with this week’s show, Mike Lofgren has written the following essay.

The Anatomy of the Deep State

Rome lived upon its principal till ruin stared it in the face. Industry is the only true source of wealth, and there was no industry in Rome. By day the Ostia road was crowded with carts and muleteers, carrying to the great city the silks and spices of the East, the marble of Asia Minor, the timber of the Atlas, the grain of Africa and Egypt; and the carts brought out nothing but loads of dung. That was their return cargo.

– The Martyrdom of Man by Winwood Reade (1871)

There is the visible government situated around the Mall in Washington, and then there is another, more shadowy, more indefinable government that is not explained in Civics 101 or observable to tourists at the White House or the Capitol. The former is traditional Washington partisan politics: the tip of the iceberg that a public watching C-SPAN sees daily and which is theoretically controllable via elections. The subsurface part of the iceberg I shall call the Deep State, which operates according to its own compass heading regardless of who is formally in power. [1]

During the last five years, the news media has been flooded with pundits decrying the broken politics of Washington. The conventional wisdom has it that partisan gridlock and dysfunction have become the new normal. That is certainly the case, and I have been among the harshest critics of this development. But it is also imperative to acknowledge the limits of this critique as it applies to the American governmental system. On one level, the critique is self-evident: In the domain that the public can see, Congress is hopelessly deadlocked in the worst manner since the 1850s, the violently rancorous decade preceding the Civil War.

As I wrote in The Party is Over, the present objective of congressional Republicans is to render the executive branch powerless, at least until a Republican president is elected (a goal that voter suppression laws in GOP-controlled states are clearly intended to accomplish). President Obama cannot enact his domestic policies and budgets: Because of incessant GOP filibustering, not only could he not fill the large number of vacancies in the federal judiciary, he could not even get his most innocuous presidential appointees into office. Democrats controlling the Senate have responded by weakening the filibuster of nominations, but Republicans are sure to react with other parliamentary delaying tactics. This strategy amounts to congressional nullification of executive branch powers by a party that controls a majority in only one house of Congress.

Despite this apparent impotence, President Obama can liquidate American citizens without due processes, detain prisoners indefinitely without charge, conduct dragnet surveillance on the American people without judicial warrant and engage in unprecedented — at least since the McCarthy era — witch hunts against federal employees (the so-called “Insider Threat Program”). Within the United States, this power is characterized by massive displays of intimidating force by militarized federal, state and local law enforcement. Abroad, President Obama can start wars at will and engage in virtually any other activity whatsoever without so much as a by-your-leave from Congress, such as arranging the forced landing of a plane carrying a sovereign head of state over foreign territory. Despite the habitual cant of congressional Republicans about executive overreach by Obama, the would-be dictator, we have until recently heard very little from them about these actions — with the minor exception of comments from gadfly Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. Democrats, save a few mavericks such as Ron Wyden of Oregon, are not unduly troubled, either — even to the extent of permitting seemingly perjured congressional testimony under oath by executive branch officials on the subject of illegal surveillance.

These are not isolated instances of a contradiction; they have been so pervasive that they tend to be disregarded as background noise. During the time in 2011 when political warfare over the debt ceiling was beginning to paralyze the business of governance in Washington, the United States government somehow summoned the resources to overthrow Muammar Ghaddafi’s regime in Libya, and, when the instability created by that coup spilled over into Mali, provide overt and covert assistance to French intervention there. At a time when there was heated debate about continuing meat inspections and civilian air traffic control because of the budget crisis, our government was somehow able to commit $115 millionto keeping a civil war going in Syria and to pay at least £100m to the United Kingdom’s Government Communications Headquarters to buy influence over and access to that country’s intelligence. Since 2007, two bridges carrying interstate highways have collapsed due to inadequate maintenance of infrastructure, one killing 13 people. During that same period of time, the government spent $1.7 billion constructing a building in Utah that is the size of 17 football fields. This mammoth structure is intended to allow the National Security Agency to store a yottabyte of information, the largest numerical designator computer scientists have coined. A yottabyte is equal to 500 quintillion pages of text. They need that much storage to archive every single trace of your electronic life.

Yes, there is another government concealed behind the one that is visible at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue, a hybrid entity of public and private institutions ruling the country according to consistent patterns in season and out, connected to, but only intermittently controlled by, the visible state whose leaders we choose. My analysis of this phenomenon is not an exposé of a secret, conspiratorial cabal; the state within a state is hiding mostly in plain sight, and its operators mainly act in the light of day. Nor can this other government be accurately termed an “establishment.” All complex societies have an establishment, a social network committed to its own enrichment and perpetuation. In terms of its scope, financial resources and sheer global reach, the American hybrid state, the Deep State, is in a class by itself. That said, it is neither omniscient nor invincible. The institution is not so much sinister (although it has highly sinister aspects) as it is relentlessly well entrenched. Far from being invincible, its failures, such as those in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, are routine enough that it is only the Deep State’s protectiveness towards its higher-ranking personnel that allows them to escape the consequences of their frequent ineptitude. [2]

How did I come to write an analysis of the Deep State, and why am I equipped to write it? As a congressional staff member for 28 years specializing in national security and possessing a top secret security clearance, I was at least on the fringes of the world I am describing, if neither totally in it by virtue of full membership nor of it by psychological disposition. But, like virtually every employed person, I became, to some extent, assimilated into the culture of the institution I worked for, and only by slow degrees, starting before the invasion of Iraq, did I begin fundamentally to question the reasons of state that motivate the people who are, to quote George W. Bush, “the deciders.”

Cultural assimilation is partly a matter of what psychologist Irving L. Janis called “groupthink,” the chameleon-like ability of people to adopt the views of their superiors and peers. This syndrome is endemic to Washington: The town is characterized by sudden fads, be it negotiating biennial budgeting, making grand bargains or invading countries. Then, after a while, all the town’s cool kids drop those ideas as if they were radioactive. As in the military, everybody has to get on board with the mission, and questioning it is not a career-enhancing move. The universe of people who will critically examine the goings-on at the institutions they work for is always going to be a small one. As Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”




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[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 6 years ago

Is It Time for a New Church Committee?

Tuesday, 25 February 2014 15:19 By The Daily Take, The Thom Hartmann Program | Op-Ed


It's time for a new Church Committee.

Earlier this month, Glenn Greenwald revealed details of how GCHQ (the British equivalent of the NSA) had a special "dirty tricks" intelligence gathering group known as the Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group.

This week - Greenwald released more details on the group over at The Intercept, his new media venture.

The newly released details include a top-secret GCHQ presentation that sheds light on how the group, cooperating with the NSA, would go after, infiltrate, and in some cases ruin the reputations of, specific groups or individuals online.

And we're not just talking about terrorist masterminds here.

According to Greenwald, "Among the core self-identified purposes of JTRIG are two tactics: (1) to inject all sorts of false material onto the internet in order to destroy the reputation of its targets; and (2) to use social sciences and other techniques to manipulate online discourse and activism to generate outcomes it considers desirable."

Greenwald goes on to say that, "To see how extremist these programs are, just consider the tactics they boast of using to achieve those ends: "false flag operations" (posting material to the internet and falsely attributing it to someone else), fake victim blog posts (pretending to be a victim of the individual whose reputation they want to destroy), and posting "negative information" on various forums."

According to the top-secret presentation, the Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group, or JTRIG, would leak confidential information to companies and the press, post negative information on "appropriate forums," and actively try to stop business deals and ruin relationships.

And if JTRIG was going after a specific person it would do things like set up honey traps, using sex to lure people into compromising situations.

JTRIG would also write emails and texts to friends, family, and colleagues of the individual, and would also write blogs and messages pretending to be that person.

While this all sounds extremely disturbing and very creepy, it should also sound pretty familiar, because we've seen these kinds of covert government interference and manipulation efforts before.

These kinds of reputation-destroying smear campaigns and intentional sabotage missions were key parts of the Richard Nixon presidency.

After all, back in 1969, the Nixon administration put together a so-called "enemies list," that contained the names of hundreds of people that the administration considered to be political opponents.

Even actor Paul Newman made that list.

And of those hundreds of names, there was a "shortlist" of targets for political retribution.

Officials working for The White House would find "dirt" and personal information on those that were "shortlisted," and leak the information to the press.

Two of those "shortlisted" were Senator Edward Kennedy and the Democratic Speaker of the House at that time, Carl Albert.

In fact, Nixon even sent a couple "spies" to be part of the Secret Service detail for Senator Kennedy, because he thought that the agents might catch Kennedy with a mistress, and that it would "ruin him for '76," referring to the 1976 election.

Nixon also used government agencies to go after his enemies.

The IRS was ordered to conduct audits of organizations opposed to Nixon's policies, and the CIA's Special Operations Group spied on leftist activist groups and black power groups.

And of course there were the "White House Plumbers," a covert White House Special Investigations Unit, which was involved in a lot of illegal activities, including the Watergate break-in.

Once the Watergate scandal broke open and news of illegal intelligence gathering by government agencies began to spread, Senator Frank Church, a Democrat from Idaho, formed the Church Committee, which was tasked with investigating illegal intelligence gathering activities by the FBI, NSA, and CIA.

Between 1975 and 1976, the Church Committee published fourteen reports on intelligence gathering abuses by U.S. intelligence agencies.

In August of 1975, the Church Committee released its findings.

Senator Church went on NBC's Meet the Press after the findings were released, and said that, "In the need to develop a capacity to know what potential enemies are doing, the United States government has perfected a technological capability that enables us to monitor the messages that go through the air. Now, that is necessary and important to the United States as we look abroad at enemies or potential enemies. We must know, at the same time, that capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left such is the capability to monitor everything—telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't matter. There would be no place to hide."

Church added that, "I don't want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return."

Fast-forward nearly four decades, and we are staring into that "abyss from which there is no return."

And while the technology may be different, the goals and methods are the same.

If the NSA and GCHQ are actively using the Internet to destroy people's lives, manipulate political discourse and quash civic activism, as Glenn Greenwald puts it, they're "compromising the integrity of the internet itself."

But more importantly, they're attacking our very freedoms and way of life.

We can't continue to let them run amok, and trample all over our lives.

President Ford once referred to the Nixon era in America as this nation's "long national nightmare."

The out-of-control nature of our national security agencies today is our new "national nightmare."

And the only way to wake up from that nightmare is to create a new Church Commission, which will investigate the intelligence community, and put in place the reforms that are needed to protect our freedoms and way of life.

This article was first published on Truthout and any reprint or reproduction on any other website must acknowledge Truthout as the original site of publication.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 6 years ago

Spying on Activists: New Document Shows Army Targeted Olympia Anarchists, War Protesters

Wednesday, 26 February 2014 09:50 By Mike Ludwig, Truthout | Report


In 2007, John Towery attended a conference on domestic terrorism in Spokane, Washington. There he distributed "domestic terrorist" dossiers that appeared to place Brendan Maslauskas Dunn and Jeffery Berryhill, two young activists who were members of Students for a Democratic Society in Olympia, into a terrorism index.

Dunn and Berryhill were anti-war activists, not terrorists, but their names and personal information were shared with police departments and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as part of a multi-agency effort to spy on anarchists and anti-war activists in Washington.

At the time, Dunn considered Towery to be his friend. Dunn knew Towery as "John Jacob," whom he would later describe as a "kind" and "generous" participant in the Port Militarization Resistance (PMR) campaign that protested military shipments to the Iraq war. In 2009, Dunn learned from a public records request he filed with the city of Olympia that "John Jacob" was actually John Towery, a criminal intelligence analyst on the payroll of the Army.

Towery, it turned out, had lied about his identity to infiltrate the activist community in Olympia and gather intelligence he shared with police departments, the FBI and a fusion center in Washington, according to documents obtained by activists and free speech advocates in a series of public information requests.

As wars waged in Iraq and Afghanistan, the PMR campaign in Washington organized sit-ins and protests at military ports to block shipments of equipment and weapons overseas. Activists pledged to remain nonviolent and have said that their actions constituted civil disobedience at worst, but they were often met by aggressive police crackdowns that resulted in dozens of arrests.

At the time, Towery worked as a civilian "criminal information" analyst for the Force Protection Division at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma. After attending the domestic terrorism conference in Tacoma, Towery sent an email to police officials and an FBI agent suggesting that they develop a "leftist / anarchist mini-group for intel sharing and distro." Towery offered to share "zines," "pamphlets" and online material that he used "on a regular basis" but warned that the material should not be distributed outside the group because that "might tip off groups that we are studying their techniques, tactics and procedures."

The email, which was released for the first time this week after an Olympia-based activist uncovered it through a public information request, could help the activists prove that they were illegally targeted for their political beliefs in upcoming civil trial against Towery, his Army superior Thomas Rudd and several police departments.

"The latest revelations show how the Army not only engaged in illegal spying on political dissidents, it led the charge and tried to expand the counterintelligence network targeting leftists and anarchists," said Larry Hildes, a National Lawyers Guild attorney who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Dunn, Berryhill and several other PMR activists in 2010. "By targeting activists without probable cause, based on their ideology and the perceived political threat they represent, the Army clearly broke the law and must be held accountable."

The lawsuit alleges that, under orders from the Army, Towery illegally infiltrated anti-war groups to disrupt activity protected under the First Amendment. The lawsuit also alleges that information Towery handed off to police officers led to the harassment and pre-emptive false arrest of several PMR activists, who were jailed in 2006 and charged with "attempted disorderly conduct" and criminal trespass after standing, singing and chanting outside on a street in front of the Port of Olympia entrance that had already been closed to traffic by police who were told by Towery that the activists would stage a sit-in.

The Army has denied the allegations routinely, and Towery originally claimed that he infiltrated anti-war groups in his spare time to help police officers. But troves of internal documents like the email released by activists this week have told a different story. An email released last year shows that Towery's Army superiors approved overtime pay for Towery after he attended a weekend meeting with activists at Evergreen State College.

The recent Edward Snowden revelations have left many Americans shocked by the massive intelligence dragnet operated by the National Security Agency, but for anyone involved in the anti-war movement of the past decade, the revelations may come as no surprise. During the Bush administration, the FBI and other law enforcement agents routinely spied on and infiltrated peaceful groups organizing protests against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the names of peaceful activists often ended up on terrorism watch lists.

Monitoring of activists continued under the Obama administration, notably during the height of the Occupy Wall Street movement, when a Truthout investigation confirmed that the Department of Homeland Security kept tabs on Occupy protests across the country. Homeland Security documents, however, revealed an internal debate over its role in monitoring the Occupy movement, and the agency apparently refrained from wholesale surveillance and infiltration because of First Amendment concerns.

The Obama administration tried to dismiss the lawsuit against Towery and the other defendants, but last year the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that alleged violations of the Fourth and First Amendments were "plausible" and ordered the case to trial. The court threw out some of the activists' broader allegations but ruled that the Army and law enforcement agencies can be sued for damages for spying on activists. Hildes has argued that, under the little-known Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, the military is prohibited from enforcing domestic laws on US soil. The trial is expected to begin in June.

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 6 years ago

Public Broadcasters Relying More and More on Corporate Funding

Wednesday, 26 February 2014 10:42 By Jessica Desvarieux, The Real News Network | Video Interview



More at The Real News


JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.

The Public Broadcasting Service, PBS, has come under scrutiny recently for its corporate funding and how it affects its broadcasts. One glaring example happened last year, when PBS pulled a documentary critical of then PBS board member and trustee billionaire David Koch and his involvement in Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's 2010 election.

Now there's been another conflict of interest. PBS received $3.5 million from a former Enron trader and billionaire, John Arnold, to fund a series of documentaries about the "pension peril". An investigative piece in PandoDaily found that Arnold is, quote, "actively trying to shape the very pension policy that the series claims to be dispassionately covering."

PBS has since returned the grant.

With us to discuss all of this is Jeff Cohen. Jeff is the director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithica College, and he's the founder of the media watchdog FAIR.

Thank you for joining us, Jeff.


DESVARIEUX: So, Jeff, first off, what do we know about what happened between PBS and John Arnold?

COHEN: Unfortunately, what happened is too typical, that a corporate funder, a person with an axe to grind and a lot of money, was able to underwrite a program, a series that he has a direct interest in. John Arnold is someone who's passionate about cutting state and local government employee pensions. You know, there's many different ways of balancing the state budgets. You could raise taxes on the rich, you could reduce the size of the prison-industrial complex, you could stop corporate subsidies. But John Arnold has gone all over the country funding think tanks, funding ballot initiatives, funding superPACs, all with one--he's got one monomania, which is cut public employees' pensions.

So the fact that public TV--in this case, their flagship station, WNET, Channel 13, in New York City--the fact that WNET would take $3.5 million for a series of segments about pension--and it's calledPension Peril, which is, of course, John Arnold's view, that pensions are what needs to be cut if we're going to balance state budgets. So why NET would take this kind of money in violation of their own guidelines is the question. And the answer is: public TV has done this repeatedly.

You know, there was a three-part documentary glowing about former secretary of state George Schultz, and it was funded by Charles Schwab, a corporation whose board he sat on, and Bechtel, a company that he was the CEO of and whose board he sat on. They had a documentary about James Reston, the New York Times columnist, that columnist everyone reads, a special documentary, and it was funded by The New York Times. They've had a many-parts series on the oil industry, where the main on-air person was a major consultant to the big oil companies, and it was sponsored in part by Paine Webber, a company with major oil interests. They do this all the time.

And that's the problem with public TV--it's become so corporate. And the corporate dollars determine what programs get on the air and what programs don't. Keep in mind, when average people donate $20 or $50 or $100, we don't get to determine, hey, I'd like to have a program about labor unions or I'd like to have a program about the environmental movement or what's wrong with fracking. All the individuals who donate to public TV are donating to keep the lighting on, you know, keep the utilities paid, keep the staff there. But the corporations only come into it when they can say, hey, I want this program on the air. And that's how public television has been so deformed over the years.

DESVARIEUX: Jeff, I'm going to play devil's advocate here. If there aren't public funds available, why shouldn't corporate funders step in? And, in essence, what choice do they really have?

COHEN: Well, the problem with American television news and public affairs is that so much television news and public affairs programming is owned by big corporations, large conglomerates that are basically entertainment conglomerates. So what we really need in this country is public broadcasting that's not corporate, public broadcasting that has its own insulated funding.

You're right. Our country gets very little tax dollars for public broadcasting. I can give you some of the figures, and they're shocking. In Canada, per person, the amount of tax dollars per person that goes to public broadcasting is $30. In France it's $50. In United Kingdom it's $90 per person, tax money that goes to public broadcasting. In Norway, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, it's somewhere around $120, $130 per person of tax money that goes to public broadcasting. What is it in our country? Three dollars and seventy-five cents per person tax money goes to public broadcasting. In that vacuum, you're absolutely correct. Corporations have been allowed to fill it.

But one way your question is wrong is that while public television executives have allowed their rules to repeatedly be broken when corporations come in and allowed to fund programming that they have a direct interest in the subject matter, they have a strict rule at public broadcasting that labor unions cannot fund programming about workers or about the workplace.

In fact, there was once a documentary, a great one, called Out at Work. It was about discrimination on the job against gay employees. And public TV explicitly rejected it because it was partly funded by a couple of labor unions and a lesbian rights group. So they wouldn't accept a program on discrimination in the workplace, because labor unions were involved. And when public TV executives were confronted, they admitted that they will not accept any money from labor unions to fund programming about workers or the workplace. But they continuously accept money from big corporations to do programming or segments or specials about the subjects that those corporations have a direct interest in.

So if they wanted to have different money coming in, they would be more accepting of certain nonprofit groups and certain labor unions. But they're absolutely not. Public TV executives have chosen to favor big corporations in their programming.

DESVARIEUX: Alright, Jeff. Let's switch gears a little bit. And I know at FAIR you assess mainstream media, and not only in terms of what is being covered and how, but what is not being reported.

There has been a rising tide of public outcry against the TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. President Obama has been trying to fast-track it and all of that. But you don't really see that much coverage of the issue in the mainstream press, especially on television. Can you just speak to why the mainstream has missed this story and speak to what their record is on covering the TPP?

COHEN: Well, they haven't covered it. The Media Matters organization has done work on this. So has FAIR. I mean, when media monitors have looked at the coverage--Media Matters just put out a new study. They looked at six months of television coverage, and they found--and that's up till January 31 of this year, about six months up till January 31 of this year--there was no mention of the Trans-Pacific Partnership on CBS Evening News, ABC World News Tonight, NBC Nightly News. There was one mention during that six months of the Trans-Pacific Partnership on public television's NewsHour, and that was a very positive reference, which, again, doesn't surprise me.

On cable news, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which could be really deadly--you know, it's one of these many so-called free trade pacts that's written by corporations for corporations, negotiated in secret. It will undermine labor. It will undermine public health regulations. It will undermine environmental laws. On cable TV, the only show that's talked about it a lot is Ed Schultz on MSNBC. Otherwise, it's been virtually ignored on cable news. And they go 24/7.

So, I mean, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which will be so bad for the environment, so bad for public health and safety, so bad for workers and labor unions, so good for giant multinational corporations, you just don't get coverage in the mainstream media. So if you want to learn about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, thank God that there's something that's really been growing in this country, and that's called fully independent news media, like The Real News Network, like Democracy Now!, like Common Dreams. If it weren't for internet and independent media and video projects, TV projects like The Real News, there wouldn't be any information, because it's in the interests of these giant corporations to have no news about something like Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would potentially be very, very controversial.

So even with President Obama pushing to fast-track it--he wants to get this through fast, and Congress will only be able to vote it up or down with no debate, no amendments, no real debate, no amendments--that just doesn't get covered in mainstream television news. And that's by design. It's not an accident that these corporate giveaways get so little coverage in a media system like ours that's so dominated by a handful of giant conglomerates. That's why I wish we had independent public broadcasting. We don't. It's why Real News Network and all these other truly independent channels of information are so crucial.

DESVARIEUX: Alright, Jeff Cohen. We appreciate the shout-out. Thank you so much for joining us.

COHEN: Thank you.

DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.