Bush administration sought to discredit local academic, Juan Cole

I don’t imagine that much will come of it, but the New York Times has learned that, during the Bush administration, employees of the CIA were instructed to unearth information that might be used to delegitimize the work of U-M professor Juan Cole, a well-regarded critic of the war in Iraq. The following clip comes from the New York Times:

…A former senior C.I.A. official says that officials in the Bush White House sought damaging personal information on a prominent American critic of the Iraq war in order to discredit him.

Glenn L. Carle, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer who was a top counterterrorism official during the administration of President George W. Bush, said the White House at least twice asked intelligence officials to gather sensitive information on Juan Cole, a University of Michigan professor who writes an influential blog that criticized the war.

In an interview, Mr. Carle said his supervisor at the National Intelligence Council told him in 2005 that White House officials wanted “to get” Professor Cole, and made clear that he wanted Mr. Carle to collect information about him, an effort Mr. Carle rebuffed. Months later, Mr. Carle said, he confronted a C.I.A. official after learning of another attempt to collect information about Professor Cole. Mr. Carle said he contended at the time that such actions would have been unlawful…

Cole, an Arabic-speaking professor of History, had the following to say today on his site, Informed Comment:

…It seems to me clear that the Bush White House was upset by my blogging of the Iraq War, in which I was using Arabic and other primary sources, and which contradicted the propaganda efforts of the administration attempting to make the enterprise look like a wild shining success.

Carle’s revelations come as a visceral shock. You had thought that with all the shennanigans of the CIA against anti-Vietnam war protesters and then Nixon’s use of the agency against critics like Daniel Ellsberg, that the Company and successive White Houses would have learned that the agency had no business spying on American citizens.

….It seemed likely to some colleagues, according to what they told me, that the Bush administration had in fact succeeded in having me blackballed, since the invitations rather dropped off, and panels of a sort I had earlier participated in were being held without my presence. I do not know if smear tactics were used to produce this result, behind the scenes and within the government. It was all the same to me– I continued to provide what I believe was an important service to the Republic at my blog and I know for a fact that not only intelligence analysts but members of the Bush team continued to read some of what I wrote.

What alarms me most of all in the nakedly illegal deployment of the CIA against an academic for the explicit purpose of destroying his reputation for political purposes is that 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. After the Valerie Plame affair, it seemed clear that there was nothing those people wouldn’t stoop to. You wonder how many critics were effectively “destroyed.” 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. They have brought great shame upon the traditions of the White House, which go back to George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison, who had hoped that checks and balances would forestall such abuses of power…

One hopes that Cole is not only successful in his quest for an investigation, but that he’s able to bring suit against the government. I’m not typically one to champion lawsuits, but, in this case, I think it’s probably the only way to ensure that the matter is taken seriously. I’d rather, of course, see a Bush administration official thrown into prison, but I don’t see that happening.

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  1. Annie E Mouse
    Posted June 16, 2011 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

    Do you for a second doubt that if the CIA had targeted this “small fish” blog, they weren’t at the same time using covert methods to disable and discredit you?!

    In all seriousness, if Democracy is that far gone, we each have to begin to deliberate whether revolution is a mantle for us to bear or our children. And whether revolution means raised guns or martyrdom.

    If a President is using the CIA to squelch free speech … the culture wars can take a long walk to the back seat.

  2. Mr. X
    Posted June 17, 2011 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    I’m not sure what the takeaway here is. It sounds to me as though the Bush administration asked them to get dirt on Cole, and they just didn’t do it. I suppose, however, it’s possible that they looked and didn’t find anything. If I were Cole, I’d go back and check my email from around that time, and see if there were any notes from attractive blond blackjack dealers, asking him to send photos of his wiener.

  3. TaterSalad
    Posted June 17, 2011 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    With statements like this from Barack Obama, the real problem with him is exposed. He is a “Community Organizer”, not a President with any type of business background. This is very scary for America. Why did/has all of his cabinet advisors on the economy quit? This statment tells the story. America, you are “reaping” the awards of “Hope & Change” and they are not good. Enjoy! Technology advancement is what brought America to the forefront economically. Evidently Obama doesn’t even want the cottin gin and its technological advancement. I wonder how he’d like to pick cotton then? Or his children?



    ……..and the typical Barack Obama supporter: http://weaselzippers.us/2011/

One Trackback

  1. […] people known to be friendly with the President. And we’d go from there. Faculty members like Juan Cole would find themselves without jobs, and faux-academics like Sebastian Gorka would find themselves […]

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