Saturday, August 25, 2018

Sicherheitsdeinst: The Ominous Brazenness of the Deep State


thenation |  Leaving aside the missed occasion to discuss the “revolving door” involving former US security officials using their permanent clearances to enhance their lucrative positions outside government, Cohen thinks the subsequent political-media furor obscures what is truly important and perhaps ominous: 

Brennan’s allegation was unprecedented. No such high-level intelligence official had ever before accused a sitting president of treason, still more in collusion with the Kremlin. (Impeachment discussions of Presidents Nixon and Clinton, to take recent examples, did not include allegations involving Russia.) Brennan clarified his charge: “Treasonous, which is to betray one’s trust and to aid and abet the enemy.” Coming from Brennan, a man presumed to be in possession of related dark secrets, as he strongly hinted, the charge was fraught with alarming implications. Brennan made clear he hoped for Trump’s impeachment, but in another time, and in many other countries, his charge would suggest that Trump should be removed from the presidency urgently by any means, even a coup. No one, it seems, has even noted this extraordinary implication with its tacit threat to American democracy. (Perhaps because the disloyalty allegation against Trump has been customary ever since mid-2016, even before he became president, when an array of influential publications and writers—among them a former acting CIA director—began branding him Putin’s “puppet,” “agent,” “client,” and “Manchurian candidate.” The Los Angeles Times even saw fit to print an article suggesting that the military might have to remove Trump if he were to be elected, thereby having the very dubious distinction of predating Brennan.) 

Why did Brennan, a calculating man, risk leveling such a charge, which might reasonably be characterized as sedition? The most plausible explanation is that he sought to deflect growing attention to his role as the “Godfather” of the entire Russiagate narrative, as Cohen argued back in February. If so, we need to know Brennan’s unvarnished views on Russia. 

They are set out with astonishing (perhaps unknowing) candor in New York Times op-ed of August 17. They are those of Joseph McCarthy and J. Edgar Hoover in their prime. Western “politicians, political parties, media outlets, think tanks and influencers are readily manipulated, wittingly and unwittingly, or even bought outright, by Russian operatives…not only to collect sensitive information but also to distribute propaganda and disinformation.… I was well aware of Russia’s ability to work surreptitiously  within the United States, cultivating relationships with individuals who wield actual or potential power.… These Russian agents are well trained in the art of deception. They troll political, business and cultural waters in search of gullible or unprincipled individuals who become pliant in the hands of their Russian puppet masters. Too often, those puppets are found.” All this, Brennan assures readers, is based on his “deep insight.” All the rest of us, it seems, are constantly susceptible to “Russian puppet masters” under our beds, at work, on our computers. Clearly, there must be no “cooperation” with the Kremlin’s grand “Puppet Master,” as Trump said he wanted early on. (People who wonder what and when Obama knew about the unfolding Russiagate saga need to ask why he would keep such a person so close for so long.) 

And yet, scores of former intelligence and military officials rallied around this unvarnished John Brennan, even though, they said, they did not entirely share his opinions. This too is revealing. They did so, it seems clear enough, out of their professional corporate identity, which Brennan represented and Trump was degrading by challenging the intelligences agencies’ (implicitly including his own) Russiagate allegations against him. It’s a misnomer to term these people representatives of a hidden “deep state.” In recent years, they have been amply visible on television and newspaper op-ed pages. Instead, they see and present themselves as members of a fully empowered and essential fourth branch of government. This too has gone largely undiscussed while nightingales of the fourth branch—such as David Ignatius and Joe Scarborough in the pages of the The Washington Post—have been in full voice.