US poll: 74% believe in ‘deep state’

What is ‘deep state’? In the US, according to Wikipedia:

In the United States, the term “deep state“, describes a form of cabal that coordinates efforts by government employees to influence state policy without regard for democratically elected leadership.

Deep state was defined in 2014 by Mike Lofgren, a former Republican U.S. congressional aide, as “a hybrid association of elements of government and parts of top-level finance and industry that is effectively able to govern the United States without reference to the consent of the governed as expressed through the formal political process.”

In The Concealment of the State, professor Jason Royce Lindsey argues that even without a conspiratorial agenda, the term deep state is useful for understanding aspects of the national security establishment in developed countries, with emphasis on the United States. Lindsey writes that the deep state draws power from the national security and intelligence communities, a realm where secrecy is a source of power.

Alfred W. McCoy states that the increase in the power of the U.S. intelligence community since the September 11 attacks “has built a fourth branch of the U.S. government” that is “in many ways autonomous from the executive, and increasingly so.”

Probably a better question would be what degree of ‘deep state’ exists in the US (and in New Zealand).

Monmouth University Polling Institute: Public Troubled by ‘Deep State’

A majority of the American public believe that the U.S. government engages in widespread monitoring of its own citizens and worry that the U.S. government could be invading their own privacy. The Monmouth University Poll also finds a large bipartisan majority who feel that national policy is being manipulated or directed by a “Deep State” of unelected government officials. Americans of color on the center and left and NRA members on the right are among those most worried about the reach of government prying into average citizens’ lives.

As it stands right now, do you think that unelected or appointed officials in the federal government have too much influence in determining federal policy or is there the right balance of influence between elected and unelected officials?

  • Unelected or appointed officials have too much influence 60%
  • Right balance of influence between elected and unelected officials 26%
  • Don’t know 14%

Are you very familiar, somewhat familiar, or not familiar with the term Deep State as it applies to the federal government?

  • Very familiar 13%
  • Somewhat familiar 24%
  • Not familiar 63%

The term Deep State refers to the possible existence of a group of unelected government and military officials who secretly manipulate or direct national policy. Do you think this type of Deep State in the federal government definitely exists, probably exists, probably does not exist, or definitely does not exist?

  • Definitely exists 27%
  • Probably exists 47%
  • Total definitely/probably exists 74%
  • Probably does not exist 16%
  • Definitely does not exist 5%
  • Don’t know 5%

I would question whether there is ‘a cabal’ rather than different groups of people within government or the military who try to influence policy.

There are also many groups outside of US government trying to influence policy (like lobbying groups and companies), as well as all the politicians of course. So it’s a complex of competing interests.


I very much doubt that any group within the New Zealand military has any influence or attempt at influence beyond promoting their own military interests (which is what they should do).

I also doubt that there is a cabal inside our public service.

Definitions of cabal:

  • a secret political clique or faction
  • a small group of people who plan secretly to take action, especially political action
  • the contrived schemes of a group of persons secretly united in a plot (as to overturn a government); also : a group engaged in such schemes

I’m sure there are some public servants, and possibly groups of public servants, who try to influence policies, effectively in secret. But I doubt there is a secret group plotting to overturn the government.

To an extent it is the job of government advisers to advise the Government what to do, that is, influence policies.

The biggest problem here is secrecy – that withholding of information provided to our elected representatives from the public. This is more a problem with government MPs trying to keep advice to them secret, but they may be advised to do that by unelected officials.

Here in New Zealand the obvious antidote to secret manipulation or advice is transparency. So making the Official Information Act work as intended is important.

And this is a topical problem here, and not just with national government. From RNZ yesterday: Questions over tardy release of Auckland Council report:

Auckland Council senior executives stalled the release of a major report, for political convenience in a possible breach of official information law.

The study on the impact of moving the imported car trade away from Auckland was withheld from RNZ by the council for five months, and released only after intervention by the Ombudsman’s office.

The problem here isn’t a cabal trying to secretly run or take over the Government, but we do have problems with public servants generally in collusion with elected representatives try to manipulate public opinion and hide information from the public.

This isn’t ‘deep state’, but it is a significant concern.

 

Trump v. US ‘intelligence’ agencies

I’m sure it’s been said before that US Intelligence is an oxymoron. They have somewhere around 20 intelligence agencies for a start (including the CIA, NSA, Defense Intelligence Agency and components of the State Department, Justice Department, Department of Homeland Security and the armed forces), with conflicting jurisdictions, and with rivalries and a lack of systems that prevents comprehensive consolidation of intelligence.

US intelligence agencies have long clashed with their democracy, notably in the Nixon era. Recently Director James Comey inserted the FBI into the presidential election, quite possibly swinging the result.

There have been controversial claims by multiple intelligence agencies that Russia interfered with the presidential election, and that Donald trump’s campaign team had ongoing contact with Russian interests.

And now that Trump is president things seem to be getting worse, with ongoing leaks from intelligence agencies that conflict with and and undermine the presidency.

There are some claims that intelligence agencies won’t tell Trump things for fear of their methods being passed on to Russia.

Salon covers much of this in Trump vs. the Deep State: This death match of American political power will forever change history -President Trump escalates his battle with the U.S security apparatus.

The firing of Gen. Michael Flynn has popularized the concept of the “Deep State” across the political spectrum.

Breitbart’s Joel Pollak attacks the disloyal “Deep State #Resistance” to President Trump, while conservative pundit Bill Kristol defends it.

“Obviously [I] strongly prefer normal democratic and constitutional politics,” Kristol tweeted Tuesday. “But if it comes to it, [I] prefer the deep state to the Trump state.”

Glenn Greenwald is more even-handed: “Trump presidency is dangerous,” the Intercept columnist tweeted Wednesday. “CIA/Deep State abuse of spy powers to subvert elected Govt is dangerous.”

And the conflict is deepening. The New York Times reported Thursday that Trump wants to bring in Wall Street billionaire Stephen Feinberg “to lead a broad review of American intelligence agencies.”

The idea is reportedly provoking “fierce resistance” from intelligence officials who fear it “could curtail their independence and reduce the flow of information that contradicts the president’s worldview.”

They describe ‘Deep State’:

The Deep State is shorthand for the nexus of secretive intelligence agencies whose leaders and policies are not much affected by changes in the White House or the Congress. While definitions vary, the Deep State includes the CIA, NSA, Defense Intelligence Agency and components of the State Department, Justice Department, Department of Homeland Security and the armed forces.

The leaders of these agencies are generally disturbed by Trump’s cavalier treatment of their intelligence findings and particularly worried about contacts between Trump’s entourage and Russian intelligence officials.

There are known facts plus many claims and accusations that are at least partially unsubstantiated.

As Taegan Goddard’s Political Wire noted, the undisputed facts are accumulating:

  • Multiple U.S. intelligence services believe that Russian operatives, at Putin’s directions, tried to help Trump get elected. The FBI is investigating contacts between Russian officials and at least three people connected to Trump’s presidential campaign: Paul Manafort, Carter Page and Roger Stone.
  • There were “continuous” contacts between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russian intelligence officials. At least some of the claims made in a dossier compiled by a former British intelligence official have been confirmed, though none of the more salacious details.
  • Trump has had many financial dealings with Russian oligarchs, as shown in an investigation by the American Interest.

As a result, the intelligence agencies are withholding sources and methods from the president out of fear they will leak to foreign powers, according to the Wall Street Journal. Senior officials are also leaking the results of the ongoing investigation into Trump to reporters at The Washington Post, The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

The leaking of classified information, which Trump welcomed during the 2016 campaign, is indeed a felonious violation of the law, although it has been standard procedure for Washington power players since the passage of the National Security Act in 1947.

It is a serious threat to US democracy, and a serious threat to Trump’s presidency:

Vanity Fair calls the crisis of Trump’s presidency Watergate 2.0. The historical analogy is apt because the Watergate scandal that engulfed President Richard Nixon in the early 1970s was also a struggle between the White House and the intelligence agencies. But today’s crisis is more accurately described as Trump vs. the Deep State.

It is the death match of American political power and it will determine the fate of Trump’s troubled presidency.

It could be said that Trump is a serious threat to his presidency and to the US, but his clash with ‘Deep State’ is particularly ugly, and is likely to make more of a mess of US democracy.

More on ‘Deep State’:

‘Waitzen’ challenges Trotter on fairy stories versus reality

Following on from Trotter’s conspiracies – is something amiss with Chris? a commenter ‘waitzen’ at Bowalley has challenged Chris Trotter’s claims, suggesting he has “gone way over the top”.

Chris, I rarely agree with you but always enjoy your posts. However I do think you have gone way over the top with these recent anti-TPP posts. First you accused Helen Clark of being in league with the enemy, a saboteur and closet neo-liberal. Then you proclaimed the end-of-times with a forthcoming second wave of colonisation-apocalypse.

Now you have gone full tinfoil hat conspiracy-theorist and claim the SIS and GCSB will be deployed to monitor those that oppose the TPP. All without a shred of evidence and way too much rhetoric. The Left, if that is what you represent, need to present much more coherent arguments against the TPP if you are win the public debate. 

Lastly, using quotation marks around certain words to indicate ambiguity or irony is tiring after a while.

Trotter replied:

People like you, Waitzen, always remind me of the White House Press Corps under Nixon. They, too, had no clear notion of what the Deep State was, or how it operated, and when the Watergate break-in was reported they were happy to go along with the official line that it was nothing more than a “third-rate burglary”.

The activities of the Deep State are almost impossible to investigate without the help of a “Deep Throat”. Certainly, Woodward and Bernstein would never have gotten to the heart of the Watergate conspiracy without his help. [He was, you’ll recall, the Deputy Director of the FBI, W. Mark Felt.]

What is possible, however, is for people like myself to scrutinise the sequencing of related events. Helen Clark’s intervention in the TPP debate was one such event. (To suggest that she did not know exactly what she was doing is an insult to her undisputed political gifts!)

Another such event was Tim Groser’s publicly avowed intention to change Labour’s mind about the TPP. Yet another is the public revelation that the Government intends to spend millions of dollars on a “public information” campaign – explaining TPP.

What do you make of all these events, Waitzen? – No, don’t tell me, I can guess. “Nothing to see here, folks. Move along please.”

As for the SIS and the GCSB. What do we know about their behaviour? Well, we know that they were only too happy to make their services available to the FBI (acting for Hollywood and against Kim Dotcom) as well as to the PM’s Office (in order to embarrass Phil Goff).

But, according to you, they will take no interest in the TPP debate. Even though they are legally mandated to protect NZ’s “economic well-being”. (That two SIS agents were caught attempting to break into an anti-globalisation activist’s house is also, presumably, irrelevant to the probability that the building popular movement against the TPP is already under SIS/GCSB surveillance.)

You’ll have to forgive me, Waitzen, for becoming just a little testy with people who display zero knowledge of even their own country’s recent history. You may prefer the fairy-story version of NZ politics, in which nothing remotely like the activities predicted here ever take place, but, personally speaking, I prefer reality – no matter how grim.

There have certainly been issues with the way the SIS and GCSB have operated in the past. There have been significant changes made – but Trotter’s reality seems to be that that the worst will always happen.

And ‘waitzen’ responded back:

Chris, reflecting upon what you wrote I think what you are saying is that the organs of the state, including the intelligence agencies, will seek to spy on those who protest against the TPP, disseminate what they find to others in the so-called deep state, and thereby undermine the legitimate democratic process of opposing the TPP.

You point to recent examples of such activities and criticise those, such as me, who seem ignorant of what has actually gone on in New Zealand. There is, it seems to you, a vast web of interconnected people and agencies who are working together to advance the their cause, and that of their masters, at the expense of ordinary people. 

In reply I would say that bringing up Watergate is pure rhetorical flourish. That happened 40 years ago in another country in another time. It has, in my view, nothing to do with New Zealand in 2015. I understand you do think it does. I disagree and not from a position of ignorance either.

Secondly I profoundly disagree that there is a conspiracy of the deep state to undermine the democratic process and legitimate opposition to TPP. That the GSCB/SIS cooperated with the FBI over the Kim Dotcom affair does not make in an organ of repression. I do understand the history of my country, I just don’t see the things you see. 

You accuse me of preferring a so-called fairy-tale version of New Zealand politics. I assume this is a reference to so-called dirty politics. Well, yes, there is plenty of that around in all political parties but again, I simply do not see this as the massive conspiracy to fatally undermine democracy as you do.

Indeed you seem to delight in seeing the ‘grim reality’ as you describe it. The world is seemingly full of Machiavellian realpolitik players hell bent in advancing the interests of the ruling class at the expense of legitimate democracy. Maybe in the world inhabited by the conspiratorial Left, but I see New Zealand democracy at least as inhabited by people, from all parties, who genuinely want what is best for the country, and generally play by the rules. The organs of the state are inhabited by ordinary New Zealanders, just like you and me, who are generally decent, honest and law-abiding. A Fairy tale? I don’t think so.

I’ll add more responses if Trotter continues to engage.

Comments on Securing “Buy-In” For The TPP: The Deep State Takes Over.

UPDATE: the exchange has continued at some length from here.

It currently concludes with:

waitzen said…

Chris, you know of course that the quote by Disraeli was from his work of fiction, Coningsby published in 1844, before he was Prime Minister? That doesn’t necessarily mean he was wrong, but in mulling it over, I did take account of its fictional context.

Chris Trotter said…

Yes, I was aware of the quote’s origin, Waitzen. But, you know what they say: “if you want to tell the truth – write fiction.”

waitzen said…

Yes, I was aware of the quote’s origin, Waitzen. But, you know what they say: “if you want to tell the truth – write fiction.”

Does that mean your blog posts are fiction?

Chris Trotter said…

A little obvious, don’t you think?

It could be a case here of Trotter’s ‘facts’ being stranger than fiction.

 

Trotter’s conspiracies – is something amiss with Chris?

Early this week Chris Trotter posted on his Bowalley blog suggesting that due to the agreement made on the Trans Pacific Partnership a “second great wave of colonisation” would wash over New Zealand.

See Trotter on TPPA and “the storm of change that is coming”

He has followed that up yesterday with a post laden with conspiracies.

Securing “Buy-In” For The TPP: The Deep State Takes Over.

IT IS NOW CLEAR that Helen Clark’s Trans-Pacific Partnership advocacy in New York was just the beginning. The opening move in a chess game that will end with the Labour Party knocking over its King and returning to the bi-partisan fold on the issue of Free Trade. To achieve this turnaround will require the mobilisation of all of the non-elected elements of the New Zealand political system.

This is despite the mobilisation of the Trotterite conspiracists.

Applying the maximum of public pressure to Labour will be the responsibility of the news media and the numerous business lobby groups.

Poor Labour. No wonder they are having credibility problems, everyone is against them, even Helen Clark (who is now working for the United Nations to keep Labour out of power).

Behind the scenes, however, Labour MPs will find themselves on the receiving end of one-on-one briefings from old friends and colleagues (senior civil servants, leading academics) “deeply concerned” that Labour has positioned itself in the wrong place, on the wrong issue.

The Civil Service and all the Universities are against them too.

These “old friends” of the Labour Party will warn Caucus members that their failure to support the TPP will only end up driving Labour further and further to the Left. Just as they were beginning to make up much-needed ground, the party will spurn Middle New Zealand for the tin-foil-hat-wearing brigade. Not only will this render Labour unelectable, but it will also serve as an invitation for the news media to start casting about for a Caucus member who’s prepared to act in a more responsible fashion.

I’m not sure what Trotter means by that.

That such individuals exist within Labour’s caucus is indisputable. That money and resources will, very swiftly, begin flowing in the direction of these TPP supporters is equally certain.

That Trotter has not provided any evidence to support this claim is certain.

Even further behind the scenes, a mounting surveillance effort will engage the resources of both the SIS and the GCSB. Relying on the legal clauses that empower these agencies to protect the “economic well-being” of New Zealand, leading figures in the Anti-TPP movement will have their communications intercepted and their movements tracked. Opposition strategies, being known, are more easily countered. Any material likely to prove embarrassing, or, even better, discrediting, will find its way to sympathetic bloggers and/or journalists.

The SIS and the GCSB are also set up to defeat Labour. I’m waiting for them to feed me material so I can question the mental condition of Labour supporters who warn us of the web of conspiracies.

Why will the key elements of the Deep State: the upper echelons of the news media; senior civil servants and academics; judges; the Intelligence Community; act in this way? Why is the restoration of bi-partisanship on the Free Trade issue so vital? The answer is brutally simple.

The judges are all in on it too.

Were Labour’s opposition to the TPP allowed to stand, an opportunity would open up for voters to elect a government committed to its rejection.

If only all these people weren’t conspiring against Labour the people would see what a truly wondrous party it was and vote for them.

The election of such a government would not only put at risk all the secret material pertaining to the negotiation of the TPP, but it would also force into the open all of the deeply undemocratic assumptions underpinning the deal. Such exposure would seriously compromise the reputations of the politicians and civil servants involved in negotiating the TPP. Even more seriously, it would expose the true intentions of New Zealand’s “friends” and “allies”. It is the duty of the Deep State to make sure that such potentially catastrophic political revelations never happen.

One could wonder whether Trotter was in a deep state of something.

If everything and everyone wasn’t against them Trotter’s dream of a political revolution would surely happen.

With Labour and National – the two parties indispensable to the formation of stable government in New Zealand – both singing from the same TPP song-sheet, that fraction of the New Zealand electorate opposed to the TPP will find itself reduced to voting for a party (or parties) too small to successfully negotiate their country’s exit from the TPP.

That seems strangely out of synch with the rest of Trotter’s desperate dialogue. Is it sarcasm or confusion?

To paraphrase Henry Kissinger: The Deep State doesn’t see why it should stand by and watch New Zealand’s membership of the TPP put at risk because of the irresponsibility of its own people.

The people of New Zealand are so irresponsible not taking the true Labour and Trotter seriously and rising in revolt.

Is Trotter writing some very clever satire? Or is he seriously nuts?