As shown in Google Trends below, the term deep state was relatively little used as a search query in Google’s network until shortly after the inauguration of Donald Trump as U.S. president. According to former Canadian diplomat Peter Dale Scott, the deep state is derived from the Turkish term “derin devlet” and was first applied by Ola Tunander, a Swedish Research Professor Emeritus at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), to U.S. politics. 1
A few years later Scott went on to write,
The unthinkable â€“ that elements inside the state would conspire with criminals to kill innocent civilians â€“ has become not only thinkable but commonplace in the last century. A seminal example was in French Algeria, where dissident elements of the French armed forces, resisting General de Gaulleâ€™s plans for Algerian independence, organized as the Secret Army Organization and bombed civilians indiscriminately, with targets including hospitals and schools. Critics like Alexander Litvinenko, who was subsequently murdered in London in November 2006, have charged that the 1999 bombings of apartment buildings around Moscow, attributed to Chechen separatists, were in fact the work of the Russian secret service (FSB).
Similar attacks in Turkey have given rise to the notion there of an extra-legal ‘deep state’ â€“ a combination of forces, ranging from former members of the CIA-organized Gladio organization, to ‘a vast matrix of security and intelligence officials, ultranationalist members of the Turkish underworld and renegade former members of the [Kurdish separatist] PKK.’ The deep state, financed in part by Turkeyâ€™s substantial heroin traffic, has been accused of killing thousands of civilians, in incidents such as the lethal bomb attack in November 2005 on a bookshop in Semdinli. This attack, initially attributed to the Kurdish separatist PKK, turned out to have been committed by members of Turkeyâ€™s paramilitary police intelligence service, together with a former PKK member turned informer. On April 23, 2008, the former Interior Minister Mehmet Agar was ordered to stand trial for his role in this dirty war during the 1990s.
In my book The Road to 9/11, I have argued that there has existed, at least since World War Two if not earlier, an analogous American deep state, also combining intelligence officials with elements from the drug-trafficking underworld. I also pointed to recent decades of collaboration between the U.S. deep state and al-Qaeda, a terrorist underworld whose drug-trafficking activities have been played down in the 9/11 Commission Report and the mainstream U.S. media.2
In the above article, Scott pointed to a number of events that supported his thesis. These include:
- The deep state and al-Qaeda’s involvement in the atrocity of 9/11 which was possibly financed by drug shipments.
- The evasion, then erosion, of “the constitution and laws of the open or public state.”
- A flagrant restriction of civil rights as evidenced by “a series of similar unexplained events, all of which have had similar results, reaching back to the second Tonkin Gulf incident, the Kennedy assassination, even the misremembered outset of the Korean War.”
- Mainstream media collusion, albeit with exceptions.
- The apparent “struggle between the multilateralists of the status quo and the unilateralists seeking indisputable American hegemony.”
- The perpetual state of “national emergency” first proclaimed by President Bush on September 14, 2001.
He then summarized that 9/11 was “as yet another unexplained deep event of the sort that has continued to erode the American constitutional system of open politics and civil liberties.”
Scott has written extensively on the deep state since the publication of his book The Road to 9/11 in 2007. His writings are exceptionally well resourced and documented. Since that time numerous writers and newspaper reporters have attempted to explain what he meant. For example, Greg Grandin wrote earlier this year,
The problem with the phrase ‘deep state’ is that it is used to suggest that dishonorable individuals are subverting the virtuous state for their private ambitions. A good Marxist, and even an intelligent liberal, however, knows that under capitalism, ambition is considered a virtue, not a vice, and that the whole point of government is to collectively organize subversion. What do you think the ‘pursuit of happiness’ means? Itâ€™s this public virtue/private vice false opposition that makes so much of the ‘deep state’ writing slide into, if not noxious Bilderberg anti-Semitism, then ‘we are a republic, not an empire’ idiocy.3
First, as Independent Institute economist Robert Higgs pointed out over three decades ago, the U.S. political economy is more closely described as participatory fascism, not capitalism. Second, describing a group’s ambitions to covertly use government resources in their pursuit of happiness as a virtue and “that the whole point of government is to collectively organize subversion” is a morally bankrupt argument and is used to defend those who profit from this type of economic system.
Another article, written by Anand Giridharadas two years earlier, was more cautious in its approach as it described an article on The American Conservative,
In contrast to Turkey, where Mr. Giraldi said a covert ‘deep state’ had taken root in the security realm, the American deep state of his description consists of visible people like the Clintons and the former C.I.A. director David H. Petraeus, concentrated around New York and Washington, who live at the fertile nexus of government and corporate power: Capitol Hill aides and legislators who cash in as lobbyists; former politicians who earn millions speaking to banks, or landing sinecures with them; technocrats who ricochet between Goldman Sachs and the Treasury Department; billionaire kingmakers dangling political donations; thinkers whose tanks are financed by corporations with a financial stake in their research. . . The ‘deep state’ metaphor seems to be ascendant as a way to explain present American realities. The writer Peter Dale Scott, professor emeritus of English at the University of California, Berkeley, last year published a similarly minded book called ‘The American Deep State,’ which emphasized the role of security contractors, oil companies and financial firms. Meanwhile, Mike Lofgren, a Republican who spent 28 years as a congressional aide before quitting in 2011, has used ‘deep state’ to describe a subterranean cross-party consensus on issues like ‘financialization, outsourcing, privatization’ â€” a consensus, Mr. Lofgren has written, from which the public is distracted by above-ground debates over ‘diversionary social issues such as abortion or gay marriage.’4
Regardless of whether one thinks of the deep state as “combining intelligence officials with elements from the drug-trafficking underworld”, private groups in “pursuit of happiness”, or a “fertile nexus of government and corporate power”, the term appears to have entered the public consciousness. And just for fun, where are the denizens who most use this search query in Google? Some might suggest swamp places.
- Scott, Peter Dale. The Road to 9/11: Wealth, Empire, and the Future of America. University of California Press, 2007, x, 244, 270, 384. ↩
- Scott, Peter Dale. “The Deep State and 9/11.” Global Research, 11 Jun. 2008, www.globalresearch.ca/9-11-deep-state-violence-and-the-hope-of-internet-politics/9289. Accessed 24 May 2017. ↩
- Grandin, Greg. “What is the Deep State.” The Nation, 27 Feb. 2017, www.thenation.com/article/what-is-the-deep-state/. Accessed 24 May 2017. ↩
- Giridharadas, Anand. “Examining Who Runs the United States.” The New York Times, 15 Sep. 2015, www.nytimes.com/2015/09/15/us/examining-who-runs-the-united-states.html?_r=0. Accessed 24 May 2017. ↩