The American Civil Liberties Union and a University of Michigan professor filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the CIA and FBI that seeks files related to alleged attempts by the White House to smear the professor by digging up dirt on his personal life.
Filed in Detroit, the federal lawsuit asks the intelligence agencies for all files they might have that are related to Juan Cole, a history professor who lives in Ann Arbor and writes a blog about Middle Eastern issues. According to a former CIA official, in 2005 the White House asked the CIA to smear Cole because he was critical of Bush administration policies in the Arab world.
As first reported by the New York Times last month, former CIA official Glenn Carle said his supervisor asked him: "Does he (Cole) drink? What are his views? Is he married?" And, "What do you think we might know about him, or could find out, that could discredit him?"
Citing the Freedom of Information of Act, the ACLU and Cole sent a letter to the CIA and FBI on June 23 requesting any documents related to Cole. But they said they did not receive any response from them and so filed the suit.
"In a democratic society, the secret police should not be spying on citizens for simply criticizing government policy," said Michael Steinberg, legal director of the Michigan branch of the ACLU.
The FBI could not be reached. CIA spokesman Preston Golson said: "The CIA does not, as a rule, comment on pending litigation."
Earlier, Golson said of the smearing claims that "any allegation that the CIA provided private or derogatory information on Professor Cole to anyone is simply wrong."
It is against CIA policy to spy on U.S. citizens. Cole told the Free Press on Wednesday that the CIA and FBI were "unresponsive to our request" for the files. He said Carle's allegations involve "serious infractions against ... the U.S. Constitution."