Lately, important liberal publications have run pieces saying emphatically that in stark contrast to various Middle East authoritarian countries, there is no such thing as a Deep State in U.S. government. “There Is No Deep State,” is the title of David Remnick’s piece in the New Yorker. There is no “subterranean web of common and nefarious purpose,” he says; rather, individuals in the intelligence agencies are leaking information about Donald Trump because they’re government servants taking action against “an untruthful, vain, vindictive, alarmingly erratic President.”
In the New York Times, Max Fisher makes a very similar argument, and concludes with alarm that Trump is aiming at the “deconstruction of the administrative state” — which is an important check on his power to do harm.
These articles do not address the substantive difference over how to deal with Russia between Trump and establishment figures who at the very least are guilty of group-think. Philip Giraldi argues that the leaks that upended the execrable Flynn at the NSC had this very policy objective: “the officials who shared the phone transcripts [are] much more dangerous than conventional leakers motivated by some personal grievance or desire to right a wrong. I fear that the current crop of Russia skeptics are true believers of the worst kind and will do whatever it takes to disrupt any moves toward rapprochement between Washington and Moscow.”
Today the Intercept has published an excellent interview of Edward Snowden by Jeremy Scahill, conducted at the South by Southwest Festival.
Scahill asked about the deep state issue, and cited the conventional wisdom: “There seems to be an emerging consensus among influential liberal pundits and political figures, politicians in the Democratic Party that there’s this awesome group of NSA people who are protecting the republic from Donald Trump… The Deep State is trying to undermine Donald Trump and really in secret trying to protect us from the dangers of his administration.”
Snowden, appearing by video from Moscow, responded:
It’s half true. I don’t like to say these things are right or wrong, because it’s not black and white. There is a Deep State.
What are we saying when we talk about a Deep State? We’re talking about the people who survive presidents. These are not political appointees who come and go in this office or that office. They’re the people who are senior enough to influence policy, to shape the government’s understanding of an issue, and all the little people under them who are just sort of the worker bees who actually do things– these worker bees by and large are good people, right? I worked at NSA, at CIA for a long time. I strongly disagree with a lot of their policies. Right?
They cause harm, they violate rights, they make us the United States less safe as a nation. And they destabilize peace, not just here at home but around the world, right. That’s not to say everything they do is bad, right.
These worker bees, they’re good people who do bad things for what they consider to be good reasons. There are literally people in the United States who ran torture programs and there are people who actually did the torture. I’m not saying these are good people, right? These are war crimes, uncontroversially. And these people probably did know at the time.
But why did they do it? They did it because they were told there would be blood on their hands, or everybody else’s hands, or people were going to die, or buildings were going to collapse if it wasn’t done. Now I’m not saying that was the right thing to do. But who are the people who bear the most responsibility, right? That’s where you find the deep state. It’s not the guy at the desk! The guy at the desk doesn’t even pick what he’s going to do that day. He’s ordered to do this that or the other.
Follow the chain up. When you go to the White House, when you go one level down to the political appointees– then you go that one step down: political appointees who survive beyond presidents and the people who sort of convert, they roll over from being a political appointee to imbed themselves in the government on a permanent basis. That’s where you see the Deep State. These are the people who are writing the memos that become our laws. These are the people who create the findings and suggestions that say, you know what, torture would work, torture would save lives, even though it didn’t.
It actually gave Al Qaeda and ISIS their greatest propaganda boost that we ever provided them. Because they can say look, the United States is no better than us. Yes we chop heads off, yes we drill holes in hands. But you know what, They do too.
Now of course we aren’t actually beheading people, but we are dousing people in cold water and letting them freeze to death in a cell after we’ve beaten them all day. We had people who had humus in their food actually anally inserted. These people were raped with their dinner as a punishment for noncompliance or noncooperation.
We can say many things, we can talk about moments of passion, we can talk about the loss of rationality in moments of panic. But these are fundamentally un-American things. If there’s one thing we need to remember, it’s that these people have never faced the inside of a courtroom in a criminal trial. George Bush, right, who was sort of the architect of all these programs and authorities, he’s the one who actually gave all these deep staters the legitimacy to construct and carry these things out. This could not have happened without his support.
He’s now being rehabilitated in the public eye now. He’s this wonderful happy little painter guy. He’s like Bob Ross with an accent. No he’s not. He’s a war criminal.