Washington It was a typical Donald Trump pun. Not really funny, but rather a little creepy because you don’t know exactly how serious the fun is. At a press conference broadcast nationwide on March 23, the US President asked the journalists to ask questions to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo right at the beginning because: “I want him to be able to return to the State Department or, as it is called, the Deep State Department. “
State Department is the United States Department of State. And the Deep State describes a theory that is widespread in right-wing US circles: that secret services, security agencies and ministerial officials form a kind of shadow government that pursues its own agenda and is beyond the control of the President and Parliament.
This shadow government is particularly targeting Donald Trump because the president’s reform agenda jeopardizes the power of the Deep State and its allies. At least right-wing US media like the website “Breitbart” or the news broadcaster “Fox” are promoting it – and again and again Trump himself.
Just a conspiracy theory from contemporaries who have seen too many Hollywood thrillers? Or is there more behind it? After all, whistleblower Edward Snowden also used the term “deep state” to describe the power of secret services plus government bureaucracy in the United States.
And as early as 1961, US President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s farewell speech warned of the power of the “military-industrial complex”, an informal alliance between the army and the defense industry. Their common interest: to justify the purchase of ever new weapon systems through dark threat scenarios.
Excesses were worked up
The US journalist and Pulitzer Prize winner David Rohde has set himself the goal of getting to the bottom of the theory of the deep state, especially in the United States. In the first half of his book “In Deep,” Rohde unraveled with great (and sometimes tiring) meticulousness how control over the CIA and NSA secret services and the United States’ FBI police force has shifted between the President and Parliament over the past decades .
This only makes a limited contribution to the actual topic of the book. Because a security apparatus that acts on behalf of the president, even if he uses it to abuse his power, is not yet evidence of a deep state. The real deep state only begins where the authorities pursue their own political agenda, past the presidential and parliamentary instances elected by the people.
Back to the State Department. Or as you call it: to the Deep State Department. Donald Trump (The US President to his Secretary of State in late March)
This was the case, for example, in Turkey, where the term deep state originally came from. A network of senior civil servants, military leaders and secret services existed there for decades, and operated politics on its own. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also justifies his authoritarian course by having to smash the power of the deep state.
And in the United States? There was the infamous Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI from its foundation in 1935 until Hoover’s death in 1972. The top official pursued “unamerican activities” with an iron fist. For Hoover this included pretty much everything except table prayer and missionary positions. Hoover was just about every means to get his hands on incriminating material: illegal eavesdropping, burglary, extortion.
In retrospect, several former US presidents said they wanted to fire Hoover but didn’t dare – because they didn’t know exactly what the FBI chief had against them personally.
The excesses of both the FBI and the CIA were processed in 1975 by a special committee in the US Senate, the so-called Church Committee. MEPs tightened parliamentary oversight of the security agencies.
But this control has lost more and more power over the decades, writes author Rohde. Firstly, because changing presidents have gradually regained power over the security apparatus. The “war on terror” provided a suitable pretext here from the turn of the millennium.
On the other hand, the system of parliamentary control failed due to the increasing confrontation between Republicans and Democrats. According to Rohde, the two chambers of the American Parliament are less and less about looking at the fingers of a power-hungry president. Instead, the ruling party tries to defend its president against all allegations of the opposition.
Ethical and legal boundaries were exceeded in the war on terror. The US has meanwhile executed several thousand people with drone attacks, including US citizens, without trial. Edward Snowden has revealed the NSA’s massive eavesdropping on its own population. The CIA’s secret torture prisons also didn’t stay secret for long. However, the following also applies here: the respective presidents or at least their ministers were informed of all important steps in the war on terror.
As the first president since Eisenhower, Trump now indicates that important authorities are acting against the interests of the White House. The second (and much more interesting) half of Rohde’s book deals in detail with the clashes that Trump has had with the CIA, FBI, and State Department since he switched to politics.
There are three thematic complexes. First, Trump’s allegation that the security authorities had not investigated the former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton thoroughly enough out of political consideration. Clinton, Trump’s democratic opponent in the 2016 election, had redirected official, sometimes secret, emails to a private account and repeatedly told the untruth about it.
Second, it is about possible illegal collusion between Trump and the Russian embassy in Washington around the 2016 election. Trump still sees the allegations as a conspiracy by US security agencies and democratic politicians to destroy his reputation.
Finally, the accusation that Trump tried to blackmail his Ukrainian counterpart as president: In order to receive American aid payments, Ukraine should initiate an investigation against the son of Trump’s rival Joe Biden. At that time, Biden junior was a member of the board of directors of a gas company in Ukraine.
The extortion charge led to impeachment proceedings against Trump, which was crushed by the Republican majority in the Senate. In the course of the trial, several State Department diplomats testified critically about Trump. The episode explains Trump’s mistrust of his own State Department, but it is hardly useful as evidence of a deep state.
Did the FBI prevent Clinton’s victory?
Rohde also comes to a clear conclusion in the Clinton affair: If one can speak of political influence at all, then it is in Trump’s favor. Because shortly before the 2016 election, the FBI announced that it would resume the previously completed investigation against Hillary Clinton for new findings.
It would have been normal FBI practice to hold back such a delicate announcement until after the election. Clinton’s polls dropped. Rohde assumes that it was only the FBI announcement that Trump was given his extremely narrow election victory.
What remains is the investigation into Trump’s contacts with Russia. Some details really make you think. Officials from the NSA, CIA, and FBI worked closely together in the investigation and exchanged more information than was actually allowed.
One of Trump’s election campaign employees was bugged by the FBI (with a corresponding court order), while other Trump confidants were secretly questioned by undercover officials. In the middle of the election campaign, this is at least a politically sensitive undertaking.
An investigation report came to the conclusion that the officials had made procedural errors in several places. The investigation against the Trump camp was not politically motivated. Trump still claims that his predecessor Barack Obama let him eavesdrop on the election campaign.
At the end of his book, Rohde comes to the concise and clear conclusion regarding the USA: “There is no deep state.”
What is there, however, all over the world, is the corps spirit in the authorities. He lets officials stand together against attempts to weaken his own organization or to dissuade him from long-practiced practices. There are numerous reports of how senior officials have tried to civilize Trump, introducing him to a more conventional style of politics.
Top officials are good at implementing the wishes of their political leaders, sometimes with more, sometimes with less emphasis. For this reason, politicians who want to get things moving often set up parallel structures past their own officials.
In the White House, Trump’s son-in-law and presidential adviser Jared Kushner mostly take on this task. It should then provide “unbureaucratic” solutions – most recently in the corona crisis.
The Deep State actually exists in the form of a common identity and common interests of officials. The theory of a security conspiracy against Trump, on the other hand, is just that – a conspiracy theory.
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