The intelligence community may have had a file on a liberal blogger and academic. Now he wants to see what, if anything, was in it.
Danger Room has learned that lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union* will file a lawsuit Wednesday morning in a federal court in Michigan to compel the government to release any information it collected on Juan Cole, a University of Michigan professor who blogs on Mideast issues atInformed Comment.
The suit seeks disclosure of "federal government discussions of, correspondence regarding, inquiries about, and investigations of Professor Cole," the ACLU's filing says. That disclosure is "urgently needed to inform the national debate about U.S. accountability with respect to the unlawful investigation and surveillance of its citizens."
Cole's lawsuit comes after a former CIA official, Glenn Carle, told the New York Times that his superiors at the agency asked after Cole, an American citizen, in 2005, seemingly at the instructions of the Bush White House. "What do you think we might know about him, or could find out that could discredit him?" an offended Carle remembered one of his bosses asking.
All Cole is alleged to have done to prompt the attention of the spy community is… blog. "My guess is that there were people in the White House upset by my writing at my blog and elsewhere on the course of the Iraq War, which they consistently attempted to depict in a positive light," Cole tells Danger Room. "They also seem to have been angry that I was taken seriously by intelligence analysts in some of the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, and presumably one of their goals was to find ways of discouraging analysts from taking me seriously."
The lawsuit seeks to determine "whether or not [the government] in fact investigated an American citizen merely for speaking out and voicing his opinion," says ACLU attorney Zachary Katznelson. "If they did, that's completely illegal."
So far, Carle — who recently told Danger Room about his time interrogating an al-Qaida suspect in an secret CIA prison — is the only source for the allegation that the government spied or considered spying on Cole. "Carle clearly saw documents relating to me," Cole says. Now Cole wants to see them for himself.
"The whole point of this [lawsuit] is [to tell the government], 'If you did do this, come clean and let us know what happened,'" Katznelson says. "We want to make sure it never, ever happens again."