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The term shadow government (also cryptocracy), besides its party political meaning, also refers to what is sometimes called "the secret government" or "the invisible government," an idea based on the notion that real and actual political power does not reside with publicly elected representatives (for example, the United States Congress) but with private individuals who are exercising power behind the scenes, beyond the scrutiny of democratic institutions. According to this belief, the official elected government is in reality subservient to the shadow government who are the true executive power.
Conspiracy-oriented literature postulates the existence of a secret government who are the true power behind the apparent government. Examples of such literature include works by Dan Smoot, William Guy Carr, Jim Marrs, Carroll Quigley, Gary Allen, Des Griffin, David Icke, Michael A. Hoffman II and John Coleman. Some of these authors believe members of the secret government may represent or be agents for groups such as the Council on Foreign Relations, the Royal Institute for International Affairs, the Trilateral Commission, the Bilderberg Group, CIA and MI6 in co-operation with international banks and financial institutions such as the World Bank and the Bank for International Settlements. Also popularizing the idea was the hit US television show, The X-Files.
Milton William Cooper claimed that the shadow government was in cooperation with extraterrestrial aliens. His 1991 book Behold A Pale Horse, influential among "UFO and militia circles", describes "the doings of the secret world government" and "a variety of other covert activities associated with the Illuminati's declaration of war upon the people of America". Cooper claimed to have seen secret documents while in the Navy describing governmental dealings with aliens. Cooper linked the Illuminati with his beliefs that extraterrestrials were secretly involved with the US government, but later retracted these claims. He accused Dwight D. Eisenhower of negotiating a treaty with extraterrestrials in 1954, then establishing an inner circle of Illuminati to manage relations with them and keep their presence a secret from the general public. Cooper believed that aliens "manipulated and/or ruled the human race through various secret societies, religions, magic, witchcraft, and the occult", and that even the Illuminati were unknowingly being manipulated by them.
Cooper described the Illuminati as a secret international organization, controlled by the Bilderberg Group, that conspired with the Knights of Columbus, Masons, Skull and Bones, and other organizations. Its ultimate goal, he said, was the establishment of a New World Order. According to Cooper the Illuminati conspirators not only invented alien threats for their own gain, but actively conspired with extraterrestrials to take over the world. Cooper believed that James Forrestal's fatal fall from a window on the sixteenth floor of Bethesda Hospital was connected to the alleged secret committee Majestic-12, and that JASON advisory group scientists reported to an elite group of Trilateral Commission and Council on Foreign Relations executive committee members who were high-ranking members of the Illuminati.
In his novel Coningsby, Benjamin Disraeli stated that "The world is governed by very different personages from what is imagined by those who are not behind the scenes". One definition of a shadow government is a "secret government within the government". This secret government is the "real" government that controls the legitimate and visible government's agenda. The network of people constituting this secret government are bound by some common agenda known only to each other and/or the people they represent. The agenda may be that of a secret society who have infiltrated the government (examples include Freemasons, Skull and Bones men or Illuminatists). In this case the agenda of the network is known only to those members who are bound by an oath of secrecy.
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