Americans like to think of their country as different from those run by military regimes. They are only fooling themselves. Ever since the federal government was converted into a national-security state after World War II (without a constitutional amendment authorizing the conversion), it has been the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA that have run the government, just like in countries governed by military dictatorships.
Oh sure, the façade is maintained — the façade that is ingrained in all of us in civics or government classes in high school and college: that the federal government is composed of three co-equal, independent branches that are in charge of the government.
But just a façade. It's fake. It's a lie.
It's true that the federal government used to consist of three branches. But that quaint notion disintegrated when the federal government was converted to what is known as a "national-security state" after World War II. Even though it was done without a constitutional amendment, that conversion effectively added a fourth branch of government to the federal government — the national-security branch, which consists of the NSA, the CIA, and the Pentagon.
The addition of that fourth branch fundamentally altered the original three-branch concept, especially because the fourth branch quickly became the most powerful branch. The reason is because ultimately government is force, and the fourth branch is where the most force was concentrated within the new, altered governmental structure.
As law professor Michael Glennon has pointed out in his book National Security and Double Government, the result is a federal government in which the military, the CIA, and the NSA are in charge. They are the ones actually calling the shots. But they permit the other three branches to maintain the façade that they are in charge, including periodically going along with decisions in the other three branches to keep Americans thinking that everything is the same as it always has been.
Consider the Pentagon's and the CIA's torture center, prison, and kangaroo tribunal system at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. They set that up with the aim of establishing a place to hold people and do whatever they wanted to them, without any judicial interference. Guantanamo was a dream-come-true for the military and the CIA. Like most conservatives, they had long lamented those "constitutional technicalities" that let people go free. If only America stopped coddling criminals, we could finally establish order and stability in our land. Guantanamo was going to be their showcase, their model for the United States and the world for dealing with criminals.
That model, as we now know, entailed kidnappings, bounties, torture, indefinite detention, no criminal defense attorneys, denial of speedy trial, kangaroo military tribunals, use of hearsay evidence, use of evidence acquired through torture, denial of due process of law, and other violations of long-established criminal-justice procedures that stretch back to Magna Carta in 1215.