Deep state

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A deep state[1] is a type of government made up of potentially secret and unauthorized networks of power operating independently of a state's political leadership in pursuit of their own agenda and goals. In popular usage, the term carries overwhelmingly negative connotations.[2]

During the presidency of Donald Trump, the term "deep state" has been primarily used in the United States to describe the "permanent government" of entrenched career bureaucrats or civil servants acting in accordance with the mandates of their agencies and congressional statutes when seen as in conflict with the administration.[3]

Etymology and historical usage[edit]

"Deep state" is a calque of the Turkish word derin devlet (lit.'deep state'). The modern concept of a deep state is associated with Turkey, a presumed secret network of military officers and their civilian allies trying to preserve the secular order based on the ideas of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk from 1923.[4] There are also opinions that the deep state in Turkey and "Counter-Guerrilla" was established in the Cold War era as a part of Gladio Organization to sway Turkey more into NATO against the threat of the expansion of Soviet communism.[5]

Popular understanding[edit]

After the 2016 United States presidential election, deep state became much more widely used as a pejorative term with an overwhelmingly negative definition by both the Donald Trump administration and conservative-leaning media outlets.[6][7]



According to the journalist Julia Ioffe, the Russian Republic of Chechnya, under the leadership of Ramzan Kadyrov, had become a state within a state by 2015.[8]


In 2013, author Abdul-Azim Ahmed wrote the deep state was being used to refer to Egyptian military/security networks, particularly the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces after the 2011 Egyptian revolution. They are "non-democratic leaders within a country" whose power is "independent of any political changes that take place". They are "often hidden beneath layers of bureaucracy" and may not be "in complete control at all times" but have "tangible control of key resources (whether human or financial)". He also wrote: "The 'deep state' is beginning to become short hand for the embedded anti-democratic power structures within a government, something very few democracies can claim to be free from."[9]


In May 2020, an article in Haaretz describes how people meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "have heard lengthy speeches [...] that even though he has been elected repeatedly, in reality, the country is controlled by a 'deep state.'"[10]


The most famous case is Propaganda Due.[11] Propaganda Due (better known as P2) was a Masonic lodge belonging to the Grand Orient of Italy (GOI). It was founded in 1877 with the name of Masonic Propaganda,[12] in the period of its management by the entrepreneur Licio Gelli it assumed deviated forms with respect to the statutes of the Freemasonry and became subversive towards the Italian legal order. The P2 was suspended by the GOI on 26 July 1976; subsequently, the parliamentary commission of inquiry into the P2 Masonic lodge under the presidency of Minister Tina Anselmi concluded the P2 case by denouncing the lodge as a real "criminal organization"[13] and "subversive". It was dissolved with a special law, the n. 17 of 25 January 1982.

Middle East[edit]

Robert Worth argues deep state is "just as apt" for networks in many states in the Middle East where governments have colluded with smugglers and jihadis (Syria), jihadi veterans of the Soviet–Afghan War (Yemen), and other criminals working as irregular forces (Egypt and Algeria).[14] In his book From Deep State to Islamic State, he describes a hard core of regimes in Syria, Egypt, and Yemen that staged successful counter-revolutions against the Arab Spring in those countries, comparing them with the Mamluks of Egypt and the Levant 1250–1517 in that they proclaim themselves servants of the putative rulers while actually ruling themselves.[15]


Since independence, the Pakistan Armed Forces have always had a huge influence in the country's politics.[16] In addition to the decades of direct rule by the military government, the military also has many constraints on the power of the elected prime ministers, and also has been accused of being a deep state.[17][18][19] Pakistani army is often referred to as "The Establishment" due to its deep involvement in country's decision-making processes.[20]


According to the Journalist Robert F. Worth, "The expression 'deep state' had originated in Turkey in the 1990s, where the military colluded with drug traffickers and hit men to wage a dirty war against Kurdish insurgents".[14] Professor Ryan Gingeras wrote that the Turkish term derin devlet "colloquially speaking" refers to "'criminal' or 'rogue' element that have somehow muscled their way into power".[21] The journalist Dexter Filkins wrote of a "presumed clandestine network" of Turkish "military officers and their civilian allies" who, for decades, "suppressed and sometimes murdered dissidents, Communists, reporters, Islamists, Christian missionaries, and members of minority groups—anyone thought to pose a threat to the secular order".[22] Journalist Hugh Roberts has described the "shady nexus" between the police and intelligence services, "certain politicians and organised crime", whose members believe they are authorised "to get up to all sorts of unavowable things" because they are "custodians of the higher interests of the nation".[15]

United Kingdom[edit]

The Civil Service has been called a deep state by senior politicians. In 2018, Steve Hilton, then advisor to David Cameron, claimed Tony Blair had said: "You cannot underestimate how much they believe it's their job to actually run the country and to resist the changes put forward by people they dismiss as 'here today, gone tomorrow' politicians. They genuinely see themselves as the true guardians of the national interest, and think that their job is simply to wear you down and wait you out."[23]

Former Prime Minister Liz Truss claimed that she was forced out of office by the 'deep state'.[24]

United States[edit]

Since at least 1963, the deep state has been used to describe "a hybrid association of government elements and parts of top-level industry and finance that is effectively able to govern the United States without reference to the consent of the governed as expressed through the formal political process."[25] Intelligence agencies such as the CIA have been accused by elements of the Donald Trump administration of attempting to thwart its policy goals.[26] Writing for The New York Times, the analyst Issandr El Amani warned against the "growing discord between a president and his bureaucratic rank-and-file", while analysts of the column The Interpreter wrote:[26]

Though the deep state is sometimes discussed as a shadowy conspiracy, it helps to think of it instead as a political conflict between a nation's leader and its governing institutions.

— Amanda Taub and Max Fisher, The Interpreter

According to the political commentator David Gergen, quoted by Time in early 2017, the term has been appropriated by Steve Bannon, Breitbart News, and other supporters of the Trump Administration in order to delegitimize critics of the Trump presidency.[27] In February 2017, the deep state theory was dismissed by authors for The New York Times,[26] as well as The New York Observer.[28] In October 2019 The New York Times gave credence to the general idea by publishing an opinion piece arguing that the deep state in the civil service was created to "battle people like Trump".[29]

Scholars have generally disputed the notion that the U.S. executive branch bureaucracy represents a true deep state as the term is formally understood but have taken a range of views on the role of that bureaucracy in constraining or empowering the U.S. president.[30]


The Cartel of the Suns, a group of high-ranking officials within the Bolivarian Government of Venezuela, has been described as "a series of often competing networks buried deep within the Chavista regime". Following the Bolivarian Revolution, the Bolivarian government initially embezzled until there were no more funds to embezzle, which required them to turn to drug trafficking. President Hugo Chávez made partnerships with the Colombian leftist militia Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and his successor Nicolás Maduro continued the process, promoting officials to high-ranking positions after they were accused of drug trafficking.[31]

Other alleged cases[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ (calque of Turkish: derin devlet)
    "deep state". Dictionary.
  2. ^ Byford, Jovan (2011). Conspiracy theories: a critical introduction. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 9780230349216. OCLC 802867724.
  3. ^ Rebecca Ingber, "The 'Deep State' Myth and the Real Executive Branch Bureaucracy"; Rebecca Ingber, Bureaucratic Resistance and the Deep State Myth
  4. ^ Filkins, Dexter (12 March 2012). "The Deep State" (PDF). The New Yorker. Retrieved 31 December 2018.
  5. ^ ""Kontrgerilla", "Gladio", "Derin Devlet" gibi kavramlar hakkında" (Press release) (in Turkish). Turkish Armed Forces. 2006-01-16. BA-01/06. Archived from the original on 2008-03-08.
  6. ^ Michaels, Jon D. (March 2018). "The American Deep State". Notre Dame Law Review. 93 (4): 1653–1670 – via HeinOnline.
  7. ^ Skowronek, Stephen; Dearborn, John A. & King, Desmond (2021). Phantoms of a Beleaguered Republic: The Deep State and the Unitary Executive. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-754308-5.
  8. ^ Julia Ioffe (24 July 2015). "Putin Is Down With Polygamy". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 28 January 2016.
  9. ^ Abdul-Azim Ahmed. "What is the Deep State? | On Religion – The UK's first magazine about faith, religion and society". Archived from the original on 2017-04-27. Retrieved 2014-09-14.
  10. ^ "Netanyahu: 'Deep State' Controls Israel, There's No Democracy Here". Retrieved 11 November 2020.
  11. ^ "BBC on this day – 26 – 1981: Italy in crisis as cabinet resigns". 1981-05-26. Retrieved 9 April 2017.
  12. ^ Dino P. Arrigo, Fratelli d'Italia. Cronache, storie, riti e personaggi (per capire la Massoneria), Soveria Mannelli, Rubbettino, 1994, p. 45.
  13. ^ Willan, Puppetmasters, p. 50.
  14. ^ a b Worth, Robert F. (2016). A Rage for Order: The Middle East in Turmoil, from Tahrir Square to ISIS. Pan Macmillan. pp. 82, 139. ISBN 9780374710712. Retrieved 31 July 2016.
  15. ^ a b Roberts, Hugh (16 July 2015). "The Hijackers [book review]". London Review of Books. 37 (14). Retrieved 7 August 2016.
  16. ^ "'Allah, army and America': How Pakistan's Khan played anti-U.S. card". Nikkei Asia.
  17. ^ "The shadow of the deep state". DAWN.COM. 24 May 2022.
  18. ^ "Understanding Pakistan's 'deep state' and its threat to world". Retrieved 21 November 2021.
  19. ^ Husain Haqqani. "Deep State, Deeper Problems: Pakistan". Hudson Institute. Retrieved 11 July 2018.
  20. ^ Jaffrelot, Christophe (2015). The Pakistan Paradox: Instability and Resilience. Oxford University Press. p. 586. ISBN 978-0-19-023518-5. The civil-military establishment ruled Supreme for 60 years - from 1947 to 2007 - by crushing or betraying social movements and preventing the development of society.
  21. ^ Gingeras, Ryan (Summer 2011). "In the Hunt for the "Sultans of Smack:" Dope, Gangsters and the Construction of the Turkish Deep State". Middle East Journal. 65 (3): 427. doi:10.3751/65.3.14. JSTOR 23012173. PMID 22081838. S2CID 36893626.
  22. ^ Filkins, Dexter (12 March 2012). "Letter from Turkey. The Deep State". New Yorker. Retrieved 7 August 2016.
  23. ^ Khan, Shehab (6 February 2018). "David Cameron's former director of strategy says Tony Blair warned him about a 'deep state' conspiracy". The Independent. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  24. ^ "Liz Truss questioned on 'deep state' comments". BBC News. Retrieved 2024-03-28.
  25. ^
  26. ^ a b c Taub, Amanda; Fisher, Max (February 16, 2017). "As Leaks Multiply, Fears of a 'Deep State' in America". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-11-15.
  27. ^ Abramson, Alana (March 8, 2017). "President Trump's Allies Keep Talking About the 'Deep State'. What's That?". Time. 'This is a dark conspiratorial view that is being pushed by [top Trump strategist] Steve Bannon, his allies at Breitbart and some others in the conservative movement that is trying to delegitimize the opposition to Trump in many quarters and pass the blame to others,' said David Gergen.
  28. ^ Schindler, John R. (February 22, 2017). "Rebellion Brews in Washington – But American 'Deep State' Is Only a Myth". The New York Observer. Retrieved June 13, 2018.
  29. ^ O'Mara, Margaret (October 26, 2019). "The 'Deep State' Exists to Battle People Like Trump". The New York Times.
  30. ^ Rebecca Ingber, Bureaucratic Resistance and the National Security State, at; Jack Goldsmith, The Deep State is Real, at
  31. ^ Venezuela: A Mafia State?. Medellín, Colombia: InSight Crime. 2018. pp. 3–84.
  32. ^ "The Yakuza's Ties to the Japanese Right Wing". Vice Today.
  33. ^ Grabianowski, Ed (19 July 2007). "Yakuza and Politics – How the Yakuza Works". howstuffworks.
  34. ^ Archived copy Archived 13 March 2017 at the Wayback Machine
  35. ^ Latif Khan, Furkan (3 May 2019). "The Powerful Group Shaping The Rise Of Hindu Nationalism In India". National Public Radio.
  36. ^ George, Varghese K. (13 June 2020). "The RSS and the making of the Deep Nation' review: The ambiguity of the RSS and its complex worldview". The Hindu.
  37. ^ Indonesian Military May Threaten Political Unity, BP Gas Investment 19 April 2002, accessed 11 November 2020
  38. ^ Military spat a sign of things to come for bilateral relationship? 30 January 2017, accessed 11 November 2020
  39. ^ Tim Mawar promotions slammed by families 30 September 2020, accessed 11 November 2020
  40. ^ "The Iranian Deep State: Understanding The Politics Of Transition In The Islamic Republic". Hoover Institution. Retrieved 2022-03-31.
  41. ^ "They'll Get You No Matter What": Morocco's Playbook to Crush Dissent (Report). Human Rights Watch. 2022-07-28. Retrieved 2022-08-08. In some respects, the term [Makhzen] could be analogous to "the deep state" as the term is applied to some segments of the governing authorities in other countries.
  42. ^ Lamzouwaq, Saad Eddine (2013-10-13). "Morocco's New Government: "The Makhzen" is Running the Show". Morocco World News. Retrieved 2022-08-08.
  43. ^ Who Controls Pakistan's Powerful ISI?, Radio Free Europe, August 14, 2008
  44. ^ "Pakistan's shadowy secret service, the ISI". BBC News. 3 May 2011.
  45. ^ "Ex CIA director sees Serbs as masters of "deep state"". B92. 13 February 2018. Retrieved 20 April 2019.
  46. ^ Carla Del Ponte/Serge Brammertz (10 July 2008). "The Prosecutor vs. Jovica Stanišić & Franko Simatović - Third Amended Indictment" (PDF). International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. Retrieved 28 December 2010.
  47. ^ "Antiterrorist Liberation Groups Spanish paramilitary organization Alternative Titles: GAL, Grupos Antiteroristas de Liberación". Retrieved 23 May 2021.
  48. ^ Thailand's Deep State, Royal Power and the Constitutional Court 1997-2015 29 February 2016, accessed 11 November 2020
  49. ^ "The City: A state within a state". BBC News. 2011-11-04. Retrieved 9 April 2017.