The state as Ouroboros?

The CIA does, and has done, many things: manipulate foreign governments, overthrow regimes the rulers of the U.S. don’t like, kidnap people, torture people & assassinate people.

You know, the usual.

It also spies on the US congress, a prospect that supposedly has Dianne Feinstein *furious*, as she’s claiming the example of it to go public recently — in this case, their breaking into computers used by the Senate Intelligence Committee during their toothless “investigation” of the CIA’s torture program (if you think anyone is getting prosecuted for that, you’re on another planet) — is a violation of the 4th Amendment. It is clear just how rich such a charge is while everyone from the NSA (with the aid of the same tech companies that feigned disgust and surprise when their complicity in mass surveillance was revealed, remember) to the FBI to even local cops regularly make a mockery of the very concept of there being any real “check” on surveillance, that much is obvious. Feinstein and anyone else among the spy state’s cheerleaders crying foul are just crying over poked privilege, their suffering just a taste of the hell they regularly unleash on us all rendered that much more bitter by them not being The Little People for whom there are no rights, only orders. That entire cast of characters can erupt in a fireball for all I care.

Lately when I have had time to think about the way the world has been going — that is, when I haven’t been preoccupied with my own condition in a collapsing economy — I’ve found myself asking a lot about the motivations of those ruining it all at various levels. I don’t claim to have reached very deeply, but on this latest absurdity I’m having a spark of sorts. Consider how dL has described the state as its own agency, as an entity that contrary to the gruel of “representation” we are fed growing up has interests of its own and acts to fulfill them: here we have, at least in public, what at first looks like a divergence between arms of the state, a conflict between the Senate and the CIA.

The CIA’s stance thus far is a claim that the Senate obtained documents they were not supposed to actually have and they are trying to figure out how they got there (insinuation of an internal leaker, basically). With what the role of the Intelligence Committee is supposed to be on paper, this claim outs it as mere theater with the slightest application of logic: if they are to operate as a check on the actions of the intelligence & surveillance arm of the state, then how can anything pertaining to them be rightfully withheld? Either they’re to watch them, meaning they get everything, or they’re decoration, period.  Keeping that in mind, recall that there is a reason the theatrical aspects of politics occur beyond mere ego, and ask what the incentive here could be. Suppose the CIA saw what they thought was a risk to the overall power structure in the form of those stray documents, fearing someone may liberate them from those computers and thus route around the network damage that is bureaucracy & unconcerned elites?  They may indeed see themselves as an inverted check of sorts, a check for upholding power rather than countering or balancing it, and act for what they interpret as the good of the whole system. Meanwhile, the reaction of their “victims” (HAH!) in the Senate serves to redirect attention on the issue of surveillance to Them Poor Old Politicians rather than a pervasive global dragnet in the service of empire abroad and stifling of dissent at home. People see this playing out, next hear about some minor cosmetic reform, and breathe a sigh of relief, all the while nothing changes.

Maybe we’re not thinking off the wall enough when it comes to rhetorical comparison of the state. Not snake, not octopus, nor dragon, but perhaps a mad scientist hybrid of an octopus and some form of the big jungle cats: the fanged cephalopod is not eating itself, but merely grooming.


About b-psycho

Left-libertarian blogger & occasional musician.
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4 Responses to The state as Ouroboros?

  1. Todd S says:

    Came across something the other day called Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy. Government as a whole is a clear example of it, and I’ve been seeing it in just about every organization I can think of. Reading up on the guy, I find his politics a bit helter-skelter but I feel he hit the nail on the head with that one. The CIA clearly fits in with the “law”.

  2. B Psycho says:

    I’ve heard of the Iron Law, makes sense really.

  3. Jay says:

    The law specifically allows people who have security clearances to give (“leak”) information to the intelligence committees of Congress. I think that law was written because of Watergate and Vietnam-era abuses. That’s what you’re supposed to do when you think a secret program has overstepped- you bring it to the attention of the lawful authorities.

  4. B Psycho says:

    If indeed that is what’s occurred here, and then the same organization the alleged leaker is part of just withdraws the documents right back, what next?

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