Wednesday, March 2, 2016

America's Unseen Government

Updated November 9, 2016

With the defeat of Hillary Clinton, this posting seems quite timely given that she appeared to be the candidate of choice.  This tells us that, while the Deep State is firmly entrenched, it doesn't always get its own way.  At times, it appears that the people have the ultimate power.  That said, the next four years will be most interesting given that the unseen government is still entrenched and that they and their agenda will not disappear anytime soon.  

Two years ago, Mike Lofgren wrote an essay that appeared on Bill Moyers' Moyers and Company website.  In his essay (which is now a book that you can find here) entitled "Anatomy of the Deep State", Mr. Lofgren examines the government that we can't see; the government that we, as voters, can't control and the government that we didn't learn about in school.  For those of you that are unfamiliar with Mr. Lofgren, prior to his retirement in 2011, he was a three decade-long Congressional employee, specializing in national security and holding a top secret security clearance as well as being a senior analyst on the House and Senate Budget committees.

All that most Americans see of their government is the partisan gridlock that exists in Washington; no matter what the Republicans do, the Democrats protest.  No matter what the Democrats or the current President does, the Republicans protest.  The mainstream media focuses on this dysfunction, repeatedly highlighting the fact that the Republicans will do everything in their power to control the current President until they regain control of the Oval Office, possibly in 2016.  Despite the fact that President Obama appears to be hamstrung, he still holds great power including:

1.) the ability to conduct massive surveillance on American citizens without judicial warrant.  This includes the building of a $1.7 billion facility in Utah that will allow the National Security Agency to store a yottabyte's worth of data, equivalent to 500 quintillion pages of text.

2.) detain prisoners without charge on an indefinite basis.

3.) kill certain American citizens without due process.

4.) launch a basically unfettered drone program against "terrorists" (and anyone else who happens to fall within the range of the drone's munitions).

5.) wage war (or what passes for war today) in Syria, Iraq and Libya.

Let's now take a look at the "other Washington", the one that we don't explicitly see.  Here is a quote from the essay:

"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 expos√© 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."

Mr. Lofgren goes on to define the Deep State as a hybrid of federal security and law enforcement agencies along with the private sector including federal contractors, Wall Street and the technology sector.  Let's look at these in order:

1.) The hybrid of federal security and law enforcement agencies includes the following:

a.) The Central Intelligence Agency

b.) The Department of Homeland Security

c.) The Justice Department

d.) The Department of State

e.) The Department of Defense

As well, the Department of the Treasury is involved since it controls the money flows among the agencies as well as tying in to Wall Street where the real money lies.  The mysterious and closed-to-public scrutiny Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is also included.  What is not included is Congress which, for the most part, is either blissfully unaware of the Deep State by choice or by command from within the Deep State.

2.) The connection to private sector contractors:

Mr. Lofgren also goes on to note that the Deep State is not exclusively composed of government agencies.  He notes that the private sector is heavily involved in the Deep State.  As you can see in this graphic from the February 2014 Suitability and Security Processes Review Report to the President, a report that was commissioned by the President after the September 2013 Navy Yard shooting, a very significant number of government contract employees have both confidential/secret and top secret clearances:

According to a 2014 study by the Washington Post, close to 30 percent of the workforce in America's intelligence agencies are contractors.  One company with very close ties to Washington and its intelligence community is Booz Allen, the former employer of Edward Snowden.  Here is a screen capture from their website highlighting the company's ability to provide "situational awareness" to the Armed Forces so that they can "bring their brave warfighters home safely":

Here's a quote from the Booz Allen website:

"At Booz Allen Hamilton, we help the federal government and corporations accomplish their most important work—work that protects our nation and drives our economy and society forward. Booz Allen’s Fiscal 2014 Annual Report, “Reaching Forward: Inventing the Future,” highlights examples of this work, which includes rapid prototyping of equipment to protect soldiers on the battlefield, the design of next-generation wireless military communications, the development of a system to expedite delivery of vaccines to children, and the innovative use of threat intelligence to reduce the risk of cyber attacks against major banks—and much more."

Here is another quote from their 2014 Annual Report showing how important government funding is to the company's finances:

"Substantially all of the Company’s revenue is derived from services and solutions provided to the U.S. government and its agencies, primarily by the Company’s consulting staff and, to a lesser extent, subcontractors. The Company generates its revenue from the following types of contractual arrangements: cost-reimbursable-plus-fee contracts, time-and-materials contracts, and xed-price contracts." (my bold)

Coincidentally (or not), the current Director of National Intelligence and former Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, James Clapper, is a former executive of Booz Allen.

3.)  The connection to Wall Street:

As I noted above, Mr. Lofgren goes on to illuminate the close link between two nodes of the Deep State; Washington and Wall Street.  Here is a graphic from Open Secrets showing how much the securities andinvestment industry spends on lobbying Washington by year:

Here is a graphic showing how much this sector has donated to the current election cycle:

Here is a graphic showing how much this sector has contributed over each election cycle since 1990:

Since 2012, the securities and investment industry has been the largest single source of political contributions, hitting a whopping $307.1 million in the 2016 cycle.  Further connecting the two nodes, we have the appointment of retired General David Petraeus as the Chairman of KKR's Global Institute.  KKR (or Kohlberg Kravis Roberts), is a global investment firm that manages $98.7 billion in assets for the wealthiest of Americans.   We must also remember that General Petraeus also served as the Director of the CIA.

4.) The connection to Silicon Valley

This connection became apparent after the revelations of Edward Snowden.  As we now know, Silicon Valley has been tracking the spending habits, geographic locations and other activities of its customer base for years.  While the recent headline Apple iPhone/San Bernardino case has led us to believe that Silicon Valley and the tech sector are not co-operating with the Deep State, in fact, an analysis by Electronic Frontier Foundation would suggest otherwise in some cases:

I would like to add another category of "insiders" that Mr. Lofgren doesn't include; America's mainstream media.  As has become apparent during this election, most of the purveyors of "news" have done their best to sway American voters toward Ms. Clinton and away from Mr. Trump.  This became increasingly obvious in the final days of the race when the media all but ignored the steady release of insider information coming from the desk of John Podesta.  

As we can see from this essay by Michael Lofgren, the invisible Deep State is firmly entrenched in the United States.  While the publicly visible federal government in Washington is nominally in charge and seemingly always in a state of disunity, there is a deeper, more frightening unelected group that pulls the strings of government and controls the current state of the nation.  While American voters are distracted by what I term "bubblegum for the brain" (i.e. lotteries, reality television and infotainment), a relatively small group of unelected Americans and oligarchs act as the puppeteers for those that actually get our vote.

Let's close this posting with a final quote from Mr. Lofgren's essay:

"We are faced with two disagreeable implications. First, that the Deep State is so heavily entrenched, so well protected by surveillance, firepower, money and its ability to co-opt resistance that it is almost impervious to change. Second, that just as in so many previous empires, the Deep State is populated with those whose instinctive reaction to the failure of their policies is to double down on those very policies in the future. Iraq was a failure briefly camouflaged by the wholly propagandistic success of the so-called surge; this legerdemain allowed for the surge in Afghanistan, which equally came to naught. Undeterred by that failure, the functionaries of the Deep State plunged into Libya; the smoking rubble of the Benghazi consulate, rather than discouraging further misadventure, seemed merely to incite the itch to bomb Syria. Will the Deep State ride on the back of the American people from failure to failure until the country itself, despite its huge reserves of human and material capital, is slowly exhausted? The dusty road of empire is strewn with the bones of former great powers that exhausted themselves in like manner." 

In case you wish to see an interview with Mike Lofgren, here is a recent exchange with Ron Paul:

Sadly, if Mr. Lofgren is right, you can vote for whoever you wish, it likely makes very little difference.


  1. I think most Americans are aware or subliminally aware of this. Your article however paints in some of the details that the masses are generally not allowed to see. I think however our inability to change this is due more to a feeling of helplessness than disinterest.

    There's a saying that goes "The nail that sticks up, get's hammered down." Edward Snowden is an example of what happens when a normal person attempts to reveal the workings the surveillance state that supports our unseen government. With that kind of power arrayed against the public, it difficult if not impossible to establish a cohesive front to reign it in.

    The consequence of this is that the unseen government will operate without adequate supervision, management or objectivity until they eventually bury us all. This isn't unprecedented, it is the way of empires. Empires rise, peak and then fall under the weight of their own corruption. I think our forefathers were aware of this an attempted to address it with a form of government that disperses power and control. Unfortunately that only works if people agree with the concept, and some people today, people with vast amounts of wealth don't agree with that concept and do everything in their power to ensure people who also don't agree with our democratic form of government get entrenched in positions of power.

  2. What the American people must demand on all federal ballots is the choice for "None of the Above". The election for that office would be declared null and void if the count exceeds the count for all other candidates running for office. New candidates would appear on the ballot who aren't required to have an allegiance to either the Republican "red" team or the Democratic "blue" team. The American people will be motivated to vote should this powerful option of rejecting all candidates becomes available and is a check against the supremacy of political parties since they have become an anathema to good government.

    The country also needs to elect the Speaker of the House of Representatives as a separate balloted position. The speaker wields great power and controls the flow of legislation in the House of Representatives and is second in line to the presidency. Such high office demands the people's consent until the rules of the House are changed to remove the speaker's partisan power to move bills through committees and relegates the position to a manager of congressional workflow as it was when the nation was founded.

    All congressional offices would be vacant at the conclusion of their respective terms including the sitting President of the United States if no candidate or incumbent exceeds the tally for "None of the Above". This is not a political disaster as some would think since the bureaucracy is still in place to provide administrative duties such as dispensing social security funds, paying Medicare claims, the military, etc. for the budgeted year. America has enough laws, statutes, regulations in effect that a few months (if it takes that long) without a functioning legislature would not be catastrophic for the nation.

    The real power of democracy is when the majority of people recognize their individual liberties and freedoms are being sacrificed to political parties and special interest groups so they can continue with their self-serving corruption. The people must have this option to reject the electoral system completely and that can only be peacefully accomplished by counting "None of the Above". We must end the elitists reign of terror and debt servitude by reclaiming our democracy in totality.

    Dissolve it, start over!

  3. How deep does the "deep state" go? The answer is all the way to our core. Sadly those in charge have taken the fear of terrorism as a license to expand their power. Countries have used this threat to create an economy of fear, an industry of fear, a national psychology of fear, far beyond what is reasonable. The article below explores how because of fear we have built and inflicted on ourselves a massive and expensive industry geared to strip us of our liberties.

  4. I don't mind commenting in public because in America you don't (normally) get sent to a Gulag or shot for dissent--at least if you are white. You just get ignored and marginalized. That at least has been my experience, not lasting long in either government or higher education when I raised too many "why" questions that required critical thinking and uncomfortable answers.

    Yes, many Americans understand this on some level. But perhaps many more are stirred up by a consolidated media industry hyping the little differences between candidates who also rarely address the deeper issues affecting America. And perhaps that's the way most voters like it.

    So in that vein I'll add a quick story. After not getting tenure I was chatting with a CIA recruiter about working there as an analyst. After a few minutes he said they couldn't use me, "Because you think too much for yourself." The Deep State is, as the author noted above, first and foremost self-protective.