Friday, February 17, 2017

"Deep State" and ICE

The NYTimes has two articles today:
  • in one, they discuss the concept of the "deep state" (i.e., the various institutions of the government, sometimes found in opposition to the ruler, as in today's Egypt) and whether it applies to the case of Trump and the US government.  They conclude there's dangers there.
  • in the other, Linda Greenhouse, former Supreme Court reporter for the Times, discusses the ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) union and its support of Trump, possibly leading to pushing the envelope on immigration raids.
Put them together and they reveal a truth about the US government not mentioned in either: it's a big complicated mess, not a monolith with one aim.  The bureaucrats in one agency do not agree with the bureaucrats in another agency.  The bureaucrats in EPA no doubt trend liberal, green types; the bureaucrats in ICE no doubt trend conservative, law and order types. Both are capable of dragging their feet and leaking like a sieve; both are equally capable of being eager beaver apple polishers over anxious to do what they believe the boss wants, even if she doesn't say so.

Back in the day liberals worried about the bureaucrats in the FBI and the CIA, fearing J. Edgar's secret files and attempts to blackmail.  Before the election the media (probably the Times) ran backgrounders on Comey's decisions on the Clinton emails--the theme was that Comey was being pushed from below to go hard on Clinton and was afraid of leaks if he didn't stay ahead of his field agents.  Now it seems likely that some of the leaks being reported about the Russian contacts are from FBI bureaucrats, whether the field agents or supervisors. 

We shouldn't oversimplify is what I'm saying.  Within agencies there are different cultures and perspectives, and within different cultures there are different personalities.  Combine those differences with a given political situation, put people in the command chain, and you've an unpredictable mess.  Although sometimes it's not hard to predict: tell the CEA staff to cook the books when making up the President's budget and someone may leak to the Wall Street Journal, and Matt Yglesias write about it in Vox.

[Updated--see this New Yorker piece on the Border Patrol's relationship with anti-immigrant groups.}

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