Deep Politics: Some Further Thoughts

by Peter Dale Scott, Ph.D.


The reactions to Deep Politics since its publication in 1993 have been predictably mixed. Most heartening to me is the unsolicited response of a prominent Canadian social scientist, David MacGregor, who intends to write a deep political analysis of Marx and Hegel. I myself have contemplated a series of deep political historical studies; I have long wished, for example, to consider the powerful message of Augustine's Confessions in the light of those close to him who worried for the survival of Roman society under a declining state. Some of these (Ponticianus, Evodius) were or had been agentes in rebus -- members of the secret police which had effectively supplanted Rome's surface institutions, much like the KBG in Russia, and other such institutions in other contemporary nations.

The key to understanding this book is the distinction I propose between traditional conspiracy theory, looking at conscious secret collaborations toward shared ends, and deep political analysis, defined on page 7 as the study of "all those political practices and arrange- ments, deliberate or not, which are usually repressed rather than acknowledged." The essence of the first is a single objective and/or control point; the second in contrast is an open system with divergent power centers and goals.

The line between the two is not always easy to draw. On pp. 7-8 I distinguished between the deep politics of New York City in the Tammany era, a working system for dividing the spoils of corruption in an ethnically divided city, and the the conscious or parapolitical stratagem by which the U.S. occupying forces, using Tammany politicians, imported U.S. mafia figures to oppose left-wing Italian and Sicilian movements. But of course by the 1980s this post-war stratagem had helped spawn a deep political system of corruption exceeding Tammany's and (as we know from the Andreotti trial of 1995), beyond anyone's ability to call it off.

Having reflected on the deep politics of other countries besides America, I would propose a second and more capacious definition from a different perspective. A deep political system or process is one which resorts to decision-making and enforcement procedures outside as well as inside those sanctioned by law and society. What makes these supplementary procedures "deep" is the fact that they are covert or suppressed, outside public awareness as well as outside sanctioned political processes.

We see deep politics in imperial and post-imperial systems which are accustomed to use criminal assets to intervene lawlessly in other societies. But it is also a feature of large scale political systems which include within them ethnic communities or regions (Sicily, Corsica, the various ghettos of New York or Miami) where the law of the outside majority is challenged by, and ultimately reaches an accommodation with, locally based gangs, triads, or mafias.1

"Deep political analysis
focuses on the usually
ignored mechanics of

Deep political analysis focuses on the usually ignored mechanics of accommodation. From the viewpoint of conventional political science, law enforcement and the underworld are opposed to each other, the former struggling to gain control of the latter. A deep political analysis notes that in practice these efforts at control lead to the use of criminal informants; and this practice, continued over a long period of time, turns informants into double agents with status within the police as well as the mob. The protection of informants and their crimes encourages favors, payoffs, and eventually systemic corruption. The phenomenon of "organized crime" arises: entire criminal structures that come to be tolerated by the police because of their usefulness in informing on lesser criminals. In time one may arrive at the kind of police-crime symbiosis familiar from Chicago, where the controlling hand may be more with the mob than with the police it has now corrupted.

It is of course no accident that such dirty realities are not usually talked about in classrooms. But the mechanics of accommodation are important, perhaps even more so in the area of political security, where security informants are first recruited, and eventually promoted to be double agents. The experience of the FBI and the Communist Party teaches us that such double agents tend to become increasingly important in the hierarchies of both the investigative agency and the party investigated. In the Vietnam anti-war movement, double agents were likely to become provocateurs, whether or not this was part of their official assignment. The greater the successful provocation, the more important the double agent to the agency to whom he reports. Truly successful double agents acquire their own agendas, distinguishable from those of their agency and possibly their party as well.

(This is a far from theoretical matter in this decade of high-tech terrorism. Time after time, from the fiascos of Oliver North's Middle Eastern ventures to the bombings of Pan Am 103 and the World Trade Center, we have seen how the tolerated crimes of double agents have proved disastrous to those who think they control them. I offer this as a timely argument against the proposed Anti-Terrorism Bill. By radically increasing the number of political informants and double agents in resentful and potentially violent groups, passage of this Bill would almost certainly aggravate the problem of double-agent terrorism.)

Speaking metaphorically, and a little over my head, I would suggest that deep political analysis enlarges traditional structuralist analysis to include indeterminacies analagous to those which are studied in chaos theory. A deep political system is one where the processes openly acknowledged are not always securely in control, precisely because of their accommodation to unsanctioned sources of violence, through arrangements not openly acknowledged and reviewed.

One cannot write of deep politics without discussing the resistance to it: resistance both to the general notion and to the topics where it is relevant, such as the Kennedy assassination. Just as in an earlier era people derived psychological comfort from the idea that the forces of our environment were controlled by benign or appeasible deities, so today we would like to think that the violence of the world we live in is subject to sovereign powers and laws.

In deep political analysis the nineteenth-century concept of centralized sovereignty is deconstructed to the point where in places it seems like little more than a comforting myth. A relevant example would be the city of Chicago. Years ago the late A.J. Liebling observed in the New Yorker how difficult it was to separate the power of the mob from the power of City Hall, and asked whether the powers of both were not a front for those private corporations who preferred endemic corruption to the enforcement of laws against themselves.2 Today, in an age of secret public powers dating back to World War II, the critical gaze of the New Yorker has been deflected from our society and its institutions, to heap scorn instead on the "fusion paranoia" of society's critics.

Deep Politics in the U.S.A. : the Kennedy Assassination and Watergate

And yet in this country there is now a JFK/ Deep Politics Quarterly , and even a Deep Politics Bookstore on the Internet. More than a million pages of new documents have been declassfied and released since Congress passed the JFK Records Act. We now have both the Lopez Report (see pp. 43-44 of my book) and even the document President Nixon was once denied, the CIA's IG Report of 1967 (see pp. 114, 116) on CIA-Mafia plots.3 Though I had some of the details wrong, the two reports confirm, and indeed enlarge, the picture I presented of CIA duplicities about Oswald in Mexico, and how CIA plots, if successful, would have guaranteed the mob a role in post-Castro Cuba.4

We now have far more documents than those seen by the authors of these two reports, together with the fruits of other researchers. So far all of my major hypotheses have been not only corroborated, but strengthened. For example:

  1. There is a continuity between the U.S.-mob collaboration in Italy after World War II and the CIA-mob plots against Castro in 1960-61 (pp. 173-77). (Max Brod, the CIA case officer for Luciano in Italy, became the CIA case officer for mafiosi in Cuba in 1960-61.)

  2. Oswald was an informant investigating certain specific Cuban exile groups backed by the mob and CIA (pp. 242-266).

  3. Elements of the CIA and the Mexican security police (DFS) played an active role in the creation of a false "legend" linking Oswald to an alleged KGB assassination expert, Valeriy Kostikov (cf. pp. 105, 123-24). (The DFS collaborated with the CIA in the telephone wiretap program against the Mexico City Soviet Embassy, which produced an intercept falsely presenting this link.)

  4. The Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, with close links to one of these groups (p. 120), threatened to present the "phase one" story that Oswald had acted as agent of an international Communist conspiracy. Citing the risk of nuclear war, Johnson used this threat to establish a Warren Commission, with its less dangerous conclusion that Oswald "acted alone."

The complexities presented by the new evidence confirm, above all, the need for deep political analysis, as opposed to conventional "conspiratorial" analysis. The Lopez report, valuable as it is, can be faulted (e.g. p. 188) for treating the Mexican security police (DFS) as a mere catspaw of the CIA. It is now clear that the DFS was both used and suspected by the Mexico City CIA station. In other words, a hidden alliance for the sake of control, which on the DFS side came to include elements from the international narcotics traffic (pp. 104-105, 142), became in the process uncontrollable...much as happened in the end to the U.S.--mob alliance in Italy (pp. 7-8).

"We now have the CIA's first post-
Watergate memo on Howard
Hunt, showing that in 1970, he had
not retired from the CIA,..."

The new releases have corroborated the claims in this book with respect to Watergate, as well as 1963. For example, we now have the CIA's first post-Watergate memo on Howard Hunt, showing that in 1970 he had not retired from the CIA, but instead had been released on covert assignment to the Mullen Agency, where he began to inflict such damage on the Nixon Administration. This gives the lie to all those yea-saying Watergate historians, from Stephen Ambrose to Stanley Kutler, who ridicule the idea of CIA involvement in Watergate, and accept the CIA's word that Hunt was a "retired" CIA employee.5 It also begins to corroborate my suggestion (pp. 304-306) that Nixons's loss of power began after he had begun to challenge the same deep power centers in this country as John F. Kennedy.

We also learn from the 1963 documents in the CIA file of Watergate burglar Bernard Barker (released as part of the CIA's JFK collection) that three of the future Watergate burglars (Barker, Frank Sturgis and Reinaldo Pico) were apparently all implicated in the CIA's information-gathering on Cuban exile Paulino Sierra, and thus (to my surprise) in what my book calls "a high-level disinformation embarrass...Bobby Kennedy" (pp. 89-90). I have not yet found documentary corroboration for the rumor that Hunt and McCord, the masterminds of the Watergate burglary "had 1963" (p. 306). But we do have a new document indicating that a CIA counterintelligence and propaganda operation against the Fair Play for Cuba Committee was in the hands of two men: McCord and Hunt's propaganda disciple, David Atlee Phillips.6

It seems more and more likely that Oswald's visit to Mexico in 1963 was part of just such a program.7 If so, this might seem to corroborate Haldeman's controversial interpretation of his "smoking gun" Watergate conversation with Helms, the conversation of June 23, 1972, which when released in 1974 proved Nixon's involvement in a cover-up, and was followed four days later by Nixon's resignation. Haldeman's speculation, endorsed recently by Mark Riebling, was that when Nixon told Haldeman to tell Helms to have the FBI cease investigating Mexico, because "the Bay of Pigs may be blown," "Nixon was actually referring to the Kennedy assassination."8

We know from a Helms memo that, despite a contrary claim by historian Stephen Ambrose, Helms did temporarily order the suspension of the FBI's investigation in Mexico of funds deposited into the bank account of Bernard Barker.9 The FBI thus called off a proposed interview in Mexico city with CIA officer George Munro.10 Why the FBI wished to interview him is far from clear. FBI Director Gray identified Munro as the CIA Station Chief, but he was a much more minor officer. All I know about him is that he was recently identified as the CIA official in charge of the electronic intercept program which allegedly overheard Lee Harvey Oswald.11

Deep Politics, the "Responsible"Media, and the Academy

In this country one must distinguish between the media, and the "responsible" media. The latter, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the major TV networks, are generally (although not always) protective of the CIA which is one of the major sources of information. Thus R.W. Apple of the Times presented the incorruptible Dick Helms as the hero of Watergate, for allegedly resisting (rather than complying with) Haldeman's efforts to have the CIA truncate the Watergate investigation. ("It would not be easy in Washington," wrote Apple in 1973, "to find anyone who knew Dick Helms and ever doubted his word." This was not long before Helms was convicted and fined for misleading Congress on yet another matter.)12

One way to distinguish between media and "responsible" media is in their reception of my book "Deep Politics." The San Francisco Chronicle called it "the most challenging book of the year"; and the Toronto Star suggested it "may well be the most thoughtful and serious-minded of the 2,500 titles on the subject."13 The New York Times , however, dismissed it in a sentence, as "stunningly opaque."14

This should surprise no one: the Times was not likely to praise an expose of its past rewritings of history (see p. 28-30). The Times has given similar short shrift to all serious studies of the Kennedy assassination.15 After all, the Times had already proclaimed Oswald the "president's assassin" in a banner headline on November 25, 1963, one day after Hoover's urgent phone call to the White House about "having something issued so we can convince the public that Oswald is the real assassin" (p. 36).16 The Times similarly slanted the available evidence in its 1964 publication of the Warren Commission Hearings.17

"In its prompt commitment to
the lone-assassin theory, the Times
was of course not alone."

In its prompt commitment to the lone-assassin theory, the Times was of course not alone. A lead role was played by Life magazine, whose purchase and locking up of the Zapruder film allowed the media to lie about it. After reports of an entrance wound in the President's throat, Life itself initially wrote, on December 6, 1963, that the "film shows the President turning his body far around to the right as he waves to someone in the crowd. His throat is exposed to the sniper's nest just before he clutches it." (Of course the film shows no such thing.)18 Shown the film on November 23, Dan Rather told the world that it shows the President's head snapped "forward with considerable violence" (rather than the exact reverse).19

One should not be too surprised at the "responsible" media's misrepresentations of the JFK assassination; by now they are protecting not only the government's but also their own misreporting. Thus the media's promotion of Posner's Case Closed should also not surprise us; such anti-conspiracy books have appeared regularly over the past thirty years, and can count on a friendly reception in the Times.

  1. I would hypothesize that the trend of the last few centuries towards larger sovereign political agglomerates has encouraged deep politics. Consider the Masonic intrigues underlying the Whigs and Tories after the union of England and Scotland, or Mazzini's unification of Italy. Are these distinguishable from the Masonic intrigues of pre-and post-Revolutionary France? To what extent can they be compared to the role of the various Triads in Kuomintang China, the Soviet Mafia in the USSR? These are deep political research problems to be explored.
  2. A.J. Liebling, Chicago; The Second City (New York: Knopf, 1952), 141-143; cf. Ovid Demaris, Captive City, 93-94.
  3. Both have been published, with prefaces by myself.
  4. See my two prefaces. The CIA memo I discuss on p. 41 was not drafted by David Phillips, as I originally speculated. The Lopez Report confirms that Angleton removed materials about Oswald from Win Scott's safe in Mexico, but not (as I first wrote o.
  5. See Stanley Kutler, The Wars of Watergate, 200-203.
  6. Newman, 240-241. The document is reproduced by Newman at p. 474; also in Open Secrets (August 1995), p. 9.
  7. Newman, 393-394.
  8. Haldeman, 34-40; Mark Riebling, Wedge, 307-08. Riebling claims that the CIA IG Report of 1967 "caused LBJ to believe that President Kennedy was killed by Castro in a 'turnaround plot'" (p. 296) No such inference can be drawn from the text of the IG Report that has been released. This text acknowledges that it is written in response to a Jack Anderson column (which raised questions about the JFK assassination), yet astonishingly it is virtually silent about the assassination of Kennedy. It is possible that more than one version of this Report was prepared by the CIA (cf. Church Committee Assassination Report).
  9. "We still adhere to the request that they [the FBI]...desist from expanding this investigation" (Helms memo of June 28, 1972; reprinted in the House Judiciary Committee, Nixon Impeachment hearings, Statement of Information, II, 459; Fred Emery [a British journalist], Watergate, 193). This memo has been published since 1974. There is thus no excuse for historian Stephen Ambrose's claim that Nixon's order to Helms "to tell the FBI to back off the Watergate investigation," was "an order the CIA refused to carry out" (Stephen E. Ambrose, "Introduction," in H.R. Haldeman, The Haldeman Diaries, 5, cf. 10n, 475).
  10. Watergate Hearings 3456.
  11. Dick Russell, The Man Who Knew Too Much, 239.
  12. R.W. Apple, "Prologue," in New York Times Staff (eds.), The Watergate Hearings: Break-in and Cover-up," 57.
  13. San Francisco Chronicle, November 18, 1993; Toronto Star, November 20, 1993.
  14. New York Times Book Review, November 21, 1993.
  15. So, until recently, did the Washington Post. It is a heartening development that in 1994 the Post finally ran a serious assassination story, suggesting (for the first time to its readers) that Oswald may have been an FBI informant (Washington Post, August 7, 1994, C6).
  16. 3 HSCA 469, 472.
  17. See discussion by Robert Hennelly and Jerry Policoff, "JFK: How the Media Assassinated the Real Story," in Village Voice, March 31, 1992; reprinted in JFK: the Book of the Film, 484-499; Hennelly and Policoff tell how a Times book review by John Leonard conceded, "Something stinks about the whole affair," and how the offending concession was promptly yanked after the early edition.
  18. Hennelly and Policoff, JFK: The Book of the Film, 489.
  19. Hennelly and Policoff, JFK: The Book of the Film, 490. By 1967 Rather had come up with a new explanation for the President's sudden movement: "Jackie pushed him." (Monte Evans, The Rather Narrative, 76). On August 10, 1973, in the midst of Watergate, Rather asked a strikingly different question: "Lee Harvey Oswald, the man who shot President Kennedy. Did he ever know or have contact with E. Howard Hunt or Gordon Liddy....?...Perhaps it isn't time to re-open the Kennedy any formal way. It may be, however, that someone, somewhere in authority is asking quietly. Investigatively, some of the tough questions about Hunt and Liddy and their Cuban contacts and whether they had at any time any contact with Oswald, Sirhan, Ray or Bremer" (Evans, p. 115). Rather may have been referring to the Senate Watergate Committee's apparent pursuit of the Roselli story of a "retaliation plot" against Kennedy. Shortly afterwards, the Committee staff interviewed Roselli's CIA cut-out. Robert Maheu (8/30/73), Roselli's lawyer, Edward P. Morgan (9/7/73), and eventually Roselli himself (2/20/74). Do not expect to read about these interviews in the standard Watergate histories.

Back to Peter Dale Scott