A professor at the University of Michigan said Thursday "it was criminal" that the White House, under President George W. Bush, reportedly asked the CIA at least twice to dig up negative information about his personal life in order to discredit his views on the Iraq war. And he called upon congressional committees to launch an investigation into what he said was illegal spying on an American citizen.
"The Bush White House request that the CIA spy on me to discredit me clearly violated the American constitution, U.S. law, the CIA charter, and my civil and human rights," Professor Juan Cole told the Free Press. "It was criminal."
According to Thursday's New York Times, a CIA official, under pressure from the White House, asked his staff to spy on Cole, a noted history professor from Ann Arbor who writes a popular blog about the Middle East called Informed Comment. Cole started the blog in 2002 to talk about the war against al-Qaida and in Iraq. At times, he is critical of U.S. efforts in the Middle East, but he is not seen as a radical.
The Times' article was based on the accounts of Glenn Carle, a former CIA officer who was a counterterrorism official. In 2005, his CIA supervisor, David Low, reportedly spoke with Carle after returning from a White House meeting.
"The White House wants to get him," Low said, according to Carle. "What do you think we might know about him, or could find out that could discredit him?"
Low added, according to Carle, "Does he drink? What are his views? Is he married?"
At one point, a memo on Cole was written that included "inappropriate, derogatory remarks" about Cole's lifestyle, Carle said in the New York Times article.
"Carle's revelations come as a visceral shock," Cole wrote on his blog Thursday. The White House and CIA have "no business spying on American citizens."
In Langley, Va., CIA spokesman Preston Golson denied that Cole was targeted.
"We've thoroughly researched our records, and any allegation that the CIA provided private or derogatory information on professor Cole to anyone is simply wrong," Golson told the Free Press on Thursday.
Golson added that: "We value the insights of outside experts, including respected academics. ... Diversity of thought is essential to the business of intelligence analysis."
Cole called upon the House and Senate Intelligence Committees to launch investigations into what happened because it is illegal for the CIA to domestically spy on Americans. But a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Howell, who is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said "the Department of Justice is the most appropriate venue to respond." The Department of Justice and the Senate Intelligence Committee could not be reached for comment.
Cole said that the Bush administration's efforts may have succeeded in blackballing him from certain conferences attended or sponsored by the U.S. government.