Shadow Government: Neither Secret Nor Invisible

national security and double governmentNational Security and Double Government

by Michael J Glennon (2014)

Available as free PDF:

National Security and Double Government is a lengthy article about the highly visible national security bureaucracy that presently runs the US government. The author, Michael J Glennon, is Professor of International Law at the Tufts University Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Glennon disputes the claim by conspiracy theorists that a secret shadow government is attempting to overthrow constitutional democracy. In his view, the deep state is simply a vast, self-serving bureaucracy of technocrats – forty-six (as of 2011) federal departments and agencies engaged in intelligence gathering and analysis, military aggression, cyber operations and weapons development.

Glennon’s description of how the deep state operates, which strikes me as depressingly accurate, shatters any lingering illusions about reforming the US government. It can only be dismantled.

In essence, the real work of the US government is controlled by several hundred officials who run the national security bureaucracy. Removed from public view and the constitutional restrictions that restrain the President, Congress and the judiciary, they make most of the key decisions concerning foreign policy and national security. Although their budget is classified, Glennon estimates it engages millions of employees at an annual cost of $1 trillion.

The “Trumanite” Arm of Government

Glennon calls them the “Trumanite” arm of government because President Harry S Truman created the US national security apparatus. Under Truman, Congress enacted the National Security Act of 1947, which unified the military under a new Secretary of Defense, set up the CIA, created the modern Joint Chiefs of Staff, and established the National Security Council (“NSC”). Truman also set up the National Security Agency (NSA) to monitor  communications abroad. Truman’s vision was to create a civilian infrastructure strong enough to address the Soviet threat and rein in an errant military.

Both the Trumanite arm and the constitutional arm work really hard to maintain the fiction that the President is commander-in-chief. The reality is that the president only has the power to appoint 3,000-4,000 of the millions of federal employees nominally under his control. This means the Trumanite bureaucracy continues to operate pretty much under its own steam no matter which party is in office.

As Glennon describes it,

“President Obama could give an order wholly reversing U.S. national security policy, but he would not, because the likely adverse consequences would be prohibitive. Put differently, the question whether the President could institute a complete about-face supposes a top-down policy-making model. The illusion that presidents issue orders and that subordinates simply carry them out is nurtured in the public imagination by media reports of ‘Obama’s’ policies or decisions or initiatives, by the President’s own frequent references to “my” directives or personnel . . . But true top-down decisions that order fundamental policy shifts are rare.

The reality is that when the President issues an “order” to the Trumanites, the Trumanites themselves normally formulate the order. The Trumanites cannot be thought of as men who are merely doing their duty. They are the ones who determine their duty, as well as the duties of those beneath them. They are not merely following orders: they give the orders. They do that by ‘entangling’ the President… To avoid looking like a bystander or mere commentator, the President embraces these Trumanite policies, as does Congress, with the pretense that they are their own.’

Obama Forced to Agree to Drone Policy

As an example, Glennon quotes Vali Nasr’s* description of how the national security network strong armed Obama into expanding his drone policy:

When it came to drones there were four formidable unanimous voices in the Situation Room: the CIA, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Pentagon, and the White House’s counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan.”

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a holdover from the Bush administration, also strongly supported an increase in drone strikes. All five also suppressed any debate in national security meetings of the broader implications of this policy.

According to Nassr, it was the classic Henry Kissinger model: “You have three options, two of which are ridiculous, so you accept the one in the middle.”

Obama openly complained about the Trumanites only given him one option: “The military was “really cooking the thing in the direction that they wanted. They are not going to give me a choice.”

Obama Also Opposed Increasing Troop Levels in Afghanistan

Obama’s 2009 proposal to lower the military’s proposed troop levels in Afghanistan ran into the same unified opposition. According to Glennon, the Commander of U.S. and International Security Assistance Forces (“ISAF”) in Afghanistan (General Stanley McChrystal), the Commander of U.S. Central Command (General David Petraeus), the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Admiral Michael Mullen), and even Secretary of Defense Gates all threatened to resign over it.

As Glennon observes,

“No president has reserves deep enough to support a frontal assault on the National Security network. Under the best of circumstances, he can only attack its policies one by one, in flanking actions, and even then with no certainty of victory. Like other presidents in similar situations, Obama thus had little choice but to accede to the Pentagon’s longstanding requests for more troops” in Afghanistan.”

Clinton’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” Fiasco

He reminds us of the uproar in the military and Congress when President Bill Clinton moved to end only one national security policy shortly after taking office—the ban on gays in the military. Forced to backtrack, Clinton ultimately enacted his “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

Glennon goes on to explore similar paralysis the President and Congress are experiencing in attempting to curtail spying by the NSA.

The final section of the article reviews possible options for reform and concludes the national security bureaucracy is too powerful (and has too much control over the media) to be reformed by constitutional means. Glennon believes that the only option for change is a bottom-up mobilization by the American people.

*Vali Nasr is dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. David E Sanger quotes him in Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and Secret Use of American Power.

13 thoughts on “Shadow Government: Neither Secret Nor Invisible

  1. Thanks for posting this article.

    Interestingly, the “law” professor seems to not be aware that our elections are now a completely unconstitutional sham and that the rights which once upon a time put the power to enforce the law and secure liberty and justice into the hands of the people have been stolen.

    I’m going to read it anyway.


    Date: Wed, 4 Mar 2015 23:03:07 +0000 To:


    • According to my reading of the book, he seems to believe that the national security bureaucracy has become so entrenched it wouldn’t make any difference if we had real elections. The constitutional arm of government has no real power to overrule national security decisions.


      • My reading agrees with you. He writes of a slow creep from “group think” as an organic growth toward tighter centralized power not into the police state, rather into a authoritarian regime.


  2. Its hard to get once head around such a large cabal but if there spending over 2 billion dollars a day on there march to David Rockefeller one World Order it makes sence


    • I’m not sure if cabal is the right word. The book makes it sound like a garden variety bureaucracy – by nature bureaucracies are incredibly self-serving and tend to become entrenched and difficult to dislodge.


      • While he does not name them the “cabal”, he does talk about “power elites” with their common world view. Which is effectively the same thing, though they may not meet formally as “the Cabal”, and yet still meet to maintain a permanent war economy and dehumanizing actions directed at outsiders or what he terms as out-groups. That powerful influence can over run the laws with approvals and obedience that are counter to the laws and liberty of others, yet follows the norms of the group.
        That is close enough to the cabal as the results are similar…

        This is a challenge among officials and academics, a nuanced terminology becomes a major debate and a divide where actually it is of little value.
        The central challenge is this:
        All forms of Government – “must first enable the government to control the governed”…
        Please emphasize CONTROL the People.
        I often say If you do not govern yourself someone else will.

        The education has morphed into indoctrination that instills obedience to state and the state has permanently armed itself against their citizens and other foreign states.
        Academics and institutions are not promoting nor nurturing the personal skills, awareness, information and abilities for citizens to become fully capable self governing adults. If so then governments would not be needed and social norms would be very different for the better.
        Indeed some people can not imagine life without institutional governance.
        Thus governments will eventually do what they have always done, concentrate power, and restrict personal sovereignty.
        The labels and terminology matters not when coercion, killing and stealing with impunity becomes the actions of the state.


  3. I’m glad we have the same general agreement of what Glennon’s trying to say. I was really disappointed that he didn’t focus more on the influence of powerful corporations over this bureaucracy. The defense industry faced a massive potential hit when the Cold War ended. Reportedly they went bezerk when the Clinton administration told them they had to tighten their belts. At this point, I’m sure there was lots of collusion between defense contractors and the national security bureaucracy to fabricate new threats in the Balkans and the Middle East.


    • Corporate chartered/funded institutional hierarchies:

      From the first page I faced disappointment because most likely his writing was aimed at those in government or those circles of donors and academia that have a moral compass with a consciousness that can be moved to stop supporting the beast and its two party arms.
      I hope that is true, if so, then a third political party movement will be funded by that type of group-think…

      {Even with its political victory it will fail, because it is the same disease in a milder form.}
      I do not agree with Glennon’s premise (iconic personalities such as Gerald Celente I think share Glennon’s flawed premise of the lost “American Dream”) that the transition of government and its shadow was natural and only organic. Catherine A. Fitts even documents how elected politicians intentionally deceive, make false campaign promises to the public, and reward the shadow agreements with their true constituents that funded their political career.
      I consider the American experiment a battle with elite dark cabals from the very founding of Jamestown and the other colonies…

      That largely hidden battle is why the current state exists. The Pilgrims, their offsprings, and subsequent immigrants carried a unresolved disease.
      Couple that with the generations of corporate charters from the aristocracy in Europe that also never ceased from the earliest Spanish galleon ships then from the open flood gates of the other European commercial interests.

      A DARK documentary is shared by Charles Savoie, where the reader can begin to glimpse the deeper hidden dark disease from the wealthy and influential shadows:

      “The mysterious, super-elite Pilgrim Society.”

      It goes even further and the roots have branches:
      – The Babylon Banksters’ Money Trail from ancient Sumeria to present day BRICS/G20 international monetary system –


  4. People really seem to be waking up in New Zealand. People are lots more active in local government and yesterday tens of thousands of people marched in the National Day of Action against the Transpacific Partnership.


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