Jack Goldsmith, writing in the Guardian, tells us that the “deep state” is real and dangerous. His assertions carry weight for two reasons.
First, Goldsmith should know. He was a high ranking Justice Department official — head the Office of Legal Counsel — during part of the George W. Bush administration. This placed him in the middle of issues regarding national security, electronic surveillance, and the like. He also worked closely with James Comey, including during the famous incident at Attorney General Ashcroft’s hospital bed that made Comey famous (or at least a legend in his own mind).
Goldsmith is also author of Power and Constraint, a book I reviewed for the Federalist Society. Goldsmith’s research kept him very much in touch with the deep state and issues relating to its power.
Second, Goldsmith is a strong critic of President Trump. Thus I view his agreement with Trump about the “deep state” as more significant than the concurrence of Trump’s defenders, from whom we normally hear such assertions.
America doesn’t have coups or tanks in the street. But a deep state of sorts exists here and it includes national security bureaucrats who use secretly collected information to shape or curb the actions of elected officials. . . .
The deep state has been blamed for many things since Donald Trump became president, including by the president himself. Trump defenders have used the term promiscuously to include not just intelligence bureaucrats but a broader array of connected players in other administrative bureaucracies, in private industry, and in the media.
But even if we focus narrowly on the intelligence bureaucracies that conduct and use information collected secretly in the homeland, including the FBI, National Security Agency (NSA), and National Security Council, there is significant evidence that the deep state has used secretly collected information opportunistically and illegally to sabotage the president and his senior officials – either as part of a concerted movement or via individuals acting more or less independently. . . .
Since Trump was elected, unusually sensitive leaks of intelligence information designed to discredit him and his senior leadership have poured forth from current and former intelligence officials in the deep state. . . .
These leaks probably mark the first time ever that the content of foreign intelligence intercepts aimed at foreign agents that swept up US-person information was leaked. They clearly aimed to damage US persons – ones who happen to also be senior US government officials.
They were unlawful and, beyond that, they violated two until-now strict taboos about leaks – first on revealing the content of foreign intelligence information collected through electronic surveillance, and second on revealing the content of incidentally collected information about American citizens.
Many people, including many who are not in the Trump camp, have interpreted these leaks to violate a third taboo by marking a return to the Hoover-era FBI’s use of secretly collected information to sabotage elected officials with adverse political interests. . . .
[W]hile Hoover did many awful things in quiet, neither during his reign nor at any other time in American history have we seen such a profusion of sensitive leaks from the deep state with such an overtly political aim to bring down senior leadership.
Yes, this appears to be a coordinated bureaucratic attempt to overturn a democratic election.