After World War II, with the Soviet Union a serious threat from abroad and a growing domestic concern about weakened civilian control over the military, President Truman set out to create a separate security structure.
"National Security and Double Government" by Michael J. Glennon
(Oxford University Press)
October 18, 2014
By Mickey Edwards (Globe Correspondent)
It has long been the province of conspiracy theorists to claim that the real power of government is not wielded by the obvious practitioners of statecraft --- presidents, members of Congress, the judiciary --- but by secret or semi-secret entities, real wizards whose hidden machinations send us to war, sell us out to enemies, siphon public treasure into private hands.
Depending on your talk show or paranoia of choice, these are the bankers, oil-barons, one-worlders, war profiteers, Bilderbergers, Masons, Catholics, Jews, or Trilateralists.
Our formal institutions, in this scenario, are stage sets, Potemkin villages; our officials are puppets, we are an unsuspecting audience.
Michael Glennnon, a respected academic, is hardly the sort to engage in such fantasies.
And that makes the picture he paints in "National Security and Double Government" all the more arresting.
Considering Barack Obama's harsh pre-election criticisms of his predecessor's surveillance policies, for example, Glennon notes that many of those same policies -- and more of the same kind -- were continued after Obama took office.
"Why," he asks, "does national security policy remain constant even when one President is replaced by another, who as a candidate repeatedly, forcefully and eloquently promised fundamental changes in that policy?"
The answer Glennon places before us is not reassuring: "a bifurcated system -- a structure of double government -- in which the President now exercises little substantive control over the overall direction of US national security policy."
The result, he writes, is a system of dual institutions that have evolved "toward greater centralization, less accountability, and emergent autocracy."
If this were a movie, it would soon become clear that some evil force, bent on consolidating power and undermining democratic governance, has surreptitiously tunneled into the under-structure of the nation.
In fact, Glennon observes, this hyper-secret and difficult-to-control network arose in part as an attempt to head off such an outcome.
In the aftermath of World War II, with the Soviet Union a serious threat from abroad and a growing domestic concern about weakened civilian control over the military
(in 1949, the Hoover Commission had warned that the Joint Chiefs of Staff had become "virtually a law unto themselves"), President Truman set out to create a separate national security structure.
By 2011, according to the Washington Post, there were 46 separate federal departments and agencies and 2,000 private companies engaged in classified national security operations with millions of employees and spending roughly a trillion dollars a year.
As Glennon points out, presidents get to name fewer than 250 political appointees among the Defense Department's nearly 700,000 civilian employees, with hundreds more drawn from a national security bureaucracy that comprise "America's Trumanite network" -- in effect, on matters of national security, a second government.
"National Security and Double Government" by Michael Glennon...Boston Globe review by Mickey Edwards, Globe Correspondent, October 18, 2014
Michael Glennon is a Professor of Internationale Law at Tuft's University, and was Legal Council to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.