University of Michigan Professor Juan Cole said he hopes a Freedom of Information Act request will lead to a "paper trail" showing the CIA spied on him after he criticized the war in Iraq online.
Cole, a U-M history professor specializing in Middle East issues, responded by e-mail last week to the Daily Press & Argus from Cairo, Egypt.
Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan sued in federal court on Cole's behalf, demanding the government turn over any documentation collected on Cole during the administration of former President George W. Bush.
In the FOIA request, the ACLU requested materials related to Cole from the CIA, FBI, and the offices of the U.S. attorney general and director of national intelligence.
"I am hoping that the ACLU FOIA request will turn up a paper trail, and that the Senate will investigate," Cole said in an e-mail.
Cole said a CIA official has been quoted as asking, "What can we find out," about Juan Cole to discredit him?
"I presume that meant he wanted me investigated — and, if possible, wanted dirt found on me," Cole said.
"There was allegedly more than one such attempt at the agency," he added.
Last week, U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton, said it's up to Cole — not the U.S. government — to seek criminal charges against the CIA for allegedly spying on him.
Rogers, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, rejected that it's his committee's responsibility to investigate the espionage claims, though the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee reportedly is investigating.
Rogers' committee oversees all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies, including the CIA, FBI, Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security and Drug Enforcement Administration.
"That should be a criminal matter that is investigated by the Department of Justice," Rogers said. "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."
The Daily Press & Argus last week asked Rogers' office if the congressman had yet asked the Justice Department if an investigation was under way — and, if so, what kind of response he received.
In response, Rogers' office said the congressman asked the Department of Justice if Cole himself had reported the allegations to the department.
"They responded that he did not," said Rogers' spokesman, Dave Yonkman, adding that "to their knowledge, they had not heard from him."
Yonkman said Rogers' office made an inquiry to the FBI as well to determine if Cole reported his allegations to that agency.
"Any American citizen suspicious of a federal agency engaged in criminal activity against them should report to the Department of Justice and the FBI directly and immediately," Yonkman said.
Outside extenuating circumstances, it is illegal for the CIA to spy on American citizens on U.S. soil.
If the espionage claims are true, they surpass basic criminal allegations, Cole said in his e-mail. He said Rogers seems to be bucking responsibility on the issue.
"If the CIA was asked to violate its charter by the White House by spying on a U.S. citizen, that is not merely an ordinary criminal matter, and Representative Rogers' indifference to it raises questions about whether he really is interested in protecting Michiganders from abuse at the hands of the federal government," Cole said.
The ACLU said it filed the FOIA request after former CIA officer Glenn L. Carle alleged in a New York Times article last month that in 2005 and 2006, the Bush administration asked intelligence officials for any potentially negative personal information about Cole that could be used to undermine his credibility.
In the New York Times article, Carle said intelligence officers were asked at least twice by the White House to gather sensitive information about Cole.
Intelligence officials disputed Carle's account in the same article, 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 office of U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, did not respond to multiple calls and e-mails last week requesting comment for this story.
Dingell's district includes the University of Michigan-Dearborn, where Cole works as a professor.