A professor at the University of Michigan said today "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 Congress 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," U-M professor Juan Cole told the Free Press. "It was criminal."
Under pressure from the White House, a CIA official 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, according to story in the New York Times. In 2005, a CIA supervisor, David Low, spoke with a colleague after returning from a White House meeting.
"The White House wants to get him," Low said after that meeting to Glenn Carle, a former CIA officer who was a counterterrorism official, the New York Times reported.
"'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 story.
"Carle's revelations come as a visceral shock," Cole wrote on his blog today. The White House and CIA have "no business spying on American citizens."
But a spokesman for the CIA, Preston Golson, told the Free Press today that: "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."
"We value the insights of outside experts, including respected academics, who follow many of the same national security topics we do," Golson said. "Diversity of thought is essential to the business of intelligence analysis."
According to the Times story. Carle resisted pressure to spy on Cole, saying it was a violation of the law, but another CIA official carried out the order.
"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. "Like Mr. Carle, I am dismayed at how easy it seems to have been for corrupt (White House) officials to suborn CIA personnel into activities that had nothing to do with national security abroad and everything to do with silencing domestic critics."
A spokesman for U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., who is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said today that "the Department of Justice is the most appropriate venue to respond." The Department of Justice and the Senate Intelligence Committee did not return calls seeking comment.
Cole specializes in the history of the Middle East and South Asia. He achieved worldwide popularity for his blog, which he started in 2002 to talk about the war against Al-Qaeda and in Iraq. At times, he is critical of U.S. efforts in the Middle East, but is not seen as a radical.
"It seems to me clear that the Bush White House was upset by my blogging of the Iraq War ... which contradicted the propaganda efforts of the administration attempting to make the enterprise look like a wild shining success," Cole wrote on his blog.
Cole said that the Bush administration's efforts may have succeeded in blackballing him from speaking at certain conferences that were attended by U.S. government and intelligence officials.
"It seemed likely to some colleagues, according to what they told me, that the Bush administration had in fact succeeded in having me blackballed, since the invitations rather dropped off, and panels of a sort I had earlier participated in were being held without my presence," Cole said.
"What alarms me most ... is that I know I am a relatively small fish and it seems to me rather likely that I was not the only target of the baleful team at the White House," Cole added.
The White House, Cole wrote, ordered a "nakedly illegal deployment of the CIA against an academic for the explicit purpose of destroying his reputation for political purposes."
But a senior intelligence official told the Free Press: "Cole has participated in CIA conferences in the years since this alleged series of events—in both the Bush and Obama administrations. It's the smart thing—and the right thing—for American intelligence agencies to hear from smart people."