June 9, 2020

Deep State Banner

American intelligence and law enforcement agencies face a legitimacy crisis. President Trump and his allies accuse an unelected “deep state” of undercutting his administration, while his opponents allege that those very officials have facilitated presidential abuses of power.

Similar concerns have roiled the United States ever since the Church Committee convened nearly half a century ago. Exposing abuses at the FBI and CIA, it pressed reforms to hold them to the rule of law and democratic oversight. In his new book, "In Deep: The FBI, the CIA, and the 'Truth about America's 'Deep State," Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist David Rohde investigates whether, in the decades since, those agencies and the politicians charged with overseeing them have protected the public or abused their power, and asks whether democratic accountability and political neutrality are possible. He was joined by Brennan Center Fellow Michael German, a former FBI special agent and an advocate of intelligence reform.

This event was produced in partnership with New York University's John Brademas Center and the Brennan Center for Justice.


Brennan and Brademas Logos

David Rohde

David Rohde (p.c. Andrew Lih)

In Deep Book Cover

DAVID ROHDE, Executive Editor, NewYorker.com

David Rohde is an executive editor of newyorker.com. He is a former reporter for Reuters, the New York Times, and the Christian Science Monitor. He was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for international reporting, in 1996, for stories that helped expose the Srebrenica massacre during the war in Bosnia, and, in 2009, he shared a Pulitzer Prize with a team of Times reporters for coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is the author of, most recently, “In Deep: The F.B.I., the C.I.A., and the Truth about America’s ‘Deep State.’” His other books are “Beyond War: Reimagining America’s Role and Ambitions in a New Middle East;” “A Rope and a Prayer: The Story of a Kidnapping,” co-authored with his wife, Kristen Mulvihill; and “Endgame: The Betrayal and Fall of Srebrenica, Europe’s Worst Massacre Since World War II.” He lives in New York with his wife and two daughters.

In Deep: The FBI, the CIA, and the Truth about America's "Deep State"

The feverish debate over the "deep state" raises core questions about the future of American democracy. Is it possible for career government officials to be politically neutral? Was Congress’s impeachment of Donald Trump conducted properly? How vast should the power of a president be? Based on dozens of interviews with career CIA operatives and FBI agents, In Deep answers whether the FBI, CIA, or politicians are protecting or abusing the public’s trust.

Michael German

Michael German

MICHAEL GERMAN, Fellow, Liberty & National Security

Michael German is a fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty & National Security Program, which seeks to ensure that the U.S. government respects human rights and fundamental freedoms in conducting the fight against terrorism. A former special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, his work focuses on law enforcement and intelligence oversight and reform. Prior to joining the Brennan Center, German served as the policy counsel for national security and privacy for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington legislative office.

German is the author of Disrupt, Discredit, and Divide: How the New FBI Damages Democracy. The book chronicles how the FBI transformed itself after the 9/11 attacks from a law enforcement agency famous for prosecuting organized crime and corruption to arguably the most secretive domestic intelligence agency the country has ever seen. A 16-year veteran of federal law enforcement, German served as an FBI special agent, where he specialized in domestic terrorism and covert operations. He left the FBI in 2004 after reporting continuing deficiencies in FBI counterterrorism operations to Congress. German served as an adjunct professor of law enforcement and terrorism at National Defense University. He joined the ACLU’s Washington legislative office in 2006 and the Brennan Center in 2014. His first book, Thinking Like a Terrorist: Insights of a Former FBI Undercover Agent, was published in 2007.