Russiagate, shadow of the deep state


“The new thing is Russia, Russia, Russia, New Cold War. That means a few more trillions of dollars into the coffers. That’s the big swindle,” William Binney, former National Security Agency (NSA) official and whistleblower, said in a recent interview.

“Behind the shadow government, which is what this is, all the agencies and so on getting together, is the deep state. That’s the military-industrial-intelligence complex and all the banking is a part of that, and even the technology people are now a part of that too, all the internet service providers and the telecommunications companies are a part of it. So you know, it’s this deep state that’s driving the money — push for more and more money to make more and more contracts from government, more and more control. I keep saying this whole thing boils down to three words: power, control and money.”

Binney may sound like a conspiracy theorist, but these days he’s not the only one talking about the “deep state” and the “shadow government.” The same day that an article I recently wrote for Massachusetts alternative newspaper DigBoston that dealt with the topic of “conspiracy theories” was published in collaboration with the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, an opinion piece by NPR contributor Geoff Nunberg appeared, purporting to explain “Why The Term ‘Deep State’ Speaks To Conspiracy Theorists.”

The term “deep state” –referring in its most basic sense to the subset of officials who are not elected to their positions yet nonetheless work in government and have a vested interest in maintaining or increasing their power there, along with their allies, who might include elected officials or people entirely outside of official government– has a long history. The entire Russian “election hacking” media narrative itself, in fact, does not hold up well at all without taking into account another narrative, namely that presented by Russian writer Yevgenia Albats in her book The State Within A State, which contends –in what might be described as a “conspiracy theory”– that the remnants of the former Soviet security services remained highly influential in post-Soviet Russia.

More recently, UC Berkeley professor emeritus Peter Dale Scott wrote a book titled The American Deep State: Wall Street, Big Oil, and the Attack on U.S. Democracy, published by Rowman & Littlefield in 2014. The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government, meanwhile, by longtime Republican congressional staff member Mike Lofgren, was published in January 2016 by Viking, a Penguin imprint.

Nunberg nonetheless asserts that the term “deep state” “was marginal in American politics until it was picked up by Breitbart News in 2016 and quickly adopted by the president and his allies.” Nunberg links to a Breitbart article from December 2016.

“It’s an elastic label — depending on the occasion, it can encompass the Justice Department, the intelligence communities, the FISA courts, the Democrats and the media. In short, it’s a cabal of unelected leftist officials lodged deep in the government who are conspiring to thwart the administration’s policies, discredit its supporters and ultimately even overturn Trump’s election,” Nunberg continues. “It’s gotten to the point where some of the president’s defenders are describing the Russia investigation as an attempt to launch a ‘soft coup.'”

Nunberg’s “soft coup” description is a reference to use of the term by Sean Hannity of Fox News. Yet others, who unlike Trump ally Hannity seem forcefully in favor of the “soft coup” he’s talking about — and who, based on their experience in sensitive positions in government should know better — have in recent weeks used shockingly strong language to describe essentially the same idea, or something even more extreme.

“When do we see almost a shadow government come out and say ‘We cannot side with the government, whether it’s the cabinet or the Senate.’ I think that’s the big question,” Philip Mudd, a former high ranking counter-terrorism official, said last month.

Mudd, a “proud shitholer” and former employee of shadowy government agencies of dubious repute including the Central Intelligence Agency [CIA], Federal Bureau of Investigation [FBI], National Security Council and National Counterterrorism Center, is additionally a regular CNN talking head who also “has been featured by ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, BBC, MSNBC, al-Jazeera, NPR, The New York Times, and The Washington Post,” according to his CNN bio. Here is his performance following the Valentine’s Day mass casualty school shooting event in Parkland, Florida earlier this year.

Considering Mudd’s extensive intelligence and national security background, he has no excuse for making the audacious suggestion that the supposed scandal that has come to be called “Russiagate” over the past two years of media hype and official investigation has at this point accumulated enough evidence behind it to warrant creating a “shadow government” to oppose Trump.

“A shadow government consists of governmental elements and activities performed by an irregular organization that replaces the governance functions of the existing regime” and “operates in the denied area of an occupied territory,” according to the U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) Unconventional Warfare Pocket Guide. Special operations forces, according to the guide, can help a “shadow government” come to power in a “denied area” by assisting locals with things like planning and training in psychological and guerrilla warfare and intelligence collection.

To suggest that the “intelligence community” or anyone else in the U.S. government should take these sorts of actions against the sitting President and his administration seems, frankly, close to treasonous. (For the record, I did not vote for Trump in 2016 and have no plans to vote for him in 2020, if scandals have not forced him out of office by that point.) Of course, not everyone is as knowledgeable about these matters as Mudd is, or should be, given his background. Consider Nunberg’s further discussion of the “deep state”:

But then there’s something alien about the phrase “deep state” itself. Until recently, it was chiefly used for developing countries like Turkey and Pakistan, where the government answers to “shadowy elites” in the military and intelligence services — and where coups and purges are routine occurrences.

Granted, not many people who talk about the “deep state” are aware of that origin. But there’s a trace of those dark connotations in the very decision to talk about the “state” rather than the government. It’s a marked choice of words.

In America, what usually comes to mind when you say “state” is the political units that make up the “United States,” like Alabama or Wyoming. Apart from a few locutions like “church and state” or “state secrets,” we don’t often talk about “the state” the way other nations do — to refer to our central government or to the country as a whole.

Thanks for that deep dive of a political science lesson, Geoff.

Meanwhile, in tangentially related news, in an Aug. 3 article for TechDirt that makes multiple references to “conspiracy theories,” Karl Bode discusses a report published last August in The Nation that cast doubt on whether the alleged email hack at the Democratic National Committee in 2016 was in fact a hack at all or instead an internal leak. “In the year since, reports have forged a new infosec community consensus that yes, Guccifer 2.0 was GRU, and had been amusingly caught because Russian intelligence forgot to activate its VPN before logging into the bogus persona’s WordPress site on one occasion (one of several opsec errors made by Russian intel),” Bode writes.

“One year later and The Nation’s original theory isn’t looking so hot, with even many of the original VIPS [Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity] supporters running in the opposite direction, including Binney,” he adds, citing a report from Duncan Campbell of Computer Weekly that a British national named Tim Leonard who has written under the name Adam Carter “ran an international disinformation campaign that has provided US President Donald Trump with fake evidence and false arguments to deny that Russia interfered to help him win the election.”

In a section titled “The US disinformation team,” Campbell describes Disobedient Media, the outlet Leonard/Carter wrote for as “a so-called ‘independent media’ site” and attacks its credibility over issues such as “recycled paedophile allegations directed at Hillary Clinton and fellow democrats” that “her election staff ran a child sex and torture ring in the non-existent basement of a Washington pizzeria.” (For the record, the “non-existent basement” of Comet Ping Pong Pizza actually does, or did exist, whether or not the restaurant’s proprietors and their friends actually raped children there as some have alleged.)

Bode’s Aug. 3 article for TechDirt duly notes that Disobedient Media is “understandably none too happy with Campbell’s reporting” and links to their Aug. 1 response to Campbell’s piece. Campbell’s report also discusses statements made by former NSA official Binney.

“A month after visiting CIA headquarters, Binney came to Britain. After re-examining the data in Guccifer 2.0 files thoroughly with the author of this article, Binney changed his mind. He said there was ‘no evidence to prove where the download/copy was done’. The Guccifer 2.0 files analysed by Leonard’s were ‘manipulated’, he said, and a ‘fabrication’,” Campbell wrote in that report.

Yet Bode neglects to point out Disobedient Media‘s claim that Binney “told us that Duncan misrepresented his statements describing Guccifer 2.0 as a fabrication. While speaking with us, Binney utterly refuted Campbell’s dishonest portrayal of Binney having changed his stance on the issue.”

Binney has since reappeared to reassert his view that the “Russian hack” of the DNC was in fact an “inside job.”

“When they said [17 agencies] had ‘high confidence’ the Russians did it, that told me they were lying, very simply put, because the only agency that mattered in that whole discussion was NSA,” Binney said this week. “NSA has the wiretaps on all the communications, so if somebody hacked something, they would know it, and it wasn’t a question of saying ‘high confidence.’ ‘Here, they did it,’ is what they’d have to say. Then you’d know they have the evidence. When they say have ‘high confidence,’ they don’t have any evidence.”

In a more recent article, following the Aug. 3 piece where he described those who might, at least tentatively, buy into conspiracy theories as “aggressively gullible,” Tech Dirt‘s Karl Bode has toned things down a bit. He notes that “we wait for the Mueller investigation to clearly illustrate if and how Russia meddled in the last election,” that “there’s no shortage of opinions regarding how deep this particular rabbit hole goes” and that “there’s also every reason to view reports leaning heavily on anonymous intelligence insiders skeptically after generations of distortions and falsehoods from those same agencies.” Still, the article’s title, “Stories Claiming DNC Hack Was ‘Inside Job’ Rely Heavily On A Stupid Conversion Error No ‘Forensic Expert’ Would Make,” is somewhat amusing in light of Bode’s earlier claim that GRU hackers had been “amusingly caught” due to “opsec errors made by Russian intel”.

I won’t pretend to have the inside track on the long ongoing Robert Mueller investigation. I don’t have a high-level (or any) security clearance like that which was recently revoked from former CIA director John Brennan (who despite no longer serving in that role retained access to secrets in what at some point might “cease to look like a fiduciary relationship and begin to look more like a shadow government” as the Wall Street Journal‘s Sean Bigley put it.) Perhaps the smoking gun proving the Trump-Russia collusion conspiracy will in fact emerge — soon, if so, I hope — and we can all call it a day and go home. Until that happens, though, I’ll continue my conspiracy theorizing.




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