Rulers Without Faces: Plumbing the Depths of New Zealand’s “Deep State”


THE LEGISLATION establishing the new improved Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) with expanded powers, has cleared its final parliamentary hurdles and received the royal assent of the Governor-General, Sir Jerry Mateparae – its former Director. With a huge sigh of relief, the ghostly denizens of New Zealand’s “deep state” are gliding back to the shadows: to watch and to wait.

They will soon discover, however, that the shutters of their dark domain, forced open by Kim Dotcom’s legal team and the judgements of Justice Helen Winkelmann, have become quite difficult to close. Months of media scrutiny have directed a disinfecting sunlight upon this country’s secretive “intelligence community” – about which New Zealanders knew very little and, prior to Kim Dotcom’s botched arrest, were told even less.

The Security Intelligence Service (SIS) they had heard of. Likewise the “Waihopai Spy Base”. But the GCSB, Echelon, PRISM, X-Keystroke, the strange-sounding “Five Eyes Agreement” and the Officials Committee for Domestic and External Security Co-ordination (ODESC): these were names and acronyms unknown to all but the most determined lawyers, whistle-blowers and investigative journalists.

Because it’s not just Kim Dotcom and Justice Winkelmann that we have to thank for guidance in this secret world. It was Nicky Hager’s book, Secret Power, which first alerted the world to the Echelon system of global surveillance. And we must also thank Edward Snowden, currently of Moscow, but formerly a contract analyst for the US National Security Agency (NSA) based in Hawaii, for blowing the whistle – at exactly the right time – on the workings of not only New Zealand’s deep state, but also on the secret (many would say sinister) institutions embedded in the darkest corners of the United States and the United Kingdom.

But wait, hold up a minute! “New Zealand’s deep state”? What’s that? Surely New Zealand has only one state – whose institutions are open, responsive and accountable to every citizen?

Well, yes, that is the way that the promoters of liberal democratic theory would like us to think of the state. But, there are other ways.

In a 1955 discussion paper for the US State Department, the former US Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Morgenthau, argued that alongside the “regular state hierarchy” of the USA – the one that acknowledges the rule of law – there exists a deliberately obscure, almost hidden, “security hierarchy” that acts alongside the regular state. This secret, “security state”, wrote Morgenthau, maintains a constant watch over the regular state, and, unconstrained by the rule of law, wields sufficient power to “exert an effective veto” over its decisions.

The term “deep state” was itself formulated by Turkish political scientists to describe how the institutions out of which Kemal Ataturk constructed the modern, secular state of Turkey – most particularly its armed forces – came to regard themselves as the sole interpreters and defenders of their founding father’s political vision. Accordingly, Turkey’s generals did not hesitate to intervene with military force the moment any civilian government was deemed to be deviating from Ataturk’s prescription. Turkey’s “security hierarchy” has operated beyond the control of judges, imams and politicians ever since the 1920s. These latter may have influenced the “regular state hierarchy”, but, until very recently, they did not control the “deep” Turkish state.

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New Zealand’s deep state, like Turkeys, the USA’s and the UK’s, is comprised of those groups and individuals who cast themselves as that indispensable (and usually very small) fraction of the population truly capable of recognising, guiding and defending the “national interest”.

To get a flavour of the thinking of these sort of people, consider the following, inspired, snatch of dialogue between the Edward Wilson character (based on the infamous CIA counter-intelligence chief, James Jesus Angelton), and Joseph Palmi, a Mafioso boss, in the Hollywood spy thriller, The Good Shepherd:

Joseph Palmi: Let me ask you something … we Italians, we got our families, and we got the church; the Irish, they have the homeland, Jews their tradition; even the niggers, they got their music. What about you people, Mr Wilson, what do you have?

Edward Wilson: The United States of America. The rest of you are just visiting.

It is precisely this unshakeable identification with the fate of the nation – what the Americans now call the “homeland” – that allows these people to place themselves above the law. The Law exists to keep the homeland safe, but on those occasions when the Law is inadequate to this task, then other means must be employed. Those who determine the seriousness of the threat; those who assess the adequacy or otherwise of the Law’s capacity to deal with the threat; those who are authorised to employ “other means” to eliminate the threat: these are the key constituents of the deep state.

One might assume that a country as small and isolated as New Zealand, with so little to lose when compared to much larger, wealthier and more strategically placed powers, would have little need for a deep state. What this assumption overlooks, however, is New Zealand’s historical relationship with the United Kingdom and, more latterly, the United States.

New Zealand’s colonial status and its membership of British Empire meant that Britain’s deep state was able to replicate itself here and throughout its “white” dominions almost effortlessly. Britain’s relinquishing of the No. 1 spot among the Anglo-Saxon nations in favour of the United States at the end of World War II required Canada, Australia and New Zealand to reconfigure their deep states’ composition in line with the ideological, strategic and intelligence gathering priorities of the new imperial patron. This process was codified in the UKUSA Agreement of 1946.

In the pursuit of “national security”, what emerged over the post-war era was the effective amalgamation of Anglo-Saxon political and economic interests under the leadership of the United States. Working through its agents and assets located in their deep state agencies, the nominally independent Anglo-Saxon powers were, in fact, kept in ideological and political lockstep by the “security hierarchy” of the United States. Over time, these subordinate agencies grew into something akin to a supra-national security intelligence priesthood: a sort of Knights Templar of Anglo-Saxon spooks; dedicated to preserving the power and authority of the US deep state and, by extension, their own.

In 2013, individuals like the newly-appointed head of the GCSB, Ian Fletcher, move effortlessly from one Anglo-Saxon outpost to the other, supremely confident that whatever they are asked to do, and wherever they are asked to go, the operational imperatives remain the same. Be they in London or Wellington; 10 Downing Street or the Beehive; they know that the strategic objectives assigned to people like themselves do not change.

Except, astonishingly, in New Zealand, where, somehow, the smooth operation of the deep state machinery has been disrupted and exposed by the unanticipated combination of Kim Dotcom’s wealth, the expertise of his legal team, and the dogged independence of the New Zealand judiciary. What usually remains hidden has become public knowledge, and the deep state has been forced to prevail upon the “regular state hierarchy” to retrospectively sanitize their illegal conduct in the case of Kim Dotcom and the 87 other targets of unlawful GCSB surveillance.

Their expectation, now, is that the instruments of national security are ready to resume normal transmission. But, whether or not that happens largely depends on us. Now that we’re aware of its existence, are we prepared to tolerate the existence of a deep state operating parallel to the democratic state we all believed – naively as it turned out – to be the one and only repository of legitimate authority in New Zealand?

Are we willing to endorse the actions of a body of individuals who owe allegiance not to their own people, or the laws they enact, but to an unacknowledged but all-powerful Anglo-Saxon empire? A vast realm, with the United States at its heart, whose values and interests these deep “statesmen”, alone, are permitted to define, and whose survival they have, over and over again, proved themselves willing to guarantee – by any means necessary.

If it does not govern by our consent, then from whence is the deep state’s power derived?

And why should we accept it?


  1. It’s well documented that many Nazi leaders moved to the USA after WW2 where they have remained true to their beliefs and their new homeland. This is well documented as is the rise of nazism in the USA, but this is only the stirring arm of the NWO.

    The subtle and stronger is in the new financial system that will further disenfranchise us and like Catherine Austin Fitts, I think that this is a creeping take over that does not want to wipe out capitalism, it simply wants to refine it and make the poor and working classes pay the price of their freedom along with some eugenic cleansing. But the masters are serving a profit motive without any foresight and you can listen to Catherine talking about this with Max Keiser @

    But now, as well as the SIS and GCSB, we also have:
    The Organised Crime Intelligence Unit (OCIU)
    The Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU)
    The Strategic Intelligence Unit (SIU)
    The National Drug Intelligence Bureau (NDIB)
    The National Bureau of Criminal Intelligence (NBCI)
    The Identity Intelligence Unit
    The Threat Assessment Unit (TAU)
    The Police Terrorism Investigation and Intelligence Group (PTIIG)
    The Special Investigation Group (SIG)
    The National Assessments Bureau (NAB)
    The Domestic and External Security Group (DESG)
    The Directorate of Defence Intelligence and Security (DDIS)
    The Joint Geospatial Support Facility (JGSF)

    In cooperation with the NSA and XKeyscore, all data can be collected, saved and searched as easily as any google search, so now will all these organisations become redundant?

    I think democracy as we thought we had will only return when everyone takes action by boycotting the masters criminal enterprises because they serve their own profit motives and unless we act, we will have to adjust to the newly empowered psychopathic rules….

  2. Brilliant exposition Chris. The rulers of the secret state and the permanent heads of government are all closely linked. We have a state behind the elected government that operates 24/7 year in year out no matter who is in parliament. They are not voted in, and they are always there. But if they are not voted in how are they selected? And if they don’t serve the electorate who do they serve?

    Well, who they serve is not to hard to figure out. They serve the interests of people like themselves. People on high incomes or net worth, the same sort of people they mix with on the golf course and in their exclusive clubs. The same people their children go to private schools with. The generals, the judges, the secret spymasters, and the millionaires, and media moguls.

    How they are selected is a bit more opaque. But it is much the same way as they form their social network. The secret deep state and the permanent heads are appointed and promoted by people like themselves. But even in their own organisations there is no democratic polling, it is all done from the top down by appointment by the existing hierarchy, to maintain a self perpetuating continuity of rule and control by a self selecting and conservative elite.

    So what happens when the permanent state collides with the elected state?

    In New Zealand the struggle over nuclear ship visits was one such struggle. The permanent state never resiled to this position and did everything they could to pressure, undermine, weaken and water down the elected government’s position before eventually surrendering. Though they have still never fully resiled themselves to that position.

    But it doesn’t always end this way. Fiji Chile are other examples of how conflict between the permanent state and the elected state can be resolved.

    • Gobsmacked Chris, back for a second read and suddenly found myself joining a few dots and reaching for my “conspiracy blankie”. One could go back to Brash taking over the Natz born to rule attempt, thankfully self destructing, with a little help from the Bretheren and Hager’s superb whistle- blowing book and, like the Royals, the “spare” Key was there to to take his place. It just didn’t seem right, both Brash and Key same US prone backgrounds, both US plants? Wouldn’t be the first time for we can all remember the US spooks wandering through the parliamentary halls of power backing first Roger Douglas and then Ruth Richardson entrenching US neoliberalism.
      Fast forward to Key’s second term – GG Mataparae of Afghanistan fame – chosen by Key. Key’s old school mate, shoulder tapped for GCSB. He is not going to demand a snap election for Key ignoring The Bill of Rights is he. Key appointing self as head of warrants for spying on New Zealanders. With one person, chosen by Key as an oversight. This is like watching a play unfolding – just have to look at the list of agencies unheard of until now listed by David. When were they constructed, on whose watch and how come Helen fell for this rort, she who said we are a sovereign nation and will make decisions in the best interests of New Zealanders. Now that is turning out to be debatable. Call me paranoid but Key is a bloody Washington plant, “just obeying orders”. There is a book in this 🙂 and a movie 🙂 If Key grows a moustache and parts his hair run for them thar hills mates.

  3. ” and the dogged independence of the New Zealand judiciary.”

    Obviously, subverting the justice system (e.g. lawyers and judges who act solely in the the Government’s interests) will be the next goal of The National Party.

    • Why does the justice system need subverting? If I was part of that corporate/deep state nexus I would think the justice system was serving my interests perfectly excellently. As Chris points out the ‘dogged independence’ of the judiciary can be easily trumped through the introduction of retrospective legislation.

      The justice system seems to exist primarily to deal with the socially disastrous consequences of large concentrations of capital exercising the power that those concentrations of capital confer to institute public policies which serve their specific interests.

  4. What the surfacing of the ‘deep state’ signifies is that global capitalism cannot resolve its crises within the parameters of bourgeois democracy and must resort to open state repression.

    It seems that the classic Marxist analysis of the bourgeois state as a ‘body of armed men’ which acts as the ‘executive committee of the ruling class’ is now also surfacing in the consciousness of the masses.

    This is not the first time this has happened but we should make it the last time. This time we must refuse to fight the bosses battles to defend their class interests in the name of a shallow facade of bourgeois democracy.

    The conclusion is that the deep state must be destroyed by the organised power of the working masses.

    Facing up to that reality is still the stumbling block for most.

  5. Can any of you inform me what “disqus” is and why it now appears if you try and contact TV 3 website. It says about itself that it links profiles and comments but why and what for?

    • It’s a global comment profile. You sign up to disqus (“discuss”) and you use that profile to log in whereever disqus is used. Mediaworks (TV3, Radio live) use it, but mostly overseas sites, I’ve found.

      So all your comments arre not sut o the page you comment on, but on your profile.

      • Disqus? It’s like FarceBook, another US-based “service” designed to centralise online commenting, to allow easy monitoring of popular opinion through systems like PRISM. Have you read the comic ‘V for Vendetta (or seen the movie)? The surveillance vans driving through the city, listening to people’s conversations? Yes, just like that, but so much more subtle.

  6. Nice piece Chris but one small point.
    Although Nicky Hager’s book, Secret Power, was a significant contribution to Kiwis’ understanding of the secret world, Echelon, UKUSA and the like were very much out there a decade earlier with Jeffrey Richelson and Desmond Ball’s 1985 book, “The Ties that Bind” was specifically about the UKUSA.
    Ball, an Aussie academic, has made major contributions to our understanding of the English-language network of surveillance.
    It all needs a healthy dose of sunlight.

  7. Obviously, subverting the justice system (e.g. lawyers and judges who act solely in the the Government’s interests)

    Like the IPCA, Kristy McDonald QC and Judge David Cameron.

  8. Good article, but lets see a comprehensive list of these people. Name and shame. Addresses. Phone numbers. It’s all well and good to write about the deep state, but a list of the actual wankers that support it would be a fantastic start.

  9. Just replace “deep state” with “state” and you’ll have a neat summation of the objections anarchism posits to the thorny question of how most people vote away their freedom when they take part in the fraud called democracy. Chris you put it very well indeed when you describe how the Statist agenda operates. The deep discontent with how the government has been riding roughshod over the will of the people will show with increasing apathy at the ballot box, which will galvanise the state’s actions. It’ll take a lot more abuse yet before people realise the bastards won’t let their power be voted away.

  10. how to people NOT accept it given the inability of any marches up any main street in the land is ineffective – words are always great but what can we do as a people about this ….exposing it yes

    and if you read both of nicky’s book secret power and other peoples war – you will be in no delusion as to what is really going on and how the facade is now slipping ….but – what to do …..?????

    • …but – what to do…

      Never give up; keep talking about it; keep questioning authourity; maintain a constant pressure on the walls of the cage.

      Always keep in mind that if you fight you might win or you might lose; if you don’t fight you will lose.

  11. Good grief . What a nightmare .

    And to think those fools were once little kids playing on the lawn . What happened to them to make them such creepy , sneaky , wanky twats ?

    Would some brilliant prosthetic surgeon please , please make a properly functioning penis extension . Give them all huge penises and shut them up . All that covert , secret , hide and seek stuff in adults is really the stuff of an improperly formed personality . Half-humans .

    I can understand what motivates jonky . It’s not much therefore I can understand it . He’s clever but he thought he was more clever than he really is and got sucked into the game and now he owes proper but I get that .

    These fucking weirdo Deep State people ? What ! ? Do they need a hug ? Did someone steal their teddy bear then post back it’s body parts ? Honestly , I know lots of different kinds of people . All sorts . But what the fuck motivates a person to … Oh God . I can’t even bother to write the thing . Grow a row of carrots then have love-sex followed by a cup of hot chocolate for Gods sake . Leave the rest of the planet alone .

    I’m reminded of a poem I read once about the Libertine .

    The Libertine

    A THOUSAND martyrs I have made,
    All sacrificed to my desire,
    A thousand beauties have betray’d
    That languish in resistless fire:
    The untamed heart to hand I brought,
    And fix’d the wild and wand’ring thought.

    I never vow’d nor sigh’d in vain,
    But both, tho’ false, were well received;
    The fair are pleased to give us pain,
    And what they wish is soon believed:
    And tho’ I talk’d of wounds and smart,
    Love’s pleasures only touch’d my heart.

    Alone the glory and the spoil
    I always laughing bore away;
    The triumphs without pain or toil,
    Without the hell the heaven of joy;
    And while I thus at random rove
    Despise the fools that whine for love.

    When you’ve seen everything and when you’ve done everyone , what then do you do ?

    My answer might be ; you fuck around with the innocent , the helpless , the vulnerable .

    And that’s you and me mate .

    Extraordinary Post Chris Trotter .

    • Good to see poetry appreciated and quoted, another gritty poet who took on the power elite was NZer ARD Fairburn

      To a Millionaire

      Lord of our world, take off your velvet
      Mask. Remove your gentle glove, disclose
      The claw-like hand, the dried blood under the nails,
      The murder print that never shows

      Your opulent curtains woven of blood
      Lend a sweet charnel fragrance to your room.
      Under your rich carpet are bones buried
      That shall speak up at crack of doom.

      What is your world but a dark glass
      That is thronged with images of its own disruption,
      Your soul but a facing mirror that reflects back
      The accurate pattern of corruption.

      Two mirrors in rigid dialectic
      Display the secular process of your life,
      Leading through infinite recession to nothingness
      Yourself, your word of strife.

      He was a brave man, read the whole thing in his Collected poems if you are a poetry fan he summed up most of the dreadful layers of wealth and hypocrisy.

      • Fairburn was a very great poet and lead the quintessential kiwi life. A fourth generation Nz’er when he was born at the start of the 20th century. I make a point of teaching his poems to my students as they still resonante with young New Zealander’s.

  12. Hummmm I get that NZ has history with England and the U.S, and the shadow government. One world order,Illuminati and the mega rich using the world for its disposal.

    However NZ Trades with China with imports and exports and International students LOTS of them too. Hypothetically will/what do you think the implications will be on trade?

    Which country Does NZ trade mostly to? OZ, UK , China?

    Core country Global surveillance (POWER) why NZ such a small back water country.

    I just have a few questions lingering I might in the near future research some of them. But graciously leave it to the experts to help me quench my thirst for answers and to alleviate my some what eccentric thoughts.

  13. It seems that if we carry on living our lives as usual, we ARE accepting the Deep State, no matter how distasteful we find this sinister, covert control.

    We need to figure out how to reject it.

    The nature of the beast we are dealing with makes it inherently difficult to combat. Hell, even conveying to people what is going on is difficult. The constant but gradual dismantling of our rights and freedoms, the ominous creep of State power at the expense of our own autonomy… these are complex, almost nebulous, ideas to convey to people. Anyone could understand that South Africa’s racism was nasty, anyone could relate to the dangers of nuclear weapons.

    I guess what I’m saying is that part of rejecting this Deep State is finding a way to communicate this to our fellow New Zealanders without sounding like just another conspiracy theorist.

  14. This is more sinister than I ever imagined, li’l ol’ NZ, a country hardly anyone has ever heard of, unless they are Rugby playing nations. Remember when an Australian TV jock was interviewing Mahommed Omar – 2 IC of the Taliban and he was told that US intends to invade Afghanistan, “Yes”, says Omar, and Australia, “Yes”, says Omar, and NZ ? A pause, silence, “Where is that” says Omar and we all jumped up from our seats in front of the TV and shouted, “Don’t tell him, don’t tell him.” So what has happened that we are now a client state of the US – I thought we were chucked out over the “ships’ visits and oh how we loved that idea. Marching up and down the streets of NZ are not going to do it so what is it going to take ? Getting rid of this government is a start and keeping the Greens and Labour true to their promise to chuck this GCSB legislation out and have a long, hard look at the whole shebang. Now if we can get Winston on board ? Bit disconcerting, he rather likes the Yanks. Sigh ! “Please sir, I don’t want to play this UKUS game anymore.”

  15. Hah, my thought is, the most “profound” “Deep State” within New Zealand is the eternally slumbering, conditioned, brainwashed and commercially focused “deep state” mindset of the bulk of the populace. It is a “deep state” of concern, for those that care, are informed, know what goes on, and who disagree with governments drumming it into the indifferent, at best casually interested, superficial mindsets of too many.

    If people would even be informed a little bit more about what really goes on behind the scenes, we would have a bloody revolution. But state agencies, the forces of government, the continuous brainwashing to just feel free about choosing between different makes of fast food burgers, of DIY building products, of whatever else, that commercial enterprises drum into our brains, that is what keeps the brains preoccupied.

    So with rising house prices, rents, consumer and utility costs, the average person is like a dumbed down little commercial utility slave condemned to know nothing but to compete, to work harder, longer, to earn the dosh to pay for the basics, and in some cases perhaps a little bit more.

    GCSB, what is that? That is what most would ask, except the few that Campbell Live tried to inform superficially. What else is this that or the other, does it matter? People are not aware of what goes on, the brainwashing anf dumbing-down, enslaving circus ensures it, and so the game continues, until the lemmings rush over the cliff, when it is too bloody late to wake up.

    NZ Aotearoa 2013 and after, with or without GCSB, it does not make a damned difference to most, they are beyond realisation of any threats or dangers.

  16. Over at Znet Julian Assange discusses Google’s collaboration with the NSA and the various US state security mechanisms:

    “Google started out as part of Californian graduate student culture around San Francisco’s Bay Area. But as Google grew it encountered the big bad world. It encountered barriers to its expansion in the form of complex political networks and foreign regulations. So it started doing what big bad American companies do, from Coca Cola to Northrop Grumman. It started leaning heavily on the State Department for support, and by doing so it entered into the Washington DC system. A recently released statistic shows that Google now spends even more money than Lockheed Martin on paid lobbyists in Washington.”

  17. Funny that US maybe in war with another country, conspiracy theory I think not!. It has taken many years to undo what normal people living life to think out side the box of what the media, education especially ethnicity. Not long ago the Herald would publish front page Police looking for Maori or Polynesian wanted in a serious crime, but on the other hand we all new if it was a European “man wanted by police”. Have you ever wondered when air NZ or the Government use Maori symbols to advertise NZ to promote tourism culture and diversity happiness. All Black Haka is known all over the world promoting NZ and culture. But reality majority High unemployment, Prison, Health, Poverty and way down the list of our class system to NZs underclass. What did you say but we dont have one hummm Auckland high rise, beggers on the street in the suburbs. That what happens in a Deep State. Keys Daughter has it right the tentacles of other power country’s dictating the security of their country at all cost. So in the early 70s and 80s we didnt have the business round table submitting there portfolio, like they do every Election…..? With their neoliberal reforms that where implemented and the transformation of NZ began. Dumbing of the population is not just with the education system also with the media. Karl Marx has it right live your live or come together and have a revolution.

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