Members of the Deep State exchange high-fives, celebrating our passivity

Summary:  On 6 June 2013 the Guardian and Washington Post published the first in the latest round of revelations about the NSA’s surveillance programs. Amidst the outpouring of brave rhetoric about the need to change, I predicted that nothing would happen. Rather, our passivity would encourage the leaders of the national security state (aka the Deep State). After 17 months it’s clear I was right. As explained in today’s guest post by the Michael Brenner (Professor of International Affairs, U Pittsburgh).

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NSA Octopus: NROL-39

“The CIA in Texas”
by Michael Brenner (bio below)
Posted with his generous permission

A review of the Deep State’s staff exchanging high-fives at

Intelligence Reform and Counterterrorism after a Decade:
Are We Smarter and Safer?

Conference at the University of Texas at Austin
16 – 18 October 2014

The United States Intelligence Community was in Austin last week for their second visit of 2014. In May it was primarily an NSA show.  This time a combined National Intelligence/CIA show with a dash of the Pentagon – but no DIA. Led by General James Clapper, who gave the keynote speech, the all-star cast included several prominent figures from the post 9/11 era.  That was appropriate since the occasion was the anniversary of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004’s passage. As a result the meeting had something of an alumni reunion flavor.

There was much serious reflection about institutional issues and methods; very little about concrete security problems (IS got 47 seconds by my watch) and nothing about civil liberties issues. No critics or skeptics were among the participants.  That omission added to the eerie sensation that this was a conclave of the “deep state.”

Clapper set the tone with a smug exposition of how the IC had mastered its GWOT brief.  It was patronizing to absent critics – including Congress – supremely self-satisfied, and righteous. He had the air of a winner who had earned a deserved triumph.  Clapper had reason to be confident. As he confided to the audience, the move to rein in the NSA’s electronic spying had run out of steam.  Personally, he had escaped unscathed despite perjuring himself.

That’s all true. Legislation proposed to tinker with data collection procedures, already watered down, is lost in the maze of Congressional election year maneuvering; the president is exposed as an active collaborator  with his aggressive intelligence agencies – including the campaign to bury the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA mendacity and failings; and the media have shied away from any follow-up reporting.

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NSA: the new Stasi

Even the documented account by James Risen of the White House orchestrated plot in the wake of 9/11to circumvent (indeed, ignore) legal restrictions on domestic wire-tapping has not crossed the threshold of public attention: Pay Any Price (2014; see the New York Times review).

A conspiracy of pivotal leaders in the three branches of government to violate the Constitution is not “fit to print” – as its predecessor story wasn’t in 2004. The politically attuned bureaucrats who run the intelligence establishment may not be very good at providing policy-makers with valid and valuable analysis; however, they clearly are virtuosos at playing the multi-layered political game.

The one sour note was an undercurrent of whining about the straightened financial circumstances that were crimping the intelligence agencies. This was the contrapuntal theme to repeated plaintive notes that the world had gotten to be a much tougher place to understand. In “the good old days of the Cold War,” we knew the enemy, things changed only incrementally and we could count the Soviets’ missiles and tanks.

Nowadays, there are multiple threats; some very strange people like Vladimir Putin and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi; we have to struggle to figure out their personalities and thinking; Snowden alerted our enemies that Uncle Sam was actually after them; and events move quickly. That means the IC is expected to foresee a suddenly arriving future – and we all know how notoriously uncertain the future is.  All this on a shoe string budget. Hope was in the air, though, since the past 14 years have shown that virtue brings more than its own reward.

Here is the URL access to the main segments of the program that include Clapper, remarks by Admiral William McRaven (former chief of the United States Special Operations Command and newly appointed Chancellor of the University of Texas system), and the luncheon talk by former National Security Adviser Steve Hadley – which is quite instructive on process in the Bush White House.

Donations can be sent directly to

General James Clapper at Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Washington, DC 20511

Make checks payable to the Brother, Can You Spare A Dime? Trust. Donations are tax deductible.

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Michael Brenner
Michael Brenner (Photo by Marsha Miller/UT Austin)

About the author

From his page at the U of Pittsburgh, which has additional detail.

Michael Brenner is Professor Emeritus of International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh, and a Senior Fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations, SAIS-Johns Hopkins. He publishes and teaches in the fields of American foreign policy, Euro-American relations, and the European Union.

He has written numerous books and 60+ articles and published papers on a broad range of topics.  These include Nuclear Power and Non-Proliferation, The Politics of International Monetary Reform, and his most recent book — Toward a More Independent Europe.

He has consulted for the United States Departments of Defense and State, Foreign Service Institute and Mellon Bank on multilateral diplomacy, peace keeping by multinational organizations, and political risk assessment.

He has had teaching and research appointments at Cornell, Stanford, Harvard, MIT, Brookings Institution, University of California – San Diego, and Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the National Defense University.

Some of his papers:

  1. Democracy Promotion and Islam (December 2008)
  2. Still Waiting (November 2008)
  3. Way We Were (October 2008)
  4. Fear and Dread in the Middle East (October 2008)
  5. Who is Barack Obama (October 2008)
  6. Stuff Happens (September 2008)
  7. Finding Jesus (September 2008)
  8. European Missile Defense – The Iran Connection (2008)
  9. Common Foreign & Security Policy: Five Misconceptions (March 2008)
  10. Common Foreign & Security Policy: The Iran Test (February 2008)
  11. The States of Europe and Their Discontent (2008)
  12. Toward a More Independent Europe (2007)
  13. The European Union, The United States & ‘Liberal Imperialism’ (2006)
  14. Values and Interests – The Middle East (2006)

His articles at the Huffington Post are here.

For More Information about the surveillance state

(a)  What can we do? See Reforming America: steps to political change.

(b)  Posts about the revelation of the security state:

  1. The NSA news might be a birthday for the New America!, 7 June 2013
  2. The Empire Strikes Back: The Demonization of Snowden Begins, 15 June 2013
  3. America’s courtiers rush to defend the government – from us, 22 June 2013
  4. Thoreau reminds us about one of the few tools we have to control the government, 24 June 2013 — About civil disobedience
  5. Will a wave of leakers undercut America’s national security?, 8 July 2013
  6. The government strikes again, but finds yet another American willing to fight. Applause is not enough!, 9 August 2013
  7. “You’ve had your debate. There’s no need to write any more.”, 21 August 2013
  8. Scoring the game so far: NSA is winning, we’re losing, 23 August 2013

(c)  About America, pretty much all you need to know to see our future:

  1. We are alone in the defense of the Republic
  2. Loki helps us to see our true selves
  3. The several versions of the American Republic: our past, present, & future
  4. There is no problem with America’s political system, or the Republic
  5. A nation lit only by propaganda

Somewhere in our future lies the Third Republic

(a) America today

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A subject of New America

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(b) Somewhere in our future awaits the Third Republic

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Phoenix
Somewhere in our future lies the Third Republic

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2 thoughts on “Members of the Deep State exchange high-fives, celebrating our passivity

  1. Have always enjoyed Prof. Brenner’s insightful, reality based analysis of foreign policy matters. The IC is truly magnificent in their praise of themselves. Just who were we paying not to underestimate ISIS? From a capitalist point of view, the return on the budgeted tax dollars we invest in them is what?

    I see the passivity continues unabated based on the number of comments thus far.

    Incidentally professor, do they follow you around town for writing such heresy?

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