The Deep Dark State We’re In

I just got through experiencing a read of a Guardian headline: “Synthetic human embryos created in groundbreaking advance.” The UK and US, in alliance. Jesus, I thought. It made me recall the work of the Chinese doctor He Jiankui, the would-be boutique designer baby entrepreneur, who cloned humans for the first time back in 2018, and “accidentally” enhanced the brains of the embryos, soon named Lulu and Nana. In a December 2019 MIT Technology Review piece, scientist Kiran Musunuru wrote of He that there were …egregious scientific and ethical lapses” in his work. Now, I’m reading about artificial humans and seeing the same criticism: “The breakthrough could aid research into genetic disorders but raises serious ethical and legal issues.” Jesus.

It may not be immediately apparent what the link is between medical cowboys fucking with human embryos and the nature of the Deep Dark State, but it’s embedded in the license they take with freedom. The Great Experiment in freedom that American Democracy is said to represent started with Founding Fathers, who were property owners, establishing their almost-feudal authority, with the Bill of Rights thrown in as a bone to the plebian dogmatists at the last possible minute. Thought-experiment for moment what the US would be like if it had no amendments to chasten its natural authoritarian appetencies. Since around Citizens United, We, the People have become more fully aware that there is a domestic ‘reset’ going on that privileges corporations over plebs, like the Founding Fathers, by making corporations the equivalent of plebs in the first place.

This can be a tricky proposition. Take Delaware, for instance, home of Joe Biden, where there are more registered corporations than there are people. The most powerful corporations there are credit card banks that offer plebs endless opportunities to be debt slaves. Maybe you don’t see the necessary connection between debt slavery and the Deep State.

The 60th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy is coming up in November. The event continues to affect our collective culture and to reverberate in ways that we may not have been able to anticipate. Lately, I’ve been following the tracks laid down by Jefferson Morley (et al) on his Substack site, JFK Facts, set up to publish and soberly analyze key pieces of newly released JFK records that have long gathered dust in the vaults of state secrecy. It all recalls the now-familiar warning by Ike in his January 1961 Farewell Address to Beware the Military-Industrial-Complex (MIC), where he avers, in part, “The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.” It also brings to mind JFK’s expressed desire to “splinter the CIA in a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds.”

Which recalls Harry Truman’s op-ed one month after JFK’s assassination calling for limits on the Agency’s growing rogue behavior. The ex-president said, in part,

We have grown up as a nation, respected for our free institutions and for our ability to maintain a free and open society. There is something about the way the CIA has been functioning that is casting a shadow over our historic position and I feel that we need to correct it.

It was Truman who set up the CIA; so, his concern is especially noteworthy.

Regarding JFK’s “scatter” quote, I have long-known that it was cross-referenced with some memorandum that JFK’s advisor, Arthur Schlesinger, wrote in late June 1961, titled, “CIA Reorganization.” I hadn’t read it before, unless it was part of the deluge of conspiracy information since forgotten that I, and so many other Americans, throughout the 70s practically drowned ourselves in, the interest peaking with the Church Hearings in 1975 that essentially convinced many of us that as John Lennon put it in his song “God,” that the dream is over. So, I read the Memo. It begins by noting that “On balance, CIA’s record has probably been very good.” Aye, the CIA is an honorable agency.

And then Schlesinger brings down the sledgehammer. He notes that the downward path to wisdom, as Katherine Anne Porter phrased a certain learning curve ahead, in 1953, when the State Department and the CIA were headed by the Dulles brothers, Allen and John Foster, and they got together for trippy little operations (perhaps captured here in this James Bond clip).

The Agency has veered from its mission of gathering intelligence of secret foreign governmental doings, and has begun to put boots on the ground in support of wars neither pre-approved or authorized, accompanied by “the CIA’s tendency to present a proposed operation almost as a fait accompli.” Schlesinger writes that it operates a “parallel” system that is already covered by State Department functions, and has its own combat forces and its own air force; indeed, that it is practically “a state within a state.” And what’s more, Schlesinger compares the quality of Washington’s CIA operatives with those in the field:

While the CIA people in Washington are men of exceptionally high quality, the men attracted to field jobs are sometimes tough and even vicious people motivated by drives of their own and not necessarily in political or even moral sympathy with the purposes of the operation.

One thinks here of the legendary Duane Clarridge, the first head of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, who saw to it that Latin America was laid to waste in the 70s and 80s, including the overthrow of the “What’s his name” government in Chile on 9/11 1973, and who told us (through John Pilger) that if we didn’t like these covert activities and coups that it was “just tough” and we could “lump it.” Clarridge was exactly the kind of kind you called on as an answer to Henry Kissinger’s famous quip: “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its people. The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves.

In the end, Schlesinger drew the conclusion that the CIA was off-mission and may have largely supported Kennedy’s “scatter ‘em” feeling. He writes, “[S]ecret activities are permissible so long as they do not corrupt the principles and practices of our society, and that they cease to be permissible when their effect is to corrupt these principles and practices.” Schlesinger had noted:

[T]he corruption of the political life of another nation is not a responsibility to be lightly assumed. I wonder whether CIA has not done too much of this for the joy of it.

Probably the failure to scatter the CIA and its parallelism to the winds was a fatal decision for the nation. It’s still unclear why the CIA was even needed after its earlier incarnation as the wartime OSS, as, Schlesinger implies, the State department was already capable and performing the foreign intelligence desired out of embassies. It’s more apparent today than then, but as Ed Snowden pointed out in his must-read memoir, Permanent Record, “The worst-kept secret in modern diplomacy is that the primary function of an embassy nowadays is to serve as a platform for espionage.”

Ike’s MIC warning wasn’t merely nancy-pants panic. He had been the supreme commander of Allied Forces in Europe in the lead-up and execution of the Normandy invasion and had worked with industry experts to produce the material necessary to make the invasion possible and, eventually, successful. He’s seen the MIC at work. The money-making from logistics and armaments and eventually the grand victory lap around Europe called the Marshall Plan that aligned the US and Europe in the rebuild of the continent. NATO and the Cold War were great hoo-hah moments for the MIC in-the-making, as an Empire was kindled. Some of those soldiers in logistics saw the way the French girls gobbled up those Hershey bars and tossed away their Gauloises for Lucky Strikes and took notes.

Indeed somewhere some Halliburton-type was conniving away, saw a way to make a buck forever, like Milo Minderbinder in Joseph Heller’s Catch 22, who, SparkNotes tells us (by way of Bing Chat), is a man with a brilliant talent but no conscience. He represents an extreme version of capitalist free enterprise that has spiraled out of control. Milo’s ability to make money off of both friend and enemy, and his willingness to support whichever is more profitable, take advantage of the complete lack of ideology. Milo starts out as a business in black-market eggs turns into a worldwide enterprise in which, he claims, “everyone has a share.” Neo-liberalism in a nutshell (also for sale). Ike was warning us about Milo; war’s corruption; it’s fighting for the sake of more corruption; spreading like syphilis through the body politic of nations until the world was one big fucking whorehouse and even the best and brightest amongst us ended up like Nietzsche at the end of his journey talking to horses and slapping Italians on the back to see if they were content with the caricature of a world he had created. Huh?

So, we ignored Ike. We ignored Truman’s op-ed right after JFK’s murder. Hell, we ignored the Umbrella Man (who the hell opens an umbrella on a sunny day, except Milo, with an angle? Morton Salt loved it.) Then we ignored Senator Frank Church in 1975 and his warnings about the rise of a Surveillance State that would leave us all with “no place to hide — such is their capability.” Well, we’re here.

But maybe this doesn’t seem to relate to the Deep State either. The MIC and the Deep State have, like the decades-expanding mythology built up over the murder of Camelot, our fallen champion of peace and handsomeness, disappeared into the mists of conspiracy and delusion and empirical opacity. When folks mention the MIC or the Deep State they often seem embarrassed by the reference, like they are displaying the lack of intelligence of a weak mind; folks might ask you where you went to school — you say ‘state university’ and the Eli and member of the Skulls and Bones nods knowingly. To him, you’re a dipshit.

In June 2013, just months after Ed Snowden’s revelations began running in the Guardian, Bill Moyers and Mike Lofgren came to terms with the Deep State’s reality on the PBS program, Moyers and Company, in a February 2014 segment called The Deep State Hiding in Plain Sight. Moyers is a longtime journalist for PBS programming and a former top aide to JFK, and helped establish the Peace Corp , as well as the Corporation for Public Broadcasting; and, he worked for LBJ later, helping to set up the Great Society legislation, which sought the total elimination of poverty and racial injustice. On the other hand, and for balance, some say Moyers could be an asshole; there’s documentation that shows he worked with the FBI to okay surveillance and wiretapping of MLK.

Lofgren was a Republican Congressional staff member for 28 years with the powerful House and Senate budget committees, who wrote in his memoir, Goodbye to All That, that he was “appalled at the headlong rush of Republicans to embrace policies that are deeply damaging to this country’s future; and contemptuous of the feckless, craven incompetence of Democrats in their half-hearted attempts to stop them.” And further, says Wikipedia, “He charged that both major American political parties are ‘rotten captives to corporate loot,’ but that while Democrats are merely weak and out of touch, the Republican Party is ‘becoming more like an apocalyptic cult.’” This now seems bursting with oracular prescience, after Jan 6.

For Moyers and Lofgren, the existence and machinations of the Deep State are hardly processes of mythology and conspiracy but very real and present. Burying the processes in layers of elusive language only strengthens the secrecy and makes the powerful forces at work under the surface even more powerful. Moyers begins the program by referencing the coiner of the expression, spy novelist John LeCarre, who refers to the “Deep State” as “that invisible labyrinth of power…no matter which party is in charge,” In answer to Moyers, Lofgren supplied a straightforward and coherent definition and description of The Deep State, which comes out in this exchange:

Moyers: This is a difficult subject to talk about. It would be easier if it were a conspiracy you’re describing. But that’s not the case, is it?

Lofgren: No, I’m not a conspiracy theorist. This is not some cabal that was hatched in the dark of night. This is something that hides in plain sight. It’s something we know about. But we can’t connect the dots. Or most people don’t connect the dots. It’s kind of a natural evolution when so much money and political control is at stake in the most powerful country in the world. This has evolved over time.

Moyers: And you call it the real power in the country.

Lofgren: Correct. It is a hybrid of corporate America and the national security state. Everyone knows what the military industrial complex is. Since Eisenhower talked about it in his farewell address.

Here’s a telling 2+ minute segment from the Moyers-Lofgren session:

A follow-up essay, “Anatomy of the Deep State,” which contains a cogent critique of then-president Obama’s executive order-driven domestic and foreign policies, and their tie-in to the Deep State, is also worth a parsing.

If we consider the Deep State as a continuity of government, it doesn’t take on that totem-and-taboo boogie-woogie that keeps the MSM from doing their jobs as journalists, and prevents We, the People from fulfilling our obligations as informed Demos for fear of being called conspiracy theorists, which could lead to our credit ratings plummeting overnight (snark, ;-)). There is a Deep State and, what’s more, a Dark State. One can get a ‘taste’ of its dimensions through the quite popular streaming series, The Blacklist, starring James Spader. You could get a taste of it, too, and maybe should do to further your education about how things work (and don’t) when you ain’t looking, by installing a virtual machine on your desktop and importing a Linux distribution.

Ed Snowden took us to the next level of understanding about the hidden activities of the Deep State, which may at times reach out into the darkness to find its way. Snowden wasn’t a ‘theorist,’ he was an insider. What he revealed was serious shit going down. He started out as a patriot out to avenge the atrocities of 9/11, he says in his memoir, Permanent Record, but ends up clinically disillusioned by the shadowy shenanigans of a governance no longer in the public domain or working the public’s mandate.

Snowden writes that he was originally outraged, and inspired, by the quashing by the NYT of Pulitzer Prize-winning James Risen and Eric Lichtblau’s piece on StellarWind in October 2004. Nine years later, Snowden opened the vault of secrets to reveal extraordinary techniques of surveillance on all of us by the State, its collections, its dossier-building fusion databases, and operating with the intolerable impunity that Frank Church had warned us about back in 1975. Now, says Snowden, They have dossiers on all of us. It would have been called ‘conspiracy theory’ if he hadn’t ruined it by providing a deluge of proof.

In Chapter 11 of his memoir, “The System,” Snowden describes the deep state as a class that his own parents worked for. He writes:

…[N]obler ages have called [it] the federal civil service or the public sector, but which our own time tends to refer to as the deep state or the shadow government. None of those epithets, however, really captures what it is: a class of career officials (incidentally, perhaps one of the last functional middle classes in American life) who—non-elected and non-appointed—serve or work in government, either at one of the independent agencies (from the CIA and NSA to the IRS, the FCC, and so on) or at one of the executive departments (State, Treasury, Defense, Justice, and the like).

This loose definition of the non-partisan deep state sounds in the ballpark of how Moyers and Lofgren describe it; it’s about continuity. But there’s more.

Snowden goes on to bring in how it all changes as the result of the introduction of advanced electronic technology to governance. Especially the Internet (devised by the military and later gifted to us, the public). In the next chapter, “Indoc,” Snowden’s tone starts to grow testicular and we can hear the creep of potentially tragic arrogance as he describes his milieu and mates. Of the indoctrination into the CIA (“wearing contractor badges as green and crisp as new hundred-dollar bills”) he writes:

“So this is the Deep State,” one guy said…I’d been expecting a group of normie civil service types who resembled younger versions of my parents. Instead, we were all computer dudes—and yes, almost uniformly dudes—who were clearly wearing “business casual” for the first time in our lives…We certainly didn’t look like a hermetic power-mad cabal that controlled the actions of America’s elected officials from shadowy subterranean cubicles…Indoctrination, and its entire point was to convince us that we were the elite, that we were special, that we had been chosen to be privy to the mysteries of state and to the truths that the rest of the country—and, at times, even its Congress and courts—couldn’t handle…I couldn’t help but think while I sat through this Indoc that the presenters were preaching to the choir. You don’t need to tell a bunch of computer whizzes that they possess superior knowledge and skills that uniquely qualify them to act independently and make decisions on behalf of their fellow citizens without any oversight or review. Nothing inspires arrogance like a lifetime spent controlling machines that are incapable of criticism. [pp.111-112]

This, as I read it, scarily recalls for me the rhetorical query Henry Kissinger is said to have made about Chile in June 1970, just months before the presidential election: “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go Communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people.” Instead, Kissinger helped arrange for Salvador Allende’s ouster by coup on 9/11 1973.

The arrogance baked into the facades of these “computer whizzes” with feelings of impunity is described in disturbing detail in another memoir chapter, titled “LOVEINT.” Snowden owns up to being part of something illegal and immoral. He writes,

analysts used the agency’s programs to surveil their current and former lovers along with objects of more casual affection—reading their emails, listening in on their phone calls, and stalking them online. NSA employees knew that only the dumbest analysts were ever caught red-handed, and though the law stated that anyone engaging in any type of surveillance for personal use could be locked up for at least a decade, no one in the agency’s history had been sentenced to even a day in prison for the crime. Analysts understood that the government would never publicly prosecute them, because you can’t exactly convict someone of abusing your secret system of mass surveillance if you refuse to admit the existence of the system itself.

Totalitarian arrogance. The deep state can seem like an urban myth, but then, as an experiment, in your Motel 6 environment, you hit the lights and turn on an ultra-violet lamp and — zing! zowie! — there are cum shadows everywhere; the Circle Jerks have been here.

The Deep State is getting deeper and darker all the time. At the same time, it’s coming out of the closet; it’s, as Moyers and Lofgren put it, hidden in plain sight. There’s a full arc back to Ike’s 1960 warning. DARPA is the soul of a Deep State MIC. This is not merely speculation. In a January 2018 PBS American Experience episode, “Weapons of the Future,” Cori Brosnahan spoke with a DARPA insider not only about weaponry but about DARPA’s overall mission, vis a vis the Deep State and as the guardian of American values. Brosnahan asks:

Q: Where does that leave DARPA in the web of the military industrial complex?

A: I would say DARPA is the driver of the military industrial complex. You could say that’s not as sinister as it sounds, or you could say it’s super sinister. People that I was interviewing for the book, different scientists, would often say to me, ‘How would the American public feel if Iran, if Russia, if a dark horse like Saudi Arabia came out with some weapon system, some technological surprise that the United States could not compete with? Everyone would say where is DARPA?’

DARPA is, for instance, deeply and darkly behind Brain-Computer Interface (BCI), with its surface beneficence on display (can cure the blind and the crippled), but which doubles as an agent of mind control; married to AI technology it could spell D-O-O-M and lower the BOOM. MKULTRA at the nano-level. Do you feel the cautionary tale? (See my review.)

The deep dark state is coming to a mental cinema near (or in) you soon.

John Kendall Hawkins is an American ex-pat freelancer based in Australia.  He is a former reporter for The New Bedford Standard-Times.