Tom Engelhardt: The Rise to Power of the National Security State

By Tom Engelhardt, a co-founder of the American Empire Project and author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture, runs the Nation Institute’s His latest book, co-authored with Nick Turse, is Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050. Originally posted at TomDispatch

As every schoolchild knows, there are three check-and-balance branches of the U.S. government: the executive, Congress, and the judiciary. That’s bedrock Americanism and the most basic high school civics material. Only one problem: it’s just not so.

During the Cold War years and far more strikingly in the twenty-first century, the U.S. government has evolved.  It sprouted a fourth branch: the national security state, whose main characteristic may be an unquenchable urge to expand its power and reach.  Admittedly, it still lacks certain formal prerogatives of governmental power.  Nonetheless, at a time when Congress and the presidency are in a check-and-balance ballet of inactivity that would have been unimaginable to Americans of earlier eras, the Fourth Branch is an ever more unchecked and unbalanced power center in Washington.  Curtained off from accountability by a penumbra of secrecy, its leaders increasingly are making nitty-gritty policy decisions and largely doing what they want, a situation illuminated by a recent controversy over the possible release of a Senate report on CIA rendition and torture practices.

All of this is or should be obvious, but remains surprisingly unacknowledged in our American world. The rise of the Fourth Branch began at a moment of mobilization for a global conflict, World War II.  It gained heft and staying power in the Cold War of the second half of the twentieth century, when that other superpower, the Soviet Union, provided the excuse for expansion of every sort. 

Its officials bided their time in the years after the fall of the Soviet Union, when “terrorism” had yet to claim the landscape and enemies were in short supply.  In the post-9/11 era, in a phony “wartime” atmosphere, fed by trillions of taxpayer dollars, and under the banner of American “safety,” it has grown to unparalleled size and power.  So much so that it sparked a building boom in and around the national capital (as well as elsewhere in the country).  In their 2010 Washington Post series “Top Secret America,” Dana Priest and William Arkin offered this thumbnail summary of the extent of that boom for the U.S. Intelligence Community: “In Washington and the surrounding area,” they wrote, “33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001. Together they occupy the equivalent of almost three Pentagons or 22 U.S. Capitol buildings — about 17 million square feet of space.”  And in 2014, the expansion is ongoing.

In this century, a full-scale second “Defense Department,” the Department of Homeland Security, was created.  Around it has grown up a mini-version of the military-industrial complex, with the usual set of consultants, K Street lobbyists, political contributions, and power relations: just the sort of edifice that President Eisenhower warned Americans about in his famed farewell address  in 1961.  In the meantime, the original military-industrial complex has only gained strength and influence.

Increasingly, post-9/11, under the rubric of “privatization,” though it should more accurately have been called “corporatization,” the Pentagon took a series of crony companies off to war with it.  In the process, it gave “capitalist war” a more literal meaning, thanks to its wholesale financial support of, and the shrugging off of previously military tasks onto, a series of warrior corporations.

Meanwhile, the 17 members of the U.S. Intelligence Community — yes, there are 17 major intelligence outfits in the national security state — have been growing, some at prodigious rates.  A number of them have undergone their own versions of corporatization, outsourcing many of their operations to private contractors in staggering numbers, so that we now have “capitalist intelligence” as well.  With the fears from 9/11 injected into society and the wind of terrorism at their backs, the Intelligence Community has had a remarkably free hand to develop surveillance systems that are now essentially “watching” everyone — including, it seems, other branches of the government.

Think of Edward Snowden, the former CIA employee who went over to the corporate side of the developing national security economy, as the first blowback figure from and on the world of “capitalist intelligence.”  Thanks to him, we have an insider’s view of the magnitude of the ambitions and operations of the National Security Agency.  The scope of that agency’s surveillance operations and the range of global and domestic communications it now collects have proven breathtaking — with more information on its reach still coming out.  And keep in mind that it’s only one agency.

We know as well that the secret world has developed its own secret body of law and its own secret judiciary, largely on the principle of legalizing whatever it wanted to do.  As the New York Times’s Eric Lichtblau has reported, it even has its own Supreme Court equivalent in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.  And about all this, the other branches of government know only limited amounts and American citizens know next to nothing.

From the Pentagon to the Department of Homeland Security to the labyrinthine world of intelligence, the rise to power of the national security state has been a spectacle of our time.  Whenever news of its secret operations begins to ooze out, threatening to unnerve the public, the White House and Congress discuss “reforms” which will, at best, modestly impede the expansive powers of that state within a state.  Generally speaking, its powers and prerogatives remain beyond constraint by that third branch of government, the non-secret judiciary.  It is deferred to with remarkable frequency by the executive branch and, with the rarest of exceptions, it has been supported handsomely with much obeisance and few doubts by Congress.

And also keep in mind that, of the four branches of government, only two of them — an activist Supreme Court and the national security state — seem capable of functioning in a genuine policymaking capacity at the moment.

“Misleading” Congress 

In that light, let’s turn to a set of intertwined events in Washington that have largely been dealt with in the media as your typical tempest in a teapot, a catfight among the vested and powerful.  I’m talking about the various charges and countercharges, anger, outrage, and irritation, as well as news of acts of seeming illegality now swirling around a 6,300-page CIA “torture report” produced but not yet made public by the Senate Intelligence Committee.  This ongoing controversy reveals a great deal about the nature of the checks and balances on the Fourth Branch of government in 2014.

One of the duties of Congress is to keep an eye on the functioning of the government using its powers of investigation and oversight.  In the case of the CIA’s program of Bush-era rendition, black sites (offshore prisons), and “enhanced interrogation techniques” (a.k.a. torture), the Senate Intelligence Committee launched an investigation in March 2009 into what exactly occurred when suspects in the war on terror were taken to those offshore prisons and brutally interrogated.  “Millions” of CIA documents, handed over by the Agency, were analyzed by Intelligence Committee staffers at a “secure” CIA location in Northern Virginia.

Among them was a partial copy of a document known as the “Internal Panetta Review,” evidently a report for the previous CIA director on what the Senate committee might find among those documents being handed over to its investigators.  It reportedly reached some fairly strong conclusions of its own about the nature of the CIA’s interrogation overreach in those years.  According to Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, the committee head, this document was among the mass of documentation the CIA turned over — whether purposely, inadvertently, or thanks to a whistleblower no one knows.  (The CIA, on the other hand, claimed, until recently, that committee staffers had essentially stolen it from its computer system.)

The Agency or its private contractors (intelligence capitalism strikes again!) reportedly worked in various ways to obstruct the committee’s investigation, including by secretly removing previously released documents from the committee’s “secure” computer system.  Nonetheless, its report was completed in December 2012 and passed on to the White House “for comment” — and then the fun began.

Though relatively few details about its specific contents have leaked out, word has it that it will prove devastating.  It will supposedly show, among other things, that those “enhanced interrogation techniques” the CIA used were significantly more brutal than what was described to Congressional overseers; that they went well beyond what the “torture memo” lawyers of the Bush administration had laid out (which, mind you, was brutal enough); that no plots were broken up thanks to torture; and that top figures in the Agency, assumedly under oath, “misled” Congress (a polite word for “lied to,” a potential criminal offense that goes by the name of perjury).  Senators knowledgeable on the contents of the report have repeatedly insisted that when it goes public, Americans will be shocked by its contents.

Let’s keep in mind as well that committee head Feinstein was previously known as one of the most loyal and powerful supporters of the national security state and the CIA.  Until recently, she has, in fact, essentially been the senator from the national security state.  She and her colleagues, themselves shocked by what they had learned, understandably wanted their report declassified and released to the American people with all due speed.  It naturally had to be vetted to ensure that it contained no names of active agents and the like.  But two and a half years later, after endless reviews and a process of vetting by the CIA and the White House that gives the word “glacial” a bad name, it has yet to be released (though there are regular reports that this will — or will not — happen soon).

During this time, the CIA seemed to go to Def Con 2 and decided to turn its spying skills on the committee and its staffers.  Claiming that those staffers had gotten the Panetta Internal Review by “hacking” the CIA’s computers, it essentially hacked the committee’s computers and searched them.  In the meantime, its acting general counsel, Robert Eatinger, who had been the chief lawyer for the counterterrorism unit out of which the CIA interrogation programs were run, and who was mentioned 1,600 times in the Senate report, filed (to quote Feinstein) a “crimes report to the Department of Justice on the actions of congressional staff — the same congressional staff who researched and drafted a report that details how CIA officers — including the acting general counsel himself — provided inaccurate information to the Department of Justice about the program.”  (Back in 2005, Eatinger had also been one of two lawyers responsible for not stopping the destruction of CIA videotapes of the brutal interrogations of terror suspects in its secret prisons.)

In addition, according to Feinstein, CIA Director John Brennan met with her, lied to her, and essentially tried to intimidate her by telling her “that the CIA had searched a ‘walled-off committee network drive containing the committee’s own internal work product and communications’ and that he was going to ‘order further forensic evidence of the committee network to learn more about activities of the committee’s oversight staff.’” In other words, the overseen were spying upon and now out to get the overseers.  And more than that, based on a single incident in which one of its greatest supporters in Congress stepped over the line, the Agency was specifically out to get the senator from the national security state.

There was a clear message here: oversight or not, don’t tread on us.

By the way, since the CIA is the injuring, not the injured, party, there is no reason to take seriously the self-interested words of its officials, past or present, on any of this, or any account they offer of events or charges they make.  We’re talking, after all, about an outfit responsible for the initial brutal acts of interrogation, for false descriptions of them, for lying to Congress about them, for destroying evidence of the worst of what it had done, for spying on a Senate committee and its computer system, and for somehow obtaining “legally protected email and other unspecified communications between whistleblower officials and lawmakers this spring relating to the Agency and the committee’s report.”  In addition, according to a recent front-page story in the New York Times, its former director from the Bush years, George Tenet, has been actively plotting “a counterattack against the Senate committee’s voluminous report” with the present director and various past Agency officials. (And keep in mind that “roughly 200 people under [Tenet’s] leadership [who] had at some point participated in the interrogation program” are still working at the Agency.) 

The Age of Impunity in Washington

In December 2012, the report began to wend its way through a “review and declassification” process, which has yet to end.  Once again, the CIA stepped in.  The Senate was eager to declassify the report’s findings, conclusions, and its 600-page executive summary.  The CIA, which had already done its damnedest to block the Senate investigation process, now ensured that the vetting would be interminable.

As a start, the White House vested the CIA as the lead agency in the review and vetting process, which meant that it was to be allowed to slow things to a crawl, stop them entirely, or alternatively remove crucial and damning material from the report via redaction.  If you want a gauge of just how powerful the various outfits that make up the Fourth Branch have become in Washington (and what limits on them still remain), look no further.

Fourteen years into the twenty-first century, we’re so used to this sort of thing that we seldom think about what it means to let the CIA — accused of a variety of crimes — be the agency to decide what exactly can be known by the public, in conjunction with a deferential White House.  The Agency’s present director, it should be noted, has been a close confidant and friend of the president and was for years his key counterterrorism advisor.  To get a sense of what all this really means, you need perhaps to imagine that, in 2004, the 9/11 Commission was forced to turn its report over to Osama bin Laden for vetting and redaction before releasing it to the public.  Extreme as that may sound, the CIA is no less a self-interested party. And this interminable process has yet to end, although the White House is supposed to release something, possibly heavily redacted, as early as this coming week or perhaps in the dog days of August.

Keep in mind again that we’re still only talking about the overwhelming sense of power of one of the 17 agencies that make up the Intelligence Community, which itself is but part of the far vaster national security state.  Just one.  Think of this, nonetheless, as a kind of litmus test for the shifting state of power relations in the new Washington.  Or think of it this way: on the basis of a single negative Senate report about its past operations, the CIA was willing to go after one of the national security state’s most fervent congressional supporters.  It attempted to intimidate her, tried to bring charges against her staffers, and so drove her “reluctantly” and in a kind of desperation to the Senate floor, where she offered a remarkable denunciation of the agency she had long supported.  In its wake, last week, the CIA director dramatically backed off somewhat, perhaps sensing that there was a bridge too far even in Washington in 2014.  Amid Senate calls for his resignation, he offered an “apology” for the extreme actions of lower level Agency employees. (But don’t hold your breath waiting for real reform at the CIA.)

In her Senate speech, Feinstein accused the Agency of potentially breaching both the law and the Constitution. “I have grave concerns,” she said, “that the CIA’s search [of the committee’s computer system] may well have violated the separation of powers principles embodied in the United States Constitution, including the Speech and Debate clause. It may have undermined the constitutional framework essential to effective congressional oversight of intelligence activities or any other government function… Besides the constitutional implications, the CIA’s search may also have violated the Fourth Amendment, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, as well as Executive Order 12333, which prohibits the CIA from conducting domestic searches or surveillance.”

In the process, she anatomized an agency covering its tail and its trail, unwilling to admit to error of any sort or volunteer crucial information, while it attempted to block or even dismantle the oversight power of Congress.  Her sobering speech should be read by every American, especially as it comes not from a critic but a perennial supporter of the Fourth Branch.

In retrospect, this “incident” may be seen as a critical moment in the still-unsettled evolution of governing power in America.  Her speech was covered briefly as a kind of kerfuffle in Washington and then largely dropped for other, more important stories.  In the meantime, the so-called vetting process on the Senate report continued for yet more months in the White House and in Langley, Virginia, as if nothing whatsoever had occurred; the White House refused to act or commit itself on the subject; and the Justice Department refused to press charges of any sort.  While a few senators threatened to invoke Senate Resolution 400 — a 40-year-old unused power of that body to declassify information on its own — it was something of an idle threat.  (A majority of the Senate would have to agree to vote against the CIA and the White House to put it into effect, which is unlikely indeed.)

Whatever happens with the report itself and despite the recent CIA apology, don’t expect the Senate to bring perjury charges against former CIA leaders for any lies to Congress.  (It didn’t do so, after all, in the earlier case of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.)  And don’t expect prosecutions of significant figures from a Justice Department that, in the Obama years, refused to prosecute even those in the CIA responsible for the deaths of prisoners. 

The fact is that, for the Fourth Branch, this remains the age of impunity.  Hidden in a veil of secrecy, bolstered by secret law and secret courts, surrounded by its chosen corporations and politicians, its power to define policy and act as it sees fit in the name of American safety is visibly on the rise.  No matter what setbacks it experiences along the way, its urge to expand and control seems, at the moment, beyond staunching.  In the context of the Senate’s torture report, the question at hand remains: Who rules Washington?

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  1. timbers

    Not quite related, but Real News is saying Ukraine is bombing anti-frackers in eastern Ukraine (and calling them Russian rebels and terrorists or whatever) and that VP Biden’s son is head of the largest fracking concern in Ukraine.

      1. timbers

        Yes, that is it.

        Am currently watching Prison Break on Netflix. In it, the Vice President of the U.S. is deeply involved in trying to kill various people because of their knowledge of her brother’s involvement in U.S. energy company corruption.

        Art imitating life or visa vera.

  2. ogee

    This national security state has been enshrined and “legal” since the 1947 national security act. Before that it was just “de facto”.
    Since the coup on sept 11 2001, it has been the vehicle for the power elites who run things to keep the “ship of state” out of the control of “the people” of this country. We must rmember the event which supposedly “changed” everything, was a fraud.
    The towers were blown up. Demolished by explosives. The hijacking and crashing of the airplanes into them was a cover up of the explosives. Look at the evidence of what happened to the third tower that collapsed that day. tower 7.
    Look at the architects and engineers for truth campaign which has a great hour long documentary video that was released in 2012. “Explosive evidence; experts speak out”. The evidence of the controlled demolition is in the court of physical evidence.The laws of physics are unable to be “bought”, or swayed by political influence…So the trick is to keep people from ever making a scientific investigation of what happened on that day. Taking into account what architects,engineers,physicists,chemists,explosive demolition experts,etc….have shown ;the rest of the story that is also already out there… as was largely put forward in “crossing the rubicon”, by mike ruppert a decade ago. Which laid out many plausible reasons for the endeavor that 9-11 kicked off.
    The past decade, led by both bush and Obama, the trajectory is the same. What ever hasn’t worked out in an immediate fashion is still in the works .This is obvious. the crimes of wall street are the fuel that drives the vehicle of our oppression. The crimes against the people of this country are perpetrated by the same elite that commit the crimes against the rest of the world. We all have a common foe.And they is us.

  3. beene

    And this is any different than local police investigating incidents between police and civilians.

    1. diptherio

      Not really, both practices are obviously conflicted if not outright corrupt (in the case above, it’s definitely corruption). In the case of the CIA however, the stakes are higher.

      Assuming the NSA has the ability to create an insta-file on anyone it wants with a few simple queries of its massive database (which we know they have), and that the NSA is not adverse to spying on elected representatives (which we know they are not), and assuming that people within the various intelligence agencies might share information with each other, especially if it is to their mutual benefit (which seems likely), then we can also assume that CIA personnel, along with personnel at other security-state agencies, are in the best possible position to blackmail anyone who’s doing anything embarrassing/illegal. So they can blackmail members of their own oversight bodies if they start to get out of hand, or just threaten them with the possibility.

      I think the error that Brennan made was not getting some particular dirt on Feinstein in advance, instead just assuming that she’d turn tail and run at the mere possibility. DiFi took her chances and went public in March…to deafening silence. Having dirt on a few media moguls is enough to make that happen, and the CIA or any other intelligence agency/contractor(!) only need to dig up the goods on 50 senators, max, to ensure that the Senate doesn’t go over their helmet.

      We have a group of people in this country who can blackmail, intimidate and all but silence anyone they choose to–just like the mafia–with access to your tax dollars, who have proven their willingness to torture, murder, lie, etc. This will not end well.

  4. Carolinian

    The common thread in this and the monopolies post seems to be that “refusal to prosecute.” Could Eric Holder be the person who rules Washington? You might say his boss, but Obama often gives the impression of being led by his aides rather than the other way around. Also, since Watergate, Attorney Generals are supposed to be somewhat independent of the President and not subject to being fired for pursuing the law.

    1. ambrit

      Where’s Archibald Cox when we need him? (After Nixon fired Cox for not toeing the line, I remember a talking head on late night calling Nixon a “Cox sacker.” My Dad almost fell off the couch laughing.)

    2. steve dean

      Who does AG Eric Holder get his marching orders from?

      He will not prosecute the CIA or Wall Street.

      I fear Holder gets his order directly from Pres Obama. Richard Nixon would be proud of his legacy Obama carries on with.

    3. hunkerdown

      If only certain people can prosecute certain crimes, you are not dealing with a government, but a protection racket.

  5. Ken Nari

    For those in a hurry, I’ve condensed Englehardt’s post to one sentence: “One of the duties of Congress is to keep an eye on the functioning of the government using its powers of investigation and oversight.”

    That’s all intelligent, informed readers have to see to know this post is going nowhere. The core problem, you see, is Congress isn’t doing it’s job. All we have to do is send Mr. Smith to Washington again and everything will be fine.

    As a sort of P.T. Barnum of the Establishment Left, Engelhardt tries to sell cosmetics to treat a raging melanoma. By his view our democratically elected Congress only needs to exercise it’s powers (the will of the People) and rein in the CIA.

    As always, three-fourths of Englehardt’s links are to his own writings or to the NYT or WP, and generate endless circles of insightful comment that criticize the inner workings of a world that never was, while never acknowledging the monumental horrors now raging out of control.

    Not sure why Yves posts Engelhardt unless it’s to remind everyone how insipid the official left is these days.

    1. larry

      @Ken Nari

      While KN is right that the sentence he quotes is correct, it is also true that the other players may now be so powerful, or like us to think that they are, that Congress can’t get their act together sufficiently to prevent the excesses that are obviously (look at the Snowden reports) taking place.

      For a sombre, succinct account by the Director of the Government Accountability Project, and as a check on Engelhardt, have a look at Beatrice Edwards’ The Rise of the American Corporate Security State: Six Reasons to be Afraid (2014). Let me quote a sentence that, in a way, sums up the book.

      “When we lose our right to freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, we lose the presumption of innocence. There’s a reason we need that departure point in a conflict with the state and a reason we have those rights. They establish the sovereignty of the people as opposed to that of a dictator. They protect us from the tyranny of the state.” (p. 37)

      It will be of interest to some that Kurt Goedel, the 20th century’s greatest logician, read the Constitution for his test for American citizenship in the mid-forties. As was a habit with him, he read the document as closely as if it were a mathematical proof. In the end, he concluded that the Constitution was deeply inadequate because it could not prevent the rise of a dictatorship. He told everyone he knew, most of them at the Princeton Center for Advanced Study, like Albert Einstein and Oskar Morgenstern, but none of them wanted to know and told Goedel that no one was interested. Einstein even told Goedel not to bother the judge with this stuff. Goedel, true to his nature, even told the judge who inducted him into citizenship, who responded by telling him that he was glad that the professor had shown such an interest in the structure of government and its documents and institutions and that he was now a citizen of the United States.

      While those around him thought, or from this point appears to have thought, that G was nit-picking or paranoid because of what had taken place during WW2, we now know, at the very least from the Snowden revelations, that Goedel was right. The Constitution has deep inadequacies. But since no one took any notes of what Goedel was saying, and Goedel himself took none, we can only guess which section of the Constitution most bothered him. We could use his insight now.

      1. Ed

        I just checked the matter of Goedel and the US Constitution on this blog: Apparently no one really knows what Goedel’s objection or “discovery” was, as he was cut off by the judge at his citizenship hearing.

        However, it seems that it was just that since its possible to amend the constitution, a dictator could arrange to amend the constitution to legalize his actions. This really isn’t earthshaking. It applies to any written code of law.

        Goedel was also naive about the ability of interpreting away awkward provisions, without the need of formal amendment and repeal. He could have consulted the constiution of the Soviet Union, which on paper was much more democratic than that of the U.S.

        1. fresno dan

          I remember the old bromide “A nation of laws, not men”
          Of course, laws get followed, or ignored, by men. Ambitious men, stupid men, fearful men, corrupt men. If all the “leaders” of the government apparatus are dishonorable, printed words on paper do you little good.

        2. larry

          Ed, this is what some people think Goedel thought was wrong with the constitution. He would have been aware that such documents need revision, so this clause could not have been the one that alerted his logical antenna. This would have been a trivial issue for a logician of Goedel’s caliber. He could have consulted the Russian constitution, but that would not have solved his problem, which was a problem with the American constitution, somehow a problem with its internal logical structure. The Russian constitution would have been no assistance in this regard.

          The blog is wrong. No one really knows any more what Goedel’s problem was because no one wanted to know. While the judge certainly didn’t wish to listen to a disquisition on the constitution which certainly had no relevance to the matter before him, none of his friends wanted to know either; and one can suppose that they were concerned that this “obsession” of his might cause him problems with his citizenship application.

          I once thought that the problem Goedel had with the Constitution was that it doesn’t place sufficient limits on the powers of the presidency. Under certain conditions, the president can become a virtual dictator. But then I wondered whether this was a sufficiently deep enough issue to have bothered Goedel.

          1. larry

            Ed, I didn’t sufficiently answer your dictator comment. Goedel would have been well aware of the possibility of the situation that you describe. His problem could not have been that a dictator could have rewritten the Constitution as desired. His problem was in preventing a dictator from arising in the first place. And for some reason, he thought that the Constitution was not structured in such a way as to prevent this from coming about.

            If you view the Constitution as you would a mathematical proof, you look to see that everything that needs to be said is in place. You then check to see whether the necessary qualifications and restrictions are in place. You then check to see whether anything necessary for the proof to go through has been left out. I am simplifying here.

            When the problem is looked at in this way, one of the keenest logical minds of the twentieth century will be looking for features of the document that don’t work or aren’t there that need to be there, or that are there but insufficiently worked out, or don’t fit well with other sections of the document. The only thing I am sure of, knowing Goedel’s work, is that whatever the problem was, it wasn’t trivial.

            1. hunkerdown

              If only he had seen fit to release a new version or a patch or something, a la Jefferson’s Bible.

    2. Jim

      Hey Ken,
      So what exactly is your analysis of the nature of modern power in American society?

      And how can such a structure be modified?

      In addition, what do you think of the idea that the quest for valid knowledge (for a truthful or adequate representation of reality) is usually tied to reputational interests and strategies of intellectual warfare.
      Or, in other words, that the logic of supposed intellectual discovery tends to be dominated by a will to mastery which is directed both towards reality and against intellectual rivals.

      Thus the concepts all of us use– tend to attempt to simultaneously describe and mobilize so that the distinction between fact and value often becomes blurred.

  6. human

    Let me just utter those ubiquitous three digits, “911.”

    That the rest of the world recognizes that false flag event for what it was, yet, ‘Merikans can’t see byond their noses, is a testament to the power of the press and Englehardt for supporting it.

  7. Jim Haygood

    ‘To get a sense of what all this really means, you need perhaps to imagine that, in 2004, the 9/11 Commission was forced to turn its report over to Osama bin Laden for vetting and redaction before releasing it to the public.’

    And to get a sense of what it means to have the likes of Feinstein in charge of ‘investigating and overseeing’ the CIA, imagine further that Saudi prince Bandar had headed the 9/11 Truth Commission (which probably isn’t that far from the truth).

    Professional courtesy among Depublicrats means that no one ever gets prosecuted for anything, no matter the scale of the enormity. Jail is for little people who pickpocket the silverware.

    1. Cynthia

      Yes, and if you believe in complete secrecy, lying about surveillance, and lying about welcoming a debate on surveillance, then Obama is your man. He is also your man if you believe in freedom for the liars, and jail for those who expose them.

    2. human

      You just can’t make this stuff up! Henry Kissinger was originally tapped to be the chairman of the 9/11 Commission!!!

      Through fourteen months of petitioning the GWB adminstration for a governmental level investigation by the 9/11 Families, they then had to insist that Kissinger not be its’ head as he refused to reply concerning his possible conflicts regarding his Middle Eastern clients.

      1. larry

        And don’t forget, Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973. And he isn’t the only controversial recipient.

  8. fresno dan

    “Meanwhile, the 17 members of the U.S. Intelligence Community — yes, there are 17 major intelligence outfits in the national security state…”

    National Geospatial Intelligence Agency

    What a small world. Never heard of that agency, but last Friday I was eating at my favorite Thai place, and the guy next to me was in the Air Force, (when I was in the Air Force years ago I worked for NSA). Being an old zoomie myself, we got in a conversation, and he told me he worked for the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. And I had to say, “Wha????” Geospatial…..

  9. Cynthia

    It has become more and more evident WHY The President and others were so upset by the Snowden information leaking.

    It has never been about National Security – but rather – about the world finding out that no one is safe from the prying eyes and ears of the United States.

  10. Jamie @ Degree Source

    I spend a long part of my evenings racking my brain on how we “the little folk” would ever regain our dignity and what power we had, if indeed we ever did really have any.
    We are overwhelmed with information and knowledge if we so choose to look for it and absorb it and yet we seem no further towards regaining balance with the top 1%. Any suggestions?

    1. Vatch

      I have a small suggestion that will make things a little more awkward for the top 1%: vote for third party candidates in elections. Those candidates will rarely win, but if they become more viable, it will put some pressure on the Democrats and Republicans to actually deliver some benefits for the 99% instead of just for the 1%. And the political wranglers who work for the 1% will have a harder time managing 5 or 6 political parties than the current 2.

    2. Jim

      We are all indeed faced with a difficult situation. Among those of us who want more dramatic change there is, at this point, little consensus as to the exact nature of the structure of power which needs to be modified or a coherent vision capable of mobilizing citizens for such modifications.

      If you have been following this blog for any period of time you will have noticed a series of debates, many of them not really explicit: There has, of course, been the unending great debate/rivalry in many different guises(Marxism vs. anarchism for one example) between those who argue that property inequality is at the foundation of our problems and those who argue that an inequality of power is at the foundation of our problems.

      In addition various tendencies on the left from more traditional Marxist, to Social Democratic to anarchist to New Deal Liberals have continually crossed swords. The most specific political mobilization attempt has been around MMT whose theorists have basically maintained that their descriptions about the nature of money and how our US fiat currency actually operates in the modern world could become the basis for a re-energized Big State New Deal in the 21st century.

      This mobilization has been side-tracked to some degree by the growing realization that Big State Liberalism, to the extent it is still hooked into the emerging totalitarian National Security Apparatus may have its own set of unique problems. In addition the MMT crowd still seems hesitant to admit that it is, (as are all incipient political movements), involved in both description and mobilization with a consequent necessary blending of prescription and description.

      Consequently there are now some portions of the Left (like recently Nader) who are now calling for a potentially decentralized left/paleoconservative/libertarian right alliance to takes on both Wall Street and the National Security State, especially in the area of foreign policy and domestic surveillance.

      The courage to look closely and critically at each of our most cherished premises about politics and power still seems to me a wise first move.

    3. jrs

      I’ve seen some changes implemented on the local level (of course how friendly your local politiicans are to this will vary depending on where you are but it *can* work, if you organize and try to influence local politicians). Education is good if people are just ignorant – and I don’t mean you have to give constant sermons or anything but if it comes up – because remember people aren’t necessarily well informed.

      There are times I am resigned enough that I think the only choice I have over it all is to make ethical purchasing decisions as corporate bottom lines are behind much of it. But I HATE THAT I feel that way sometimes – I’m just reduced to a consumer, but then I don’t live in a democracy anyway (except to some degree on the local level).

      Here’s an activist site that seems to be actually pushing real protests:

      See I don’t have the answers either. But I’m tired of so many just wishing into existence a non-existent BIG protest movement, it’s like some secular version of wishing for the 2nd coming, actual coverage of a 5 person protest would do more good than that (and to be fair some exists).

    4. jrs

      I wish we had a forum to discuss this and this alone – what to do concretely. I guess that popular resistance website is getting there. The “What Then Must We Do” forum. Ok may not want to advocate violent revolution and dusting off guillotines, I’m not saying the sociopaths ruling the world don’t deserve it but … Non-violent speech is dangerous enough.

      All the practical stuff, protests we know about going on (esp if they are local), writing your congressperson about trade agreements, 3rd party victories or how to advance them, co-ops (as some people like to post about), boycotts, local victories in local politics, whatever. Oh I’m quite sure it would be infested with spooks. But just there must be an alternative to just talking about how hopeless everything is. I don’t say that because I’m an optimist or filled with hope for the future, far from it, but because I noticed what a PROFOUND emotional effect the “everything is aweful” every day reports had on me.

  11. Carla

    Jamie, Jim and jrs — I hope you will consider working at the local level to get initiatives supporting the We the People Amendment on the ballot, or if you do not have the right to petition for a citizens initiative, at least persuade your local city councils to pass resolutions supporting a constitutional amendment that basically says: 1. Only human beings, and not corporate entities of any kind, have constitutional rights; and 2. Money is not speech, and therefore spending on political campaigns is not protected by the 1st amendment. Precise language at Ballot initiatives in support of the We the People Amendment have been put on the ballot by petition all across the country. Not one has failed. In my city of 44,000, we won it with a 77.6 yes vote!

    Also, we need to make it abundantly clear to our Congress critters that their proposed constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United is pure bullshit. A. It would return us to the perfect state of democracy we all know we enjoyed on January 20, 2010. B. It does not address corporate personhood which is the real crux of the matter and what led us down the path to money as speech in the first place. C. It gives Congress the right to regulate campaign funding — haven’t we BEEN there with McCain-Feingold. It’s giving the alcoholics the key to corner bar.

  12. Christopher Dale Rogers

    My own opinion of the US Constitution as it was being taught to me at University in the UK was that it was a deeply flawed piece of work representing the interests of a few – it is at heart highly undemocratic as it favours protecting minority property owner rights above those of the majority of the population.

    Indeed, if we look at the entire Federalist/ Anti-Federalist discourse and battle which ensued as a result of the alleged failure of the original Confederate model of governance instigated after the War of Independence, its plain to see that the Anti-Federalists were actually favouring a democratic way forward for the USA, rather than a Federal republican model that in essence protected the elites wealth and power.

    Here in the UK we have this dialogue often, that is the merits between a “written Constitution” and governance based on a series of documents and changes, which is more adaptable and organic. For me at least, I rather the “organic” approach given the fact that numerous nations have had written Constitutions, in France’s case they have had numerous constitutions, the Soviet Constitution was not worth the paper it was written on, which equally applies to the US Constitution, particularly given you are now operating in a “Post-Constitution” framework since September 2001.

    If we desire change, then best never again to vote for any legacy parties, all of which are corrupted to say the least, and this means voting for a Third Party offering meaningful change, a Third Party that recognises the threat that globalisation is to the World, a Third Party that recognises the environmental destruction at the heart of capitalism and a Third Party that favours majoritarian rule that favours the commons rather than property and capital. In both the UK and USA only one Party exists that encompasses all these things, namely the Green Party, the leadership of which actually standing up for what they believe in, even if this means jail time – these are the only people we the majority can trust, the alternative is the shambles of democracy we have today, which essentially means if you vote for Status Quo parties, you are essentially voting to place chains upon your person.

    1. hunkerdown

      You lost me at majoritarianism. What exactly is silencing and ignoring any portion of people who didn’t vote with the most supposed to get us, aside from exactly the crap drama and policy thrashing we have now?

      1. Christopher Dale Rogers

        MAJORITARIANISM = governing in the interests of the majority, namely 50% and above of the population, rather than governing in the interests of a handful, which the US Constitution guarantees. Whilst its basis originates with utilitarianism, which in the UK was abused greatly during the nineteenth century, its more leftwing proponents would favour a more “direct” form of democracy as found in Switzerland, here the demos is engaged with.

        Can we say we live in a democracy where only 65% of the electorate cast a vote and out of that 65% you get a government, which means you continually have minoritarianism whereby the commons is usually ignored. Only once in the UK has a political party achieved an absolute majority of the vote cast, and that was with a voter turnout higher than 80% and that was in the early 50’s with the post-War Labour government, suffice to say, regardless of the will of the electorate, it was the Conservatives who won the election under first-past-the post – which is hardly democratic is it!

        1. hunkerdown

          Oh, *that* majoritarianism. I keep getting that mixed up with “majority rule”. Sorry!

          I don’t think we can say we live in democracy based on outcomes. I don’t think we can say we live in democracy without citizens having final say over policy outcomes, or, at the bare minimum, be able to rescind the mandate of their representatives at any time for any or no reason. While “it is always possible to add another level of indirection”, as the sage wrote some twenty years ago, “representative democracy” is an oxymoron and true in neither case anyway.

          Did the philosopher Goethe have anything to say about the Grundgesetz, I wonder? That together with Germany’s ordoliberal practice seem to offer more protection for “just folks”, when and if faithfully performed.

          (Speaking of, aside to whomever was bothered by “folks”, turns out “people” is a singular noun too and near enough to a synonym to “folks” to give Obama’s statement a rather darker meaning, yet one no less true.)

  13. Pepsi Girl

    The people almost re-chained deep state, with the Church committee and its counterpart in the house. Then deep state got its revenge by destroying everyone involved and directly influencing events on the ground to get a vicious fascist puppet in Reagan elected. It will courage, organization, and luck to defeat deep state and return the country to its citizens.

    I barely have the strength to think about it, let alone do anything useful, like organizing. It makes me really ashamed of myself. I’m just some bystander who reads articles and papers.

  14. Charles

    No one is in charge in DC and that is why it is amok. The government so called is kleptocracy and the law is suborned by every billable hour. All the government does is spend foolishly and wage war and promulgated regulations that benefit special interests. The populace cannot govern itself and the ignorance that is what passes for education ensures the populace never will govern again. You have felons owning voting machine companies that count the vote and you have a permanent state of emergency that justifies anything at any time. Briefly you have the transition moment to Empire.

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