Examples of the Deep State: What It Is in Simple Terms

If you’ve been following politics since President Trump’s election in 2016, you’re probably familiar with some of his frequently used words. “Fake news” is a term you'll hear him use a lot and “Deep state” is another.

Neither of these terms is newly coined by the billionaire businessman, in fact, they’ve been around for quite some time. However, the deepening of divisions within the country after his election has brought these phrases back to life. Let’s explore apparent examples of the deep state's activities and form our own opinions.

Deep state conspiracy Deep state conspiracy

What Does Deep State Mean?

What exactly does deep state mean? The deep state, also referred to as a state within a state, is defined as: a network of civil servants, military, intelligence, and/or other administrative agencies within a government working to pursue their own agenda, which may be contrary to that of the electorate and their duly elected officials. The term originated in Turkey and has been used to refer to similar authoritarian regimes around the world.

Most recently, in the US, the term has been characterized by an alleged conspiracy to tilt the 2016 election towards Hillary Clinton, de-legitimize the Trump presidency and impede the policy goals of the administration. The website, Government Executive, defined it in this way:

As the Trump era has unfolded, the term “deep state” has come to mean something sinister... More than just signifying an impersonal, inept bureaucracy, it conjures a secretive illuminati of bureaucrats determined to sabotage the Trump agenda.

While the term deep state as we know it is fairly recent, the concept certainly isn’t. A behind-the-scenes community of power-hungry cohorts has been alluded to by other US presidents. In 1912, President Theodore Roosevelt warned:

Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people.

Then, in 1961, President Dwight D Eisenhower warned:

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

A Conspiratorial Term

As unsettling as this all sounds, the deep state may not be everything it's claimed to be. As Nancy McEldowney, former director of the Foreign Service Institute, noted:

Deep state is both inaccurate and grossly misleading. The term originated in the context of analyzing the situations in Turkey and Egypt, where I served, usually to talk about propaganda, dirty tricks, and even violence to overthrow the government. To refer to career civil servants in the U.S. government as some form of deep state is a clear attempt to delegitimize voices of disagreement. Even worse, it carries with it the potential for fear-baiting and rumor-mongering, and is really a dark conspiratorial term that does not correspond to reality.

You can see why many struggle to make heads or tails of the deep state. While there's no denying such a clandestine network exists in several dictatorial regimes, in the US it's very different. Is it real or not? A former director of the Foreign Service Institute equates it to fear-mongering, while an anonymous source within the White House stands up and declares it as truth. Which is it?


Examples of the Deep State in the United States

In the US, the deep state might be described as a group of plotting civil servants with a secret - malevolent - agenda, that exists in various departments and across all political parties. Let’s look at a few examples where a charge of deep state malevolence has been leveled against another person or persons.

The Steele Dossier

Perhaps one of the tightest bonds to the deep state is a matter pertaining to Russian collusion. This phrase has been splashed about the headlines since Trump threw his hat in the ring for political office. He was accused of having colluded with the Russians to win the 2016 election.

While Trump himself hasn’t been indicted as of late 2018, several of his campaign staff have been. This makes Trump point fingers at the deep state, insinuating a group of politically-charged individuals is conjuring up false accusations against him.

Members of what Trump would consider the deep state also fling about the term “Russian dossier.” In an attempt to prove this wasn’t a politically charged motive, an agency called Fusion GPS was hired to compile the dossier. Former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele headed up the Fusion GPS team which is why, today, the dossier is referred to as the Steele Dossier.

The dossier contains opposition research that was supposed to uncover suspected ties with the Russians. What it does prove is that the Russians attempted to help Trump win the election and the Trump administration knew more than they publicly admitted. Aside from these facts, no other assertions have been verified.

Even though it sounds like the dossier had shaky legs, it actually helped the Justice Department secure a FISA warrant to wiretap former Trump adviser Carter Page and dig out any evidence of Russian collusion.


NSA Surveillance

In 2013, former CIA employee Edward Snowden leaked several classified documents from the National Security Agency (NSA) to three different journalists. The documents proved that the NSA was conducting global surveillance programs in cooperation with telecommunication companies and European governments. They revealed other harrowing details such the government’s ability to access Americans’ Google accounts and Verizon phone records.

Some called Snowden a traitor; some called him a hero. However, his case demonstrates how quickly the deep state reacted when he leaked intelligence secrets. At present, Snowden lives in exile in Russia. His information, however, is another confirmation of the deep state’s existence. And it doesn’t just pertain to bureaucrats; it also lives in the intelligence community.

Republicans Against Republicans

Two notable officials in the supposed crusade against Trump are Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and former FBI Director James Comey. What’s interesting about them is that they were registered Republicans at the time of their alleged deep state affairs.

Rosenstein led special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election, of which no impeachable offense has come to light. Still, Rosenstein claimed he’d like to use the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office following Trump’s dismissal of FBI Director James Comey.

Meanwhile, Comey was fired for his mishandling of the damning e-mails that were sent by Hillary Clinton during her tenure as Secretary of State. She and her team set up a private server in her home - in lieu of secure government servers - to correspond on matters of national security from her official State Department account.


Vows to Thwart the President’s Agenda

In September 2018, an anonymous op-ed was published by The New York Times. In it, the public read the following two lines: “I am part of the resistance inside the Trump administration. I work for the president but like-minded colleagues and I have vowed to thwart parts of his agenda…” Such an op-ed makes it hard to refute the existence of a band of secretive bureaucrats determined to sabotage the Trump agenda.

Examples of the Deep State Abroad

To no surprise, the United States isn’t the only country that suffers from insidious governmental affairs. Turkey is largely credited as the originator of this term, but Egypt and Pakistan are no strangers to this bipartisan activity either.


In the summer of 2013, Egypt managed a coup d’etat that overthrew President Mohamed Morsi. Throughout his “reign,” the Egyptians suffered numerous blackouts, an absence of foreign investments, and a near depletion of all their fuel sources.

In a country that uses cars as its primary means of transportation, an absence of fuel could’ve turned the whole country upside down. One week after the coup, gasoline suddenly became readily available again. Journalists all over the world immediately began to hint at a deep state conspiracy, led by bureaucrats, intelligence officers, and military officials.


As McEldowney notes, no country may be more subject to the pangs of a deep state than Turkey. And its history has, perhaps, the deepest roots. In fact, the term deep state (derin devlet) originated in Turkey.

Even before the fall of the Ottoman Empire, we can trace deep state activities back to Sultan Selim III’s reign from 1789 to 1807. Selim was referred to as “Selim the Grim.” In his eight-year reign, he was responsible for the execution of over 30,000 people. He also went through seven grand viziers in his time. As a man with many enemies, it’s said Selim appointed a secret committee for protection. Even his second-in-command didn't know about it.

After the fall, Turkish field marshall Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was embedded in several secret societies that were designed to further the republican cause. The Sentinel Association is one example of these societies. Many assert that these societies propel the deep state into further existence.

Interestingly, in November 1996, a truck struck a Mercedes-Benz transporting Istanbul’s deputy chief of police, a member of parliament, a well-known hitman, and the hitman’s girlfriend. Only a right-wing member of parliament, Sedat Bucak, survived.

Nearly everyone in Turkey - and across the globe - conceded to the existence of a deep state after the crash. Why else would such a juxtaposed group of people be traveling together? There you had a Turkish legislator, a senior member of the police force, and a pay-for-hire murderer gathering together.

The website Foreign Policy sums it up succinctly:

Instead, Egyptians and Turks live in a political system where capriciousness, brutality, and corruption have become norms. It is no wonder that people have come to believe in the existence of a deep state.

That is Egypt and Turkey, though, countries where journalists are routinely jailed, opponents of the government are imprisoned, security forces politicized, parliaments are pliant, and the news is another name for an elaborate information campaign waged under the auspices of presidential palaces.



In Pakistan, the deep state is believed to be responsible for the breakage of numerous political alliances, including the Pakistan National Alliance of 1977 and Islami Jamhori Ithehad of 1988. A deep-rooted mistrust exists between civilians and the military, and the deep state is cited as the force that interferes with a healthy democracy.

Propaganda is a major tool used by the Pakistani deep state. The ideology of Pakistan’s founding father, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, was wiped from existence through propaganda.

Also, a woman named Fatima Jinnah stood up and challenged the deep state and was immediately labeled a traitor to her country. The deep state hides behind a desire to protect religion but, like any other deep state activity, it’s usually rooted in a desire for power.

Is There a Deep State?

What do you think? Does the deep state exist? Is this merely the result of widespread paranoia as bureaucrats walk through the hallways of democracy with a dagger in their back? Or are various factions of high-ranking officials calculating nefarious affairs to undermine a standing administration?

We’ll leave it up to you. Leave your thoughts in the comments section below!