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  • The “Deep State.”

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on February 27th, 2014 (All posts by )

    UPDATED to correct the author of the essay.

    This essay by Mike Lofgren on Bill Moyers’ web site, is interesting. It has the usual leftist slant of Moyers on the topic but also includes many good observations. Lofgren is also a very interesting guy. He spent 28 years as a Republican staffer. From 1995 to 2004, he was budget analyst for national security on the majority staff of the House Budget Committee. From 2005 until his retirement in 2011, Lofgren was the chief analyst for military spending on the Senate Budget Committee. The Democrats took The House in 2006 and the Senate Majority from 2001 to 2003 and then since 2007. If he was on the Budget Committee of the Senate, he must have been a staffer for the Democrat majority, as well.

    he was “appalled at the headlong rush of Republicans to embrace policies that are deeply damaging to this country’s future; and contemptuous of the feckless, craven incompetence of Democrats in their half-hearted attempts to stop them.” He charged that both major American political parties are “rotten captives to corporate loot”, but that while Democrats are merely weak and out of touch, the Republican Party is “becoming more like an apocalyptic cult”. Lofgren and Moyers are both leftists but Lofgren has had an interesting odyssey.

    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]

    Moyers had a significant role to play in the early stages of this administrative state. Lofgren probably did, as well.

    Failure to recognize the distinction between the way in which the Department of the Army operates and the standing operating procedures of military organizations in the field has frustrated generations of field soldiers, who have taken for granted the necessity for tight management at the top, known to them as unity of command.This struggle for executive control within the Army has
    taken place during a period of increasingly centralized authority over individual and corporate activities throughout American life.

    Lofgren has more of a role here than he admits. After some nonsense about Republican “obstructionism,” he says this:

    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.

    I think it is interesting to see that the left, certainly Moyers’ and Lofgren’s territory, sees this.

    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 million to 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, indeed.

    Government life is typically not some vignette from an Allen Drury novel about intrigue under the Capitol dome. Sitting and staring at the clock on the off-white office wall when it’s 11:00 in the evening and you are vowing never, ever to eat another piece of takeout pizza in your life is not an experience that summons the higher literary instincts of a would-be memoirist. After a while, a functionary of the state begins to hear things that, in another context, would be quite remarkable, or at least noteworthy, and yet that simply bounce off one’s consciousness like pebbles off steel plate: “You mean the number of terrorist groups we are fighting is classified?” No wonder so few people are whistle-blowers, quite apart from the vicious retaliation whistle-blowing often provokes: Unless one is blessed with imagination and a fine sense of irony, growing immune to the curiousness of one’s surroundings is easy. To paraphrase the inimitable Donald Rumsfeld, I didn’t know all that I knew, at least until I had had a couple of years away from the government to reflect upon it.

    The IRS bureaucrat begins to see that the Tea Party is a threat to his pension and continued nice life. That, of course, is not what Lofgren and Moyers are concerned about.

    The Deep State does not consist of the entire government. It is a hybrid of national security and law enforcement agencies: the Department of Defense, the Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Justice Department. I also include the Department of the Treasury because of its jurisdiction over financial flows, its enforcement of international sanctions and its organic symbiosis with Wall Street. All these agencies are coordinated by the Executive Office of the President via the National Security Council. Certain key areas of the judiciary belong to the Deep State, such as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, whose actions are mysterious even to most members of Congress. Also included are a handful of vital federal trial courts, such as the Eastern District of Virginia and the Southern District of Manhattan, where sensitive proceedings in national security cases are conducted. The final government component (and possibly last in precedence among the formal branches of government established by the Constitution) is a kind of rump Congress consisting of the congressional leadership and some (but not all) of the members of the defense and intelligence committees. The rest of Congress, normally so fractious and partisan, is mostly only intermittently aware of the Deep State and when required usually submits to a few well-chosen words from the State’s emissaries.

    This is what some of us refer to as The Ruling Class.

    There are now 854,000 contract personnel with top-secret clearances — a number greater than that of top-secret-cleared civilian employees of the government. While they work throughout the country and the world, their heavy concentration in and around the Washington suburbs is unmistakable: Since 9/11, 33 facilities for top-secret intelligence have been built or are under construction. Combined, they occupy the floor space of almost three Pentagons — about 17 million square feet. Seventy percent of the intelligence community’s budget goes to paying contracts. And the membrane between government and industry is highly permeable: The Director of National Intelligence, James R. Clapper, is a former executive of Booz Allen Hamilton, one of the government’s largest intelligence contractors. His predecessor as director, Admiral Mike McConnell, is the current vice chairman of the same company; Booz Allen is 99 percent dependent on government business. These contractors now set the political and social tone of Washington, just as they are increasingly setting the direction of the country, but they are doing it quietly, their doings unrecorded in the Congressional Record or the Federal Register, and are rarely subject to congressional hearings.

    Remove some of the obligatory left wing rhetoric and I agree with this completely. Read the rest.

    In 2013, General David Petraeus joined KKR (formerly Kohlberg Kravis Roberts) of 9 West 57th Street, New York, a private equity firm with $62.3 billion in assets. KKR specializes in management buyouts and leveraged finance. General Petraeus’ expertise in these areas is unclear. His ability to peddle influence, however, is a known and valued commodity. Unlike Cincinnatus, the military commanders of the Deep State do not take up the plow once they lay down the sword. Petraeus also obtained a sinecure as a non-resident senior fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard. The Ivy League is, of course, the preferred bleaching tub and charm school of the American oligarchy. [4]

    Exactly. Think about global warming and energy policy, matters Lofgren, whose area was defense, neglects.

    I might add that reading the thinking of a member of the staff of the Republican Party suggests that what we now have in Washington is an example of a one party spoils system with the Democrats in control, majority or not.

    Evidence is accumulating of a corrupt bureaucratic culture in many, if not all, federal agencies. Revelations of lavish meetings at fancy hotels, featuring stupid but expensive custom-made videos emerged in the last couple of years. But even worse, cases of bureaucrats stealing from taxpayers by taking time off while still being paid high salaries have been reported recently, with their supervisors knowingly turning a blind eye to the taxpayer rip-off. The EPA’s highest-paid employee pretended to be a CIA agent and defrauded the taxpayers of about $900,000 in salary and travel expenses (often first class airfare and five star hotels).

     

    11 Responses to “The “Deep State.””

    1. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

      Linked, with short comments

    2. Kirk Parker Says:

      A lot to process there. Thanks!

      One minor correction: it’s on Moyer’s site, but the actual author appears to be Mike Lofgren.

    3. Michael Kennedy Says:

      Thanks, it was a major correction and I have revised it. I should have picked that up when he referred to “28 years as a staffer” but I missed it.

    4. IGotBupkis, "Si tacuisses, philosophus mansisses." Says:

      }}} he was “appalled at the headlong rush of Republicans to embrace policies that are deeply damaging to this country’s future; and contemptuous of the feckless, craven incompetence of Democrats in their half-hearted attempts to stop them.”

      I think his capacity to demonstrate an utter and complete lack of any sort of loyalty to the Truth is more than amply shown in this comment alone, and explains how he kept his party-based job regardless of which parties were mainly in power.

      I’ve see the freaking C-Span videos with REPUBLICAN bureaucrats attempting to express concern over the building issues at Fannie Mae, and the DEMOCRATS blowing them off. I’ve seen the GOP attempt to confront the issue of Social Security insolvency and the Democrat’s rabid response to it.

      I accept the argument that the above represents a valid assessment of the situation in Congress — I just think it’s blatantly obvious that the parties are reversed as to position and demeanor.

    5. MikeK Says:

      “and explains how he kept his party-based job regardless of which parties were mainly in power.”

      I think it really interesting, and probably suggestive about the ruling class, that he kept his job in spite of these sentiments.

    6. renminbi Says:

      Thank-you for the link to Angelo Codevilla. He has written a number of books, but I would particularly recommend “The Character of Nations”.

      What does set this country apart is that there are far more people here who resist tyranny than elsewhere. I’m always surprised at how the Europeans seem to accept the petty , and sometimes not so petty bullying of their officials.

    7. MikeK Says:

      ” I’m always surprised at how the Europeans seem to accept the petty , and sometimes not so petty bullying of their officials.”

      Read The Uses of Corruption by Theodore Dalrymple. The Italians jut resist secretly. Carlo Ponte spent time in prison for tax evasion but he was sleeping with Sophia Loren and it was probably worth it.

    8. renminbi Says:

      I think Dalrymple is likely the best general essayist extant. Great ideas and beautiful writing.

      A good sampling can be found here:

      http://chicagoboyz.net/archives/41917.html#comments

    9. renminbi Says:

      Goofed on that one. Maybe I’m past my prime.

      http://www.city-journal.org/author_index.php?author=47

    10. Michael Hiteshew Says:

      I stumbled onto The Uses of Corruption a short while after it was written. Fascinating the way people eventually accept and adapt to things they can’t change and simply start working around them.

      As for Moyers, of all people, complaining – hah! If there were an election tomorrow he’d go out and vote for the very people employing these policies. Without so much as batting an eye. To Leftists, there’s no connection whatsoever between the people and policies they vote for and the results attained. They seem to live in an alternate reality from me.

    11. MikeK Says:

      There is an interesting post on Zerohedge that speculates on what will happen when the collapse comes.

      History suggests that this low-intensity conflict within the ruling Elite is generally a healthy characteristic of leadership in good times. As times grow more troubled, however, the unity of the ruling Elite fractures into irreconcilable political disunity, which becomes a proximate cause of the dissolution of the Empire if it continues.

      He links to this discussion about the fed. We may be headed for a wild ride sooner than I thought.

      The point of this experiment is to suggest that there were plenty of things the Fed could have done with its $3.2 trillion that would have directly benefited taxpaying Americans, but instead the Fed funneled all those profits to financiers and banks.

      The Fed apologists claim that lowering interest rates to zero benefited American who saw their interest payments decline. Nice, but not necessarily true. Try asking a student paying 9% for his student loans how much his interest rate dropped due to Fed policy.

      Hmmmm.