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It sounds like something out of The X-Files or the Bourne movies, but the number of people believing that the ‘deep state’ is working to undermine Donald Trump’s presidency is growing.

Trump’s National Security Adviser Michael Flynn resigned after less than a month, after leaks revealed that he had secret communications with Russian officials.

Those revelations, along with Russian hacking during the election, have understandably put Trump under scrutiny.

Though of course, he used Twitter to blame it on something else.

So what exactly is ‘the deep state’?

Speaking to NPR, journalist and co-author of Deep State: Inside The Government Secrecy Industry Marc Ambinder, described it as being made up of:

The national security and intelligence bureaucracy, the secret-keepers in the United States, people who have security clearances, who have spent 10 to 20 to 30 years working in and around secrets.

Think of every cheesy spy movie you’ve ever seen, with grizzly old men in the CIA and other secret agency, who have security clearances way above any elected officials, and actually pulling all the strings and manipulating everyone.

Does it really exist?

The New York Times points to Egypt, Turkey and Pakistan as countries where similar ‘shadowy networks within government bureaucracies… [have] undermined and coerced elected governments.’

The same Times piece also uses an example from 2009 of how military leaks were used to ‘pressure the White House over what it saw as the minimal number of troops necessary to send to Afghanistan.’

Now right-leaning news organisation like Fox News are using the term 'deep state'.

Is the deep state really trying to take down Trump?

Of course, if any clandestine plot is doing its job properly, we wouldn’t be able prove it.

But Marc Ambinder told NPR that the leaks regarding Flynn likely came form Trump’s people own people.

The number of actual members of the, quote, unquote, 'deep state' who have access to the raw FISA intercepts of a conversation between Michael Flynn and the Russian ambassador to the United States is very, very small. It just seems to me that a lot of this information is coming from people who are inside Trump's own administration.

It does not strike me as a conspiracy of the deep state elite.

He also said such theories can be used to deflect the real issues.

But again, posing it as a conspiracy is a very easy way to delegitimize what we now know to be true, which was that the president deliberately withheld information from his vice president once he learned about it, information that would have revealed his vice president to have gone out and said something untrue in public. That's a very, very important piece of information that the public ought to have.

That's worth remembering the next time someone starts telling you about some conspiracy theory they heard.

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