Life-changing events are a frequent occurrence in politics and economics. Recent examples include the assassination of US President John F. Kennedy (JFK) in 1963, the events of 11 September 2001 (9/11), COVID-19 (which began in the eponymous year), and the Global Financial Crisis (2007-08).
Some events are accidents. Others arise from systemic factors. But, on occasion, hidden manipulators known as the “Deep State” are to blame.
After looking at cases of political interference, such as the soft coup against Australia’s Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in the 1970s, this article considers two examples of Deep State events: the clandestine “Gladio” networks set up across Europe after World War II (1939-45) and the collapse of the World Trade Center in New York, which triggered a “global war on terror” in which most of the nations of the world participated.
These are known to researchers as “Deep State” events. They are contrived and covered up by agents of the security apparatus and dismissed by mainstream media as baseless conspiracy theory.
Before exploring the differences between the “Deep State” and the “Open State,” consider some definitions.
WHAT IS “THE DEEP STATE”?
The term Deep State is widely attributed to the academic Peter Dale Scott, who notes that at least four major political events in modern US history were designed by Deep State actors: the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Watergate (1972-74), the Iran-Contra Affair (1985-87), and 9/11.
In each case, Deep State actors reportedly had access to a doctrine called Continuity of Government (COG): a contingency plan that allows for surface-level government shutdowns in the event of major crises. Scott argues that COG was unofficially invoked to hide the sale of weapons to Iran by the US to finance the latter’s dirty war against socialists in Nicaragua (Iran-Contra). But COG was officially implemented for the first time on 9/11.
Within each state’s “deep” network lie competing factions; for example, there is often a rift between intelligence analysts and operations units. The latter tend to work against the former for political reasons, which further complicates the nexus of surface-level vs. deep politics.
For instance, Michael Scheuer, former head of the US Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) unit responsible for finding the alleged leader of “al-Qaeda,” Osama bin Laden, told the BBC that the Bill Clinton administration (1993-2001) had ten “easy opportunities” to kill or capture bin Laden between 1998 and 1999. But, on each occasion, Clinton declined to act. The implication is that certain Deep State actors working against Scheuer’s brief wanted bin Laden alive.
But conspiracy researchers often fail to look at broader, structural reasons for unusual events. Many refuse, for instance, to critique the workings of capitalism as explanations for certain occurrences. For example, on 8 March 2020, Dr Anthony Fauci who served on US President Donald Trump’s Coronavirus Task Force, told Americans not to wear facemasks because they allegedly don’t work.
Fauci later said that masks are indeed effective against COVID. Fauci acknowledged that he had lied because, at the time, masks were in short supply and he wanted to ensure that frontline workers were prioritised over members of the public who might otherwise panic-buy. Fauci’s immoral act was not part of a mandatory mask conspiracy: it was a reflection of capitalism. Masks were not profitable until the pandemic struck, so corporations didn’t stock them and the few that were available went to healthcare workers.
By contrast, “ad hoc” theorists – i.e., those who think that all political decisions are surface-level and made off-the-cuff in response to unexpected circumstances – refuse to explore the hidden workings of states and corporations.
They fail to accept a striking facet of human nature: the tendencies of many individuals to form secret, mutual associations and to consciously plot against and deceive others. It is, therefore, important to distinguish between events caused by systemic design and events orchestrated by invisible forces.
Sometimes, major events occur because laws, lobbying, and licentiousness allow them space to happen. In the US, for instance, decades of financial deregulation enabled investors and traders to create bubbles of worthless, fancy-sounding products that were tied to bad mortgages: “collateralised debt obligations,” “credit default swaps,” and “derivatives,” against which the multibillionaire Warren Buffett had previously warned, describing them as “financial weapons of mass destruction.”
Because the aforementioned toxic financial products were bloating the portfolios of asset managers, banks, hedge funds, liquidity firms, and more, the collapse of certain banks triggered an entire global financial crash. Unlike Deep State events, this was not a conspiracy. It was the inevitable consequence of deregulated, neoliberal capitalism.
WHITLAM AND WILSON: DEEP VS. OPEN STATES
On other occasions, however, things happen as a result of forces that are hidden from public and media scrutiny under the veils of national security and plausible deniability. These events are said by conspiracy researchers and the few scholars open-minded enough to look at them to be the calculated works of Deep State actors.
In November 1975, for example, Australia’s Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, dismissed the leader of the Labour government, Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. The official reason was that Whitlam’s minority government was a lame duck: it could not get a budget through the Senate and Whitlam refused to resign or call an election. But researchers like the journalist John Pilger note that there was more to the situation than meets the eye.
Australia is home to Pine Gap, a ground-based listening station belonging to the US military and serving the US National Security Agency’s permanent global surveillance operation. The original members of the top-secret alliance were known as the Five Eyes.
They included Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, and the leader of the pack, the USA. Today via secret projects like PRISM, dozens of US allies, from Germany to Israel, provide the US Deep State with surveillance-based intelligence by sweeping the electronic signals of the world – from civilian telephone calls and private internet searches to conversations in living rooms via hacked smart TVs and sounds picked up through baby monitors.
Since the 1950s, Governor-General Kerr had allegedly been courted by the CIA. He was, for instance, a member of the Australian Association for Cultural Freedom, an entity later exposed in the US Congress as a CIA front.
Christopher Boyce, an employee of the CIA contractor TRW, described him as “our man Kerr.” Victor Marchetti, a CIA officer previously involved with Pine Gap, told journalist Pilger that Whitlam’s hints against the US spy base “caused apoplexy in the White House.” The US and British Deep States collaborated to depose Whitlam.
Each state, including democratic ones, has its own parallel government, which is kept secret from the public.
As Whitlam was being sacked in Australia, the UK’s internal Security Service, Military Intelligence Section Five (MI5), was spying on the left-wing Labour PM, Harold Wilson, as well as dozens of left-leaning MPs and intellectuals. Fifty years earlier, the nascent Labour Party’s chances at the general election 1924 were torpedoed by the UK’s external Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), the equivalent of the CIA.
To sabotage Labour, MI6 forged a letter purportedly written by the Soviet communist, Grigory Zinoviev. The preposterous letter claimed that the Bolsheviks, who had recently come to power in a coup in Russia, would back the Labour Party and foment civil war in the UK.
The letter is an example of what is known as black propaganda: putting false words in the mouths of enemies as part of strategic influence operations. The right-wing press at the time happily disseminated this Deep State propaganda at the general election which helped to crush Labour and thus the social and political progress of working people.
Today, two figures at opposite ends of the political spectrum, the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, and the recently-defeated leader of Britain’s Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, were victims of Deep State propaganda in the form of the Integrity Initiative (II) and related actors.
Conducting information warfare by working with “clusters” of sympathetic journalists, the II was funded by the British Conservative Party through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and is an offshoot of the anti-Russia think-tank, Institute for Statecraft.
The II line was that Corbyn was a “useful idiot” for the Kremlin. Where Corbyn genuinely wanted peace with Russia, and indeed with all nations, Trump merely paid lip-service, continuing in reality to encircle Russia with US-backed forces.
But for the fanatically anti-Russian elements of the Deep State, many of them Cold War holdovers, lip-service was enough to get Trump smeared as a blackmail risk. Companies working with the US Democratic National Committee paid Christopher Steele, MI6’s former Moscow station chief, to write a report on Trump’s alleged connections to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The objective was to stop Trump from becoming President.
The above are examples of soft coups and weaponised propaganda. But the Deep State also engages in violent acts, such as using far-right militias as proxies to attack left-wing governments and leverage features of the “Open State” (like MPs and ministers) against enemy states. Enter Gladio.
THE DEEP STATE’S SECRET ARMIES
From the 1940s to the 1990s, Europe was terrorised by far-right and far-left groups that were apparently committed to bombings and assassinations. It turns out that many of the far-right groups were organised by MI6 and the CIA, with help from the given country’s own Deep State.
The terror was often blamed by media and political opponents on far-left groups, some of which were linked to the Soviet Union. The Italian branch of the CIA-MI6 nexus was called Gladio, named after the Latin word gladius – a double-edged sword. Journalists and scholars used “Gladio” as a generic term for the pan-European operations, which also stretched as far as Algeria and Turkey.
Gladio began with Britain’s Special Operations Executive (SOE), which was formulated by the Chiefs of Staff in 1940 to repel a potential Nazi invasion of the British Isles. PM Winston Churchill supposedly expanded this doctrine to include the whole of the UK, as well as allied European countries. SOE’s SO1 operations included black propaganda and deception. SO2 included sabotage.
Historian David Stafford writes that one directive “envisaged SOE building up and equipping paramilitary organisations to support conventional forces.” Operations included “interrupting enemy signals communications and transport, counter-sabotage, [and] attacks on enemy aircraft and air personal.”
The SOE dissolved in 1946. With the Nazis defeated, Gladio would target the Soviets – and leftism in general – via so-called stay-behind guerrilla networks. SOE units in Austria and Germany continued under MI6’s Special Operations Branch.
In the US, the Central Intelligence Agency was formed to replace the Office of Strategic Services. The CIA worked with MI6 on setting up the Gladio network. The US National Security Council’s Directive 10/2 established the Office of Special Projects, later known as the Office of Policy Coordination. It decreed that “overt foreign activities of the US Government must be supplemented by covert operations.”
The first was the German Stay Behind Organization, headed by the Nazi intelligence officer, General Reinhard Gehlen. MI6 set up the Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations, which, says historian Dave Renton, “encouraged former Nazi sympathisers and other so-called freedom fighters from Eastern Europe to spy and commit acts of sabotage behind the Iron Curtain.”
In 1947 under “Plan Bleu,” the CIA and British Special Air Service coordinated the other networks by establishing France’s stay-behind organisation. This was followed by the Western Union Clandestine Committee (WUCC).
The WUCC was then integrated into France’s NATO units under the name, “Clandestine Planning Committee.” In 1958, NATO founded the Allied Clandestine Committee and the French Gladio was established with help from the Service de Documentation Extérieure et de Contre-Espionnage and France’s SAS-equivalent, the 11e régiment parachutiste de choc (11th Shock Parachute Regiment).
In 1959, the anti-US French President and former leader of the anti-Nazi Resistance, Charles de Gaulle, had come to power. Despite de Gaulle’s expulsion of NATO from France, the French Gladio networks continued to operate, apparently without his consent. CIA agent Philip Agee said at the time that the CIA “wanted to stop the left from coming to power, and want even more to stop Communist participation in the government. For the CIA this is evidently the priority and priorities.”
Operations moved from France to Belgium. Britain’s involvement in the Belgian Gladio appears to have started in 1948, when PM Paul-Henri Spaak authorised his secret service (the Staatsveiligheid) to contact Britain’s MI6. Between 1982 and 1985 and known as the Brabant killings, apparently deranged masked gunmen murdered 28 people in sprees across Belgian supermarkets.
Belgium’s Gladio networks used robberies as counter-terror training exercises. The far-right activist Paul Latinus claims to have been involved in a Belgian Gladio unit responsible for the killings. The job of Latinus and his second-in-command, Michel Libert, was reportedly to pass surveillance information to the Gladio units.
The British were training Belgian Gladio units as late as at least 1989. Colonel S. Schwebach of the Belgian intelligence service told the Defence Minister that an exercise called Waterland had occurred that year, in which the Royal Marines Special Boat Squadron landed in Flanders and was guided by Belgian civilians. Speaking to the Associated Press, a former army intelligence officer said that as late as October 1990, weapon caches were spread across Belgium.
A BBC documentary from the early-1990s puts it well: “For 40 years, secret terrorist organisations, many trained by Western intelligence agencies, have manipulated the political control of European sovereign states by a campaign of terror and murder.”
In addition to empowering neo-Nazis, the consequences of Gladio included alienating left-wing parties by associating them with terrorism. Strict anti-terror laws designed to impinge on freedom of speech were adopted by the parliaments of many countries. “Nigel West” (real name Rupert Allason, a Tory and editor of Intelligence Quarterly Magazine), told the Associated Press in 1990: “We [the British] were heavily involved and still are,” in helping to “finance and run” the networks.
In the late-1970s, the CIA and MI6 used their Gladio skills to bring Islamic terrorists from Algeria, China, Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan, Palestine, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere into Afghanistan, which bordered Soviet countries.
Known as Operation Cyclone, the aim was to “draw the Russians into the Afghan trap,” in the words of US President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski. Cyclone created a vast terrorist network later dubbed “al-Qaeda” by Western media and punditry.
TURNING POINT: 9/11
Gladio was designed to defeat both leftism and Sovietism. By 1991, the US had won the Cold War and the Soviet Union was no more. But the threat of leftism persisted. Enter the “global war on terror” (GWOT) and the creation of new layers of the “national security state.”
The GWOT was launched after 9/11 by the George W. Bush administration (2001-09). Bush’s father, George H.W., had been Director of the CIA for a year, beginning 1976, during which time he oversaw Gladio operations. Bush the elder was also President of the USA from 1989 to 1993.
Several times he spoke publicly of wanting to build a “New World Order” in the post-Soviet era. A businessman, Bush also invested in the acquisitions firm, the Carlyle Group, whose investors included the Bin Laden family: Osama bin Laden being the alleged “al-Qaeda” mastermind whose networks were trained by US and British forces between 1979 and 1989.
The Presidencies of Bush senior and junior are rare examples of the Deep State operating as an open state.
The Project for the New American Century (PNAC) was a right-wing, imperialist think tank whose associates included former Presidents Bush senior and junior. Other members and associates who ended up in the Bush junior administration included future Vice President Dick Cheney, future Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, future Deputy Defense Sec. Paul Wolfowitz, and Defense Sec. Advisor Richard Perle.
In September 2000, before the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq under the pretext of fighting the GWOT, PNAC stated that its goal was “to shape a new century favourable to American principles and interests.”
American business interests are assured by the US “fighting and winning multiple large-scale wars,” backing out of anti-missile treaties in order to weaponise space, and exploiting the “revolution in military affairs.” The document says that drones will “project military power around the globe” and that “advanced forms of biological warfare that can ‘target’ specific genotypes may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool.”
The plan to attack US targets and blame enemies was hinted at in the document: “Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalysing event – like a new Pearl Harbor.”
The demolition of the World Trade Center in New York a year later was blamed on Arab airline hijackers. To confuse the military and intelligence units that were not involved in the false-flag attack, the Deep State perpetrators created their own “fog of war” by timing the events to coincide with multiple training exercises.
For example, the National Reconnaissance Office was running an exercise simulating a small corporate jet crashing into a building. The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) was running its annual Operation Northern Vigilance, which began on 9 September and ran for several days.
NORAD was also running Vigilant Guardian, which involved several scenarios. On the ground, the Federal Emergency Management Agency was positioned in New York on the night of 10 September in preparation for Operation Tripod, a huge counter-bioterrorism drill scheduled in New York for 12 September.
After 9/11, the strategically important nation of Afghanistan was occupied, as were the oilfields of Iraq. A new hi-tech economy was created, with drones and big data. Shortly after the attacks, lawyer, future Obama diplomat, and ex-Democratic Senator, Gary Hart, chaired the US government’s Commission on National Security in the 21st Century, during which he said: “There is a chance for the President of the United States [George W. Bush, a Republican] to use this disaster to carry out a phrase his father used… and that is a ‘new world order’.”
Several years later, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told an audience at Bar Ilan University: “We are benefiting from one thing, and that is the attack on the Twin Towers and Pentagon, and the American struggle in Iraq” (that’s actually three things). Within a decade, the US security and surveillance industry was worth $1 trillion. In Wired for War, P.W. Singer notes that five years after 9/11, border, construction, and airport security was a $30bn market, leading one private industry report to state: “Thank you, Osama bin Laden!”
9/11 was orchestrated by a Deep State cabal, whose surface-level members, like the Bush family, had come to power in the US. In the absence of new enemies, like the Soviets, their aim was to attack civilian targets and blame Islamic terrorists. This could justify the next phase of US military global domination and stimulate hi-tech investment.
In his farewell address, US President Dwight Eisenhower (1953-61) warned Americans about the potential of “misplaced power” by “a scientific-technological elite.” He admonished the people to “guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.” The revelations of NSA contractor, Edward Snowden, decades later proved beyond doubt that Eisenhower’s warnings about an emerging Deep State were based in fact.
To deny the existence of a Deep State operating within one’s country is to fail to understand, holistically, how the nation-state works: in whose interests it operates and the laws and regulations, or lack of, that allow for violent, clandestine activities.
Structural factors underlie many major events, like the Financial Crisis. Accidents also occur, like nuclear power plant disasters. But, in addition, conspiratorial agents are responsible for certain events. Part of the process of deciphering propaganda, be it from the mainstream or from the alternative media, is to figure out what is structural, what is accidental, and what is conspiracy.
This article has focused on the US and British Deep States and their effect upon both geo- and domestic politics. Each country has its own Deep State, sometimes working alone, sometimes working in collaboration with others.
Sometimes the Deep State will work in total secrecy against democratic elements abroad, other times it will work with the Deep State of the host country. The presence of US spy installations on Australian soil is a classic case of sympathetic parallel structures colluding with foreign elements to interfere in democratic processes.
It is all-too-easy for academia, media, and political punditry to ignore, dismiss, and ridicule the Deep State as a conspiracy theory. But the Deep State thrives on conspiracy. Conspiracy is its business. To ensure its own survival and thus the privileges of the small number of elites it serves, maintaining conspiracy is essential. Once in a while, innocent people around the world pay the price for the actions of these dark agents.
About the Author: Dr T.J. Coles is an associate researcher at the Organisation for Propaganda Studies, a columnist with Axis of Logic, a contributor to numerous publications (including CounterPunch and Truthout) and the author of several books including Manufacturing Terrorism (Clairview Books), Human Wrongs (iff Books) and Privatized Planet (New Internationalist).
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