Juan Cole is a University of Michigan professor and Mideast expert who spent years writing nasty things about the Bush administration on his blog. For that, a former CIA official claims, the Bush White House wanted him to STFU, and asked the CIA to handle it.
Glenn Carle, a retired CIA counterterrorism official, tells The New York Times that in 2005, his supervisor at the National Intelligence Council returned from a White House meeting that discussed Cole's writings — which, at the time, were heavy on invective against the Iraq war and the administration that launched it. "What do you think we might know about him, or could find out that could discredit him?," Carle recalled his boss, David Low, inquiring.
Shortly after, Carle found a memo from Low heading for the White House that contained what he called "inappropriate, derogatory remarks" about Cole's lifestyle. Carle took it to his boss, who removed the paragraph on Cole. But Carle soon found out about another inquiry within the agency about Cole. He said he had to warn a different CIA official that he'd go to the agency's inspector general if it wasn't quashed.
"People were accepting it, like you had to be part of the team," Carle told the Times. He's yet to return a phone call seeking elaboration.
Carle is the only one making these claims on the record. Low told the Times he has no recollection of the incident. CIA spokesman George Little denies that the CIA ever gave the White House damaging information on Cole, an American citizen. (Which, if Carle got information on Cole removed from the memo, is actually consistent with the account provided by the Times' James Risen.)
If true, the allegations would be pretty damaging to both the CIA and the Bushies, for two reasons. First, the CIA isn't supposed to collect information on American citizens, and definitely not for their political views. It's also potentially illegal: "The statute makes it very clear: You can't spy on Americans," ex-CIA lawyer Jeffrey Smith told Risen.
More bewilderingly, all Cole did was say mean things about the Bush team on the internet. He wasn't a militant, he wasn't even an activist. He blogged. To devote precious intelligence resources, especially from counterterrorism officials, to silencing him is laughably solipsistic. If you don't like what someone says about you on the internet, stop Googling yourself. Trolling: Ur doing it wrong.
Full disclosure: Cole is a pal of mine, though we've had our differences.
On his blog, Cole writes that he hopes the congressional intelligence committees will investigate Carle's allegations, as they could turn up other critics who might have been similarly spied upon.
"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," he blogs. "It is sad that a politics of personal destruction was the response by the Bush White House to an attempt of a citizen to reason in public about a matter of great public interest."