In the United States, the term “deep state” is used in political messaging to describe collusion and cronyism that exists within the political system. Some analysts believe that there is “a hybrid association of elements of government and parts of top-level finance and industry that is effectively able to govern the United States without reference to the consent of the governed as expressed through the formal political process, whereas others consider the deep state to encompass corruption that is particularly prevalent amongst career politicians and civil servants”.
The term was originally coined in a somewhat pejorative sense to refer to similar relatively invisible state apparatus in Turkey “composed of high-level elements within the intelligence services, military, security, judiciary, and organized crime” and similar networks in other countries including Egypt, Ukraine, Spain, Colombia, Italy, and Israel, and many others. With respect to the United States, the concept has been discussed in numerous published works by Marc Ambinder, David W. Brown, Jerome Corsi, Peter Dale Scott, Mike Lofgren, Kevin Shipp, Michael Tomasky and Michael Wolff. Allegedly, per George Friedman, the Deep State has been in place since 1871 and continues beneath the federal government, controlling and frequently reshaping policies. Reportedly, the entity, called the U.S. civil service, was created to limit the power of the president. Prior to 1871, the president could select federal employees, all of whom served at the pleasure of the president. This is no longer true.
While definitions vary, the term gained popularity among various political groups who are concerned about government transparency. Following the disclosure of documents released by WikiLeaks, the term was widely adopted among many voters who alleged that the information points to a deep-state conspiracy that seeks to delegitimize democracy and the policy goals of the people.
The term “deep state” has been associated with the “military–industrial complex” by several of the authors on the subject. Potential risks from the military–industrial complex were raised in President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s 1961 farewell address: “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.” Stephen F. Cohen in his book War with Russia? (released November 27, 2018), claims that “At least one U.S.–Soviet summit seems to have been sabotaged. The third Eisenhower–Khrushchev meeting, scheduled for Paris in 1960, was aborted by the Soviet shoot-down of a US U-2 spy plane sent, some think, by ‘deep state’ foes of detente.”
According to a poll of Americans in April 2017, about half (48%) thought there was a “deep state” (meaning “military, intelligence and government officials who try to secretly manipulate government”), while about a third (35%) of all participants thought it was a conspiracy theory and the remainder (17%) had no opinion. Of those who believe a “deep state” exists, more than half (58%) said it was a major problem, a net of 28% of those surveyed.
A March 2018 poll found most respondents (63%) were unfamiliar with the term “deep state”, but a majority believe that a deep state likely exists in the United States when described as “a group of unelected government and military officials who secretly manipulate or direct national policy”. Three-fourths (74%) of the respondents say that they believe this type of group definitely (27%) or probably (47%) exists in the federal government.