The Threat of a Deep State Is Real. No, Really.

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The Threat of a Deep State Is Real. No, Really.

It wasn’t too long ago that if you saw something like this, you could write it off, because it came out of the mouth of someone like Alex Jones or G. Gordon Liddy—someone you’d have to make an active effort to discover and follow. Such rhetoric was so far underground that odds were you’d never come across it in the first place, but here we have it in primetime:

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To be clear, the FBI isn’t “out of control.” And the FBI isn’t “a threat to you, and every American.” What Mr. Tucker Carlson means is the FBI is a threat to the Trump administration.

So that’s the one hand: The FBI is a dark-handed, deep-state political op being run by [this part not made clear but I assume it involves Schumer, Podesta, Soros, and Hillary Clinton] in order to dismantle the Trump agenda at any cost. Not only that, but in Mr. Carlson’s world, the FBI has also already broken the law in its investigation of Trump.

(At this time, I’d like to point out to Mr. Carlson that the FBI isn’t actually investigating Donald Trump; Special Counsel Robert Mueller is, as an independent agent of the Department of Justice outside the FBI.)

A major news network that millions of people take as gospel is saying our existing federal law enforcement apparatus is a secret police force. And if we can’t trust the people in charge of administering the law, then we can’t trust those administrations. Everything the FBI (DOJ) does (against Trump) should be not merely questioned, but rejected outright with great urgency: The agency is out of control.

I don’t think we should accept everything a law enforcement official says as gospel, but I also don’t advocate peddling ego meth in the form of batshit conspiracies not so subtly intended to sow the seeds of legitimizing future violence against the state. The rhetoric might not lead to disastrous consequences, but there’s a good chance it might.

This is one of the consequences of electing a birther. Conspiracy theories have made it into the news. We’ve already seen a conspiratorial fascination with the “deep state,” which has branched this latest volley of insanity. That phrase, “deep state,” still sounds ridiculous to me, something a guy wearing a loupe says to you while he slides an inspirational poster off his basement wall to show off his safe full of commemorative moon landing coins, which he says he can sell you cheap because the moon landing was fake.

Or something this guy says to you.

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Another consequence of electing a birther is that he’s paranoid and addled and indulges in his own conspiracies in the Oval Office, only now he has the unnerving power to act on them. Those characteristics also make him an easy target. And this is how we might see the incarnation of this very same conspiracy theory: the deep state.

The author knows the above claim makes him sound like he’s not aware of the hypocritical irony in that statement, but this isn’t a theory about an ill-defined shadowy cabal. A new report in the Intercept, sourced to multiple former and current U.S. intelligence employees, details an effort to create a shadow global spy agency that goes around the national security apparatus and reports only to the president and to Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA. If this doesn’t raise some alarms, read up on your Hitler. Or read up on your Mr. Tucker Carlson.

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The proposal reportedly came from Erik Prince, the guy who founded Blackwater (renamed Academi), a private military contractor. The U.S. military contracted Blackwater to send armed employees, basically a private militia, to Iraq, which had ugly consequences that included the conviction of four of its employees for their involvement in the massacre of 14 Iraqi civilians. Erik Prince also reportedly met in the Seychelles with an agent of Vladimir Putin to set up backchannel communications directly between Trump and Putin. The meeting happened nine days before Trump’s inauguration.

Erik Prince is Betsy DeVos’s brother. He brought on to the proposal his long-time business partner and ex-CIA agent John Maguire as well as Oliver North, a true American patriot found guilty of lying to Congress in the late ‘80s to cover up the Iran-Contra scandal. They proposed the shadow agency to the White House as a way for Mr. Trump to counter, yes, the “deep state,” which Mr. Trump and Mr. Pompeo truly believe is out to undermine the administration. According to “senior intelligence officials” Prince allegedly first pitched the idea to senior White House officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, before taking it to Director Pompeo who reportedly signed off and began lobbying the White House.

This is the height of paranoia: Creating an actual conspiracy to combat an imaginary conspiracy.

That’s not all: Prince et al also met with “major Trump donors,” this according to the donors themselves, to solicit financing for the force. Again: This would be private financing for an extra-governmental spy network working for the sitting President. It’s not hard to see such an agency would have zero accountability to the government, if to anyone beyond Trump and Prince. The spies would reportedly work “without official cover” in countries off-limits to official U.S. intelligence agents, such as North Korea and Iran.

Michael Anton, a spokesperson for the National Security Council, responded, “I can find no evidence that this ever came to the attention of anyone at the NSC or [White House] at all. The White House does not and would not support such a proposal.” Pence’s spokesperson wrote there was “no record of [Prince] ever having met with or briefed the VP.” Oliver North didn’t respond.

So I guess this isn’t actually the height of paranoia, which would be the next step: accusing a fictional deep state (these claims are sourced to intelligence officials) of creating the fiction of an opposing deep state in order to undermine administration efforts to reign it in, “it” being a fictional deep state the president believes is real.

And lo: When reached for comment a CIA spokesperson told the Intercept it had been given “wildly inaccurate information” from “people peddling an agenda.”

The Intercept report corroborates parts of an earlier report that Mr. Trump was building a private intelligence network as well as planning to hire military contractor Amyntor (perfect name for this bad movie plot) to run a private global rendition network to capture terrorists. The spy network would also reportedly launch a propaganda campaign in the Middle East.

Lest you’re inclined to believe the White House and CIA rebuttals about the spy network part of the deal, Amyntor itself confirmed the company pitched the terrorist rendition part of the deal. The CIA refused to comment, but another government official seemed to acknowledge the plan was on the table: “The idea they are pitching is absurd on its face,” he said, “and it is not going anywhere.” A lawyer representing the company told BuzzFeed the proposed contract would be legal “with direction and control by the proper government authority.” Another company spokesman said company officials knew about and were involved in the rendition plan, but somehow Amyntor itself wouldn’t be involved in the actual execution.

This obviously raises about a million questions, one of the foremost being that, should the contract go ahead, who would provide the service. Obvious answer: Prince, North, et al. Per Prince, though: “I have zero to do with any such effort and saying that I did/do would be categorically false. Knowingly publishing false information exposes you to civil legal action. The only effort I’ve quite publicly pitched is an alternative to Afghanistan.”

But Prince, as pointed out above, has a proven track record of conducting shady government stuff, which also includes pitching to Mr. Trump the option of using private military contractors as a more affordable means to carry out the war in Afghanistan. (Note Prince said that was the only plan he’d pitched “publicly.”) So of course a guy like this knows to insulate himself. Plausible deniability, of course, leaves room for denial. But if you read closely, some key administration officials didn’t actually deny the meetings about a proposed spy network. You can’t prove a negative, but I’ll now use that very same classic and unbeatable conspiratorial technique to point out that even if the shadow intelligence plan were real, we couldn’t expect anyone would confirm it. And look carefully at a couple of these official denials:

I can find no evidence that this ever came to the attention of anyone at the NSC or [White House]...”

There’s “no record of [Prince] ever having met with or briefed the VP.”

You’d expect such meetings to be off the books, yeah? Also, we’d expect reasonable people at the CIA to write this off as ridiculous, as some have. But remember, the President is a ridiculous conspiracy theorist who holds ridiculous beliefs about the “deep state” and voter fraud and rigged elections and Democrat hoaxes etc., and the whole point of the proposal is to go around those reasonable CIA officials to give Mr. Trump ultimate control.

The adoption of the President’s own private global spy and rendition networks have implications that truly should alarm every American. First, as citizens, we should have serious concerns about how it would undermine national security and foreign policy, as well as damage if not corrode entirely diplomatic relations across the globe. And as far as its intent to combat the “deep state,” that’s a domestic threat without check or oversight. If you thought the PRISM surveillance program) was bad, in which the NSA secretly collected information from major internet companies, holy hell. This would be real-world surveillance, highly likely carried out with armed agents, accountable essentially to one man: The President.

The parallels to the Gestapo are right now overblown, as there’s no evidence yet this plan is going forward, but it’s not irresponsible to be hyper-aware of history.

There’s another reason it isn’t insane to think this is a real proposal. In addition to his patent paranoia, Mr. Trump has shown his preference for a private security detail independent of the Secret Service (which he kicked out of Trump Tower literally to the street, to operate in a trailer, after Mr. Trump’s company, from which he still profits, raised the rent on their office space to an unaffordable rate), and he employed this private detail throughout his campaign and on through his tenure as President-elect. And as above indicated, in his entertaining the option of a private military solution for the War in Afghanistan (?!?), Mr. Trump is clearly open to the reckless idea of contracting sensitive and critical national security operations to companies.

On top of this, yesterday we learned in a letter from a sitting U.S. congressman that disgraced former general and National Security Adviser Mike Flynn was reported to have given the go-ahead on a government project that would award his business affiliates the contracts to build nuclear plants throughout the Middle East. Those companies would obviously stand to make obscene profits from the power plants, which themselves would be protected by U.S. military forces that you and I pay for.

According to the congressman’s letter, Mr. Flynn gave the okay in a text message he sent ten minutes into Mr. Trump’s inaugural address.

Secret ties between a public administration and a private security contractor smack of authoritarianism, as do dozens of actions and statements Mr. Trump has made over the last two years about the press, the intelligence community, voting rights, deploying the national guard, and on and on. We owe it to each other to note every step Mr. Trump takes on this path, and to speak out whenever we can. After all, Mr. Tucker Carlson is right in that at a certain tipping point we descend a steep and slippery slope to a police state, and history screams to us about the pitfalls. Don’t be irresponsible about this, though. Always caveat that until reports are corroborated, they’re just that: reports. We’re not there yet, and even if these plans have been put on the table none of the reports indicate they’ve been put into action or even approved. Balance a healthy and keen amount of suspicion with what we empirically know and resist a leap to conclusions until such conclusions are undeniable. In other words, don’t do what this maniac does.

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