The Deep State’s Demolition of Democracy

by James Bovard, March 26, 2020

“Thank God for the Deep State,” declared former acting CIA chief John McLaughlin while appearing on a panel at the National Press Club last October. In 2018, the New York Times asserted that Trump’s use of the term “Deep State” and similar rhetoric “fanned fears that he is eroding public trust in institutions, undermining the idea of objective truth and sowing widespread suspicions about the government and news media.”

But barely a year later, the Deep State had gone from a figment of paranoid right-wingers’ imagination to the great hope for the salvation of American democracy. Much of the media is now conferring the same exulted status on the Deep State that was previously bestowed on Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Almost immediately after its existence was no longer denied, the Deep State became the incarnation of virtue in Washington.

The Deep State commonly refers to officials who secretly wield power permanently in Washington, often in federal agencies with vast sway and little accountability. A New York Times article in October gushed that “over the last three weeks, the deep state has emerged from the shadows in the form of real live government officials, past and present … and provided evidence that largely backs up the still-anonymous whistle-blower” on Donald Trump’s phone call to the president of Ukraine. New York Times columnist James Stewart declared, “There is a Deep State, there is a bureaucracy in our country who has pledged to respect the Constitution, respect the rule of law…. They work for the American people.” New York Times editorial writer Michelle Cottle proclaimed, “The deep state is alive and well” and hailed it as “a collection of patriotic public servants.” They were echoing earlier declarations by Washington Post columnist Eugene Roberts and former top Justice Department official Preet Bharar: “God bless the ‘Deep State.’”

Former CIA Director John Brennan, appearing on the same panel as McLaughlin in October, declared, “The reason why Mr. Trump has this very contentious relationship with CIA and FBI and the deep state people is because they tell the truth.” Much of the media coverage of the Trump impeachment is following that dubious storyline.

“We lied, we cheated, we stole.”

Five years ago, John Brennan’s CIA ignited what should have been a constitutional crisis when it was caught illegally spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which was compiling a massive report on the CIA torture program. After 9/11, the CIA constructed an interrogation regime by “consulting Egyptian and Saudi intelligence officials and copying Soviet interrogation methods,” the New York Times reported in 2007. Secret Bush administration torture memos “set the C.I.A. loose to slam suspects’ heads into walls up to 30 times in a row, to deprive suspects of sleep for more than a week straight, to confine them to small dark boxes for hours at a time … and to suffocate them with water to induce the perception that they are drowning,” Georgetown University law professor David Cole noted. But the only official who went to prison was John Kiriakou, a former CIA analyst who publicly admitted that the CIA was waterboarding.

Is the Deep State more trustworthy when it is killing than when it is torturing? Brennan declared in 2016 that “the president requires near-certainty of no collateral damage” before approving a drone strike. Confidential CIA documents revealed that the CIA had little or no idea whom it was killing most of the time with its drone attacks in Pakistan, Somalia, Afghanistan, Yemen, and other nations. Salon.com summarized an NBC News report: “Even while admitting that the identities of many killed by drones were not known, the CIA documents asserted that all those dead were enemy combatants. The logic is twisted: If we kill you, then you were an enemy combatant.” Lying about drone killings quickly became institutionalized throughout the Deep State. The New York Times reported in 2015, “Every independent investigation of the [drone] strikes has found far more civilian casualties than administration officials admit.”

The Deep State is practically designed to destroy privacy while enabling government officials to deny sweeping abuses. Former National Security Agency analyst Edward Snowden declared in 2014, “There’s definitely a deep state. Trust me, I’ve been there.” The NSA’s credibility was obliterated in 2013 when Snowden revealed the NSA can tap almost any cell phone in the world, access anyone’s email and web-browsing history, and crack the vast majority of computer encryption. But the NSA’s definition of “terrorist suspect” was ludicrously broad, including “someone searching the web for suspicious stuff.” Snowden also revealed that each day phone companies turned over tens of millions of phone records of average Americans to the feds. A few months before Snowden’s revelations, National Intelligence director James Clapper lied to Congress when he denied that the NSA collects “any type of data at all on millions, or hundreds of millions of Americans.” The fact that Clapper was not charged with perjury did nothing to burnish the credibility of the Justice Department.

Impeachment proceedings have been spurred in large part by disputes over Donald Trump’s phone call to the president of Ukraine. The House Intelligence Committee heard testimony from Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the Ukrainian-born officer who listened in to the call while serving on the National Security Council. Vindman was “deeply troubled by what he interpreted as an attempt by the president to subvert U.S. foreign policy,” the Washington Post reported. Which provision of the Constitution gives junior military officers sway over foreign policy? Because Vindman objected to Trump’s efforts to decrease tension with Russia, the Washington establishment quickly hailed him and thus encouraged other military officers and government officials to pull strings to subvert policies of which the media disapprove.

It is naive to expect the Deep State to provide an antidote to the sordidness of American politics. The Friends of the Deep State talk of certain federal agencies as if they exist far above the sordid details of political life — or even of human nature. Former CIA boss McLaughlin declared, “This is the institution within the U.S. government that … is institutionally committed to objectivity and to telling the truth. It’s whole job is to speak the truth — it is engraved in marble in the lobby.” But historically, atrium engravings have proven a weak surety for bureaucratic candor. In reality, the CIA and other Deep State agencies are notorious for suppressing convicting truths about themselves. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently described the CIA’s modus operandi when he was director: “We lied, we cheated, we stole. It’s like we had entire training courses.”

Power and truth

Promises that the chiefs of the CIA and other intelligence agencies will “speak truth to power” have become a Washington ritual in the years since the 9/11 attacks. No matter how brazenly political appointees lie, members of Congress assure the media and constituents that the next nominee will be as honest as George Washington. The “speak truth to power” bromide was recited after Trump nominated Gina Haspel as CIA chief. At her confirmation hearings, the public heard plenty about Haspel’s meeting with Mother Teresa but almost nothing about her key role in the CIA torture scandal — including the illegal destruction of recordings of torture sessions.

Another reason to distrust the Deep State is that its arch practitioners are honored regardless of their iniquities. Former CIA bosses McLaughlin and Brennan were speaking on a panel sponsored by the Michael V. Hayden Center for Intelligence, Policy, and International Security, named after the former chief of the National Security Agency and the CIA. As Trevor Timm noted in the Columbia Journalism Review in 2017, “Hayden has a long history of making misleading and outright false statements, and by the estimation of many lawyers, likely committed countless felonies during the Bush administration.” Hayden set up the illegal, unconstitutional wiretapping program after 9/11 that the New York Times exposed in late 2005. When the Senate Intelligence Committee released its report on CIA torture in 2014, it included a 36-page appendix filled with Hayden’s “testimony to Congress, next to the actual facts showing statement after statement he made was inaccurate, misleading, false, or outright lies,” Timm noted. Naming that Center after Hayden simply reflects the prevailing Deep State aggrandizement in the Greater Washington Metropolitan area.

The Deep State has an appalling record of abusing the whistleblowers who are now being acclaimed. A draft Intelligence Community Inspector General report last year found that intelligence agencies refused to recognize retaliation against whistleblowers in 99 percent of cases. A 2017 report by Foreign Policy magazine concluded that “the intelligence community’s central watchdog is in danger of crumbling thanks to mismanagement, bureaucratic battles, clashes among big personalities, and sidelining of whistleblower outreach and training efforts.” After CIA Inspector General John Helgerson compiled a condemnatory report on the CIA’s post–9/11 interrogation program, CIA chief Michael Hayden launched a major investigation of Helgerson in 2007, provoking outrage on Capitol Hill. (The CIA managed to delay the release of Helgerson’s report for five years, thereby keeping both Congress and the American people in the dark regarding shocking abuses.)

The Trump–Deep State clash is a showdown between a presidency that is far too powerful versus federal agencies that have become fiefdoms that enjoy immunity for almost any and all abuses. Most of the partisans of the Deep State are not championing “government under the law.” Instead, this is a dispute over who will be permitted to break the law and dictate the policies to America and the world. Former CIA and NSA boss Hayden proudly proclaimed, “Espionage is not just compatible with American democracy, espionage is essential to American democracy.” And how can we know if the Deep State’s espionage is actually pro-democracy or subversive of democracy? If they told you, they would have to kill you. The Founding Fathers never intended for covert agencies to trumpet a right to correct voters’ verdicts.

Neither the White House nor the CIA, NSA, nor other Deep State agencies should enjoy immunity from the law or deserve blind trust from average Americans or the establishment media. A wayward president (especially a first-term president) can eventually be checked at the ballot box. But who or what can check the Deep State?

James Bovard is a policy adviser to The Future of Freedom Foundation. He is a USA Today columnist and has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, New Republic, Reader’s Digest, Playboy, American Spectator, Investors Business Daily, and many other publications. He is the author of Freedom Frauds: Hard Lessons in American Liberty (2017, published by FFF); Public Policy Hooligan (2012); Attention Deficit Democracy (2006); The Bush Betrayal (2004); Terrorism and Tyranny (2003); Feeling Your Pain (2000); Freedom in Chains (1999); Shakedown (1995); Lost Rights (1994); The Fair Trade Fraud (1991); and The Farm Fiasco (1989).

This article was originally published in the February 2020 edition of “Future of Freedom”.
https://www.fff.org/explore-freedom/article/the-deep-states-demolition-of-democracy/

Saving Assange

By Daniel Deceder, March 20, 2020

“It is the duty of every man, as far as his ability extends, to detect and expose delusion and error.” Thomas Paine

“We must engage in whatever nonviolent actions appeal to us. There is no act too small … The history of social change is the history of millions of actions, small and large, coming together at critical points to create a power that governments cannot suppress.” Howard Zinn

The author of the article below is a young activist who takes these admonitions seriously.  His name is Daniel Deceder; this is what he wrote about working to expose what is happening to Julian Assange and to free speech in general, and what he is doing to try to thwart the the fateful trend toward Orwell.

* * *

When I first set out to get in the streets and do something for Julian Assange, I thought there would be a local group or action team I could easily plug into, but research turned up nothing. The lack of activism in support of Julian is a testament to the effectiveness of widespread mainstream media propaganda pumped out by politicians, talking heads, and perfidious pundits. 

In the absence of a pre-existing group in my area, I decided I had to start one myself.  For the past few months I have been going out every Tuesday and Thursday evening putting up flyers around Durham, NC. The flyers are simple, one with what should be an obvious statement across the top: “Journalism is not a crime;” another with photos of Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning reading: “Free Speech *except for war crimes.” The flyers include a proton email encouraging people to contact me if they would like to help in the fight for Julian’s freedom.

People have been receptive, and most people are willing to talk about Julian and hear about what I am doing. I have found that many more people support Julian Assange and Wikileaks than the mainstream media would have you believe. There are many who see through the propaganda.

I have been doing this work for months now and I am happy to report that the action team has grown here in Durham. I now have other individuals helping with actions here in the city. We have been meeting regularly and have worked on other actions such as writing postcards and sending them to Belmarsh Prison in support of Julian. I have heard that most postcards do reach him and are helping keep his spirits up.

While doing this work locally I have been keeping up with a variety of groups that are speaking out and working to save Julian. One group that I made contact with is called Action 4 Assange. The group consists of Taylor Hudak, Christy Dopf, Andrew Smith, and Steve Poikonen. They describe their group as a decentralized activist network working to promote the cause of free speech and Julian Assange’s freedom. They have taken responsibility for the weekly online vigils that the group Unity4J had been holding.

I reached out to them to see how I could get involved and let them know about my work in Durham. They thanked me for the action team I had put together, and asked if I would be interested in Durham becoming the first official branch of the Action 4 Assange Network. I of course said yes, and the Action 4 Assange team continues to grow with branches now in Argentina, New Zealand, and Denver.

Our most recent action was protesting UK plans to extradict Julian to the U.S. where he would spend the rest of his life in prison. Taylor Hudak was covering the hearing live in London, while I joined the rest of the Action 4 Assange team in Washington, DC. When the extradition hearing began on February 24th, we took part in actions each day of the week on the streets of DC. We have already started planning our second phase of actions for the continuation of the extradition hearing beginning May 18th and we would welcome your getting in contact with Action 4 Assange if you would like to get involved. 

Meanwhile, I am constantly seeking out information to share to help activate people into speaking up for Julian. An especially helpful resource to use to dispel the slurs and propaganda is an article by Caitlin Johnstone: Debunking All The Assange Smears. The amount of propaganda out there is unconscionable, and the work to debunk the smears should be on the shoulders of actual journalists instead of ordinary people like us, but what is, is; and this is the reality of Julian’s case. The amount of meticulous work that Caitlin did is what makes the article so good, but it is also what makes it hard to share with those unfamiliar with Julian’s case. I would like to work this article down into a handout of talking points, or a frequently asked questions flyer to be used by volunteers. No matter what, this is essential reading for anyone working to save Julian.  

Beyond the amazing work of journalists like Caitlin Johnstone, we have something else on our side in the fight to save Julian, and that is Nils Melzer the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture. He has become one of the loudest voices speaking on Julian’s behalf and his work should be recognized. Who could be a bigger authority on the unfair treatment of others than the UN Special Rapporteur on torture?!

Melzer’s work had been completely ignored by the United States mainstream media, but the Swiss online magazine Republik released this detailed interview with Mr. Melzer: «A murderous system is being created before our very eyes». If there were one article I would ask someone to read who is not familiar with Julian’s case, it would be this one. Melzer completely destroys the smears and lies about Julian in one interview.

We all know what the worst smear is, the false accusation of rape. I hate that we even have to keep talking about it and debunking it, but unfortunately we do. This interview does that beyond any shadow of a doubt. Since this interview was released, it has been encouraging to see that Newsweek put out an article relaying what Nils Melzer has been saying for a while now. I have actually begun to make copies of this interview to hand out to people as I am walking the street and putting up flyers. 

I have been inspired by many to get out in the streets and do something: John Pilgur, Nils Meltzer, Craig Murray, Roger Waters, just to name a few, but no one inspires me as much as Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange. They are selfless and they are fighting for all of us…even for those who don’t realize it. 

Julian’s case is so important for free speech and the future of journalism. In my most pessimistic moments, I worry that most of the damage has already been done and that our media will continue to be bought and sold. There are so few truth-tellers out there, and most of them have been marginalized to different corners of the Internet and independent media. It is hard to think of any that exist within our corporate media. Tucker Carlson is one of the few that come to mind. So few journalists today are brave enough to step out of line, and now that they have seen the torture of Julian Assange, I fear that the number will continue to shrink. 

To cheer the persecution and imprisonment of Julian Assange is to cheer the fact that our rights are being taken away. It is cheering the fact that war criminals like George W. Bush (Iraq) and Hillary Clinton (Libya) walk free while the person who exposed them is tortured for his shining a spotlight on their wrongs. It really blows my mind how upside down and backwards our world has become. I guess we have been heading this way for awhile. Even back in the 1960s Malcolm X said, “If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”

We have to save Julian or things will only get worse. I hope for the day that he is free and is finally recognized by all as the hero that he is. If we fail, people will remain in the dark, believing the opposite of the truth, continuing to cheer as heroes like Julian are tortured and our rights are stripped away. 

I have always had positive feelings about Julian and Wikileaks, but I also remember a time when I was — I don’t want to say afraid — but I didn’t speak my mind about how I felt about Julian. I was self-censoring. I felt it was not worth the argument or blow back I would get, because I knew, or at least I felt, that this was not a popular opinion to have. I think it is important for us all to remember that. Few of us were as conscious of gross injustice and our duty to confront it, as we are today. So have empathy and remember that everyone is on his or her own journey and not everyone is as far down the road. We have to help them understand.  Even Nils Melzer has acknowledged that initially he had himself been deceived by the spurious rape and other smears published in the media

I don’t know what else I can do to get others to recognize the importance of Julian’s situation besides continuing to spread the truth around. I wish there were some magic words. I can’t say it any better than Slovenian philosopher, Slavoj Žižek, so I will end with a quote from him, “Think about what Assange stands for. Assange needs you, but at a deeper level you need him. He’s fighting for you.”

Author description: Daniel Deceder (35) works for a non-profit in Durham, NC. Deceder and activists he has recruited in the Triangle area are trying to get the truth out about the injustices Julian Assange continues to suffer, and to help prevent his extradition to the U.S.  His group is one of several springing up to defend Assange and to thwart what Deceder calls “the Orwellian future that both major political parties in the U.S. are driving us toward”.

Joe Biden: Never Too Late to Admit You Blew the Big One

By Ray McGovern, March 15, 2020

https://consortiumnews.com/2020/03/15/ray-mcgovern-to-joe-biden-time-for-confession/

From 12 years ago, but highly relevant still, with the Biden-Sanders debate this evening.  Will Sanders have the guts to confront his old pal Joe on the major role he played to bring disaster in the Middle East?  If Bernie flinches again, he will be complicit in allowing the Democratic Establishment tip the scales against him for second time in a row.

Lazarus and the “One Percent”: Food (& Hunger) for Thought

By Ray McGovern

Here’s a link to a reflection on a parable applicable to these times (from Luke 16; hat tip to “Jesse”).
https://jessescrossroadscafe.blogspot.com/2020/03/a-lenten-meditation-lazarus-and-rich-man.html

“There was a certain rich man** who was splendidly clothed in purple and fine linen, and who lived each day in luxury. At his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, who was covered with sores. As Lazarus lay there longing for scraps from the rich man’s table, the dogs would come and lick his sores.”

** Tradition has named the rich man “Dives”, but the word is simply Latin for the rich — today’s “one percent”.

As many will recall, the parable has the rich man coming to what the Chinese call “a no-good end”.

From “Jesse’s” commentary:

So too, nations that have been blessed can blind themselves to their excesses and offenses, while taking credit for the blessings that have been given to them.  And so they misuse their power and wealth and great fortunes, granted to them by God, to oppress and subjugate others, satisfy their own vain purposes and passions. … And in their hardened hearts they hold their selfishness aloft, profanely, as the greatest good, the exceptional*** even as they oppress and plunder and murder.

*** Ray’s next commentary will be on what Russian President Vladimir Putin has said about the repeated claim that the U.S. is exceptional.

Confronting the Unspeakable: Who’s to Blame for the New Cold War?

By Ray McGovern

In a recent speech by Scott Horton of antiwar.com ( See: 
https://original.antiwar.com/scott/2020/03/02/the-new-cold-war-with-russia-is-all-americas-fault/ ), Horton reviewed some recent history, presenting evidence that many others are reluctant even to mention, much less to put together.
Many of the relevant “dots” so to speak, are completely unknown to readers of the NY Times and other Establishment media, but are not hard to find elsewhere.  Scott connects those dots.  In doing so, he joins the company of highly respected historians, like Professor Stephen Cohen, in a way that will surprise — and perhaps even educate those readers able to see through the Russia, Russia, Russia propaganda churned out by the fawning corporate media over recent years.

FAIR WARNING: Although Horton’s narrative is based on fact, it may come as too much of shock to those like Rep. Jason Crow (D, Colorado), who claims “Vladimir Putin wakes up every morning and goes to bed every night trying to figure out how to destroy American democracy.” Nor do Horton’s findings mesh well with the dictum that “All roads lead to Putin,” that was part of what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, taking on the role of the president’s daily briefer, told President Trump on October 16, 2019.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/powerpost/pelosi-recalls-clash-with-trump-says-she-was-probably-telling-him-that-all-roads-lead-to-putin/2019/10/17/fdbde8d2-f0f2-11e9-8693-f487e46784aa_story.html

IMPORTANT CORRECTION/APOLOGY

Ray McGovern wishes to acknowledge and apologize for a significant mistake he made during his Feb. 10, 2020 interview with Heather Gray  The interview was posted here on Feb. 14.  That post was taken down yesterday as soon as we became aware of the error.

The Feb. 10 interview was pegged to the news that the FBI had recently acknowledged having correspondence relating to Seth Rich, whereas earlier the Bureau had denied having such correspondence.  In this context, Ray referred to the recorded conversation between Seymour Hersh and Edward Butkowsky and said, erroneously, that not only Seth Rich but also his brother Aaron Rich had been in correspondence with WikiLeaks.  In fact, Aaron Rich’s name was not mentioned in the Hersh-Butowsky conversation.

Ray was relying on hazy memories going back to 2016 and conflating unconfirmed information from media reporting around that time. He erred in attributing to Hersh things that Hersh did not say during that conversation with Edward Butowsky.  As this readers of this site know, Ray is seldom so sloppy as to make such a significant mistake.  All the more is his embarrassment and regret at having misquoted Hersh by including the name of Seth Rich’s brother Aaron.

Speaking out against “forever war”

For the past three years Justice people in Raleigh, NC, have been gathering every Tuesday – that’s 156 weeks in a row — at the Federal Bldg. in Raleigh to call Sen. Thom Tillis to account for his knee-jerk support for “forever war” and the cruel injustices that go with it.

Yesterday (February 11th) two members of Veterans For Peace Triangle, Dale Herman and Ray McGovern, gave very short talks which were video-ed. They merit wider circulation.