Juan Cole, a University of Michigan professor and influential blogger, has called on the Senate and House Intelligence Committees to investigate allegations raised in a New York Times story, that the Bush White House asked intelligence officials on at least two occasions to gather information on Cole that might discredit him.
“I hope that the Senate and House Intelligence Committees will immediately launch an investigation of this clear violation of the law by the Bush White House and by the CIA officials concerned,” Cole wrote on his blog, Informed Comment, on Thursday.
On Wednesday, the Times reported the claims of a former Central Intelligence Agency officer and intelligence official, Glenn L. Carle. Carle told the Times’ James Risen that in 2005 his supervisor at the National Intelligence Council told him White House officials wanted “to get” Cole, who was an outspoken critic of the Iraq War. At a later date, Carle confronted a CIA official about another apparent effort to collect information about Cole.
It is not clear whether the White House received any damaging material about Professor Cole or whether the C.I.A. or other intelligence agencies ever provided any information or spied on him. Mr. Carle said that a memorandum written by his supervisor included derogatory details about Professor Cole, but that it may have been deleted before reaching the White House. Mr. Carle also said he did not know the origins of that information or who at the White House had requested it.
Intelligence officials disputed Mr. Carle’s account, saying that White House officials did ask about Professor Cole in 2006, but only to find out why he had been invited to C.I.A.-sponsored conferences on the Middle East. The officials said that the White House did not ask for sensitive personal information, and that the agency did not provide it.
On his blog, Cole wrote that the story came as a “visceral shock” to him, and that he believed Carle’s account and discounted “the glib denials” of Carle’s former supervisor, David Low.
“Carle is taking a substantial risk in making all this public,” Cole wrote.
Cole also wrote that some colleagues had at some point suggested to him that “the Bush administration had in fact succeeded in having me blackballed,” as his invitations to conferences “rather dropped off.”
“I do not know if smear tactics were used to produce this result, behind the scenes and within the government,” Cole wrote.
Carle, who spent 23 years in the CIA’s clandestine services, last served in government as Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Transnational Threats at the National Intelligence Council. He retired in 2007, and has a forthcoming book about his interrogation of a terrorism suspect, which is touted on his website as “the story of one of the most secret and sensitive CIA interrogations during the US War on Terror.”
But the Times reports that the book does not contain the allegation about Cole, and that Carle only spoke about the episode after being approached by the newspaper, which “learned of the episode elsewhere.”
TPM attempted to contact Cole, but an automatic reply email said that he is currently “at conferences abroad and without reliable email access.”
Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website’s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl(at)talkingpointsmemo.com