The Livingston County Democratic Party is urging U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton, to investigate claims that a University of Michigan professor critical of the war in Iraq was spied on by the CIA.
The county Democrats said Rogers is in a unique position as chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence to research claims that U-M professor Juan Cole was spied on by the government.
Rogers' intelligence committee oversees all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies, including the CIA, FBI, Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security and Drug Enforcement Agency.
Yet the congressman said the allegations should be investigated as a criminal matter, not by his committee.
The New York Times reported last month that Glenn L. Carle, a former CIA officer who was a top counterterrorism official during the administration of former President George W. Bush, said intelligence officers were asked at least twice by the White House to gather sensitive information about Cole.
Carle's comments demand an investigation, and Rogers should take the helm in investigating, said Jordan Genso, head of the county Democratic Party.
The party's executive committee this month passed a resolution calling on Rogers to investigate.
"Everybody who's in a position to look into this should be doing so, and our congressman is certainly in a position," Genso said.
"He can be doing an investigation — and, therefore, he should. We think it would be skirting his responsibilities if he does not do so," he added.
Cole has what the New York Times described as an "influential blog" on Middle East issues that criticized the war in Iraq atwww.juancole.com.
When reached Friday, Rogers said Carle's accusations should be investigated through the U.S. Department of Justice.
He said he plans to make an inquiry to the department to determine if it is investigating whether the CIA spied on the American citizen.
Outside extenuating circumstances, it is illegal for the CIA to spy on American citizens on U.S. soil, Rogers explained.
"That should be a criminal matter that is investigated by the Department of Justice. I have said before that I would make an inquiry to the Department of Justice to find out if it's in fact under investigation," Rogers said.
"This is a very serious allegation, and they are not permitted to do it, and it is a criminal act if they do do it," Rogers added.
The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, meanwhile, is reviewing whether the CIA and Bush administration may have tried to smear Cole.
"Depending on what we find, we may take further action," U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who heads the committee, said in a statement.
Genso said the local party's resolution was prompted by news accounts, and by Judy Daubenmier, former chairwoman of the county party and a colleague of Cole's at U-M. He said Livingston County's close proximity to Ann Arbor also was a factor.
He said the party's resolution wasn't fueled by partisan politics.
"It's not a political issue in terms of who was doing it. It's just the fact that it was possibly being done," Genso said.
"Our own government should not be allowed to spy on its citizens — and if it is occurring, we as citizens should have a right to know," he added.
In the New York Times article, Carle said officials in the Bush White House sought damaging personal information on Cole to discredit him as a critic of the war in Iraq.
He said his supervisor at the National Intelligence Council told him in 2005 that White House officials wanted "to get" Cole, and made clear he wanted Carle to collect information about him, an effort Carle said he rebuffed.
Also reported in the article, intelligence officials disputed Carle's account, saying White House officials did ask about Cole in 2006, but only to find out why he had been invited to CIA-sponsored conferences on the Middle East.
The officials said the White House didn't ask for sensitive personal information and that the agency didn't provide it.
A U-M senior official said in a statement that "the university will be closely watching developments in this case" and has a commitment to the "principle of academic freedom."
Preston Golson, spokesman for the CIA, told the Detroit Free Press 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."
Gannett News Service contributed to this report.