Posted by on June 16, 2011 in Blog

Today, The New York Times carried the disturbing story of an ex-CIA officer, Glenn L. Carle, who claims that the Bush Administration asked the CIA to spy on Professor Juan Cole and gather damaging personal information on him in order to discredit him. Professor Cole was a sharp critic of the Bush administration and the war on Iraq, and “The White House wants to get him,” Carle recalled his boss saying.

Carle had not come forward on his own, but had only talked about this scandal when the New York Times approached him after hearing about it from different sources. “I couldn’t believe this was happening,” he said, continuing, “People were accepting it, like you had to be part of the team.” He refused to cooperate, citing the illegality of spying on American citizens for political purposes. When he heard about this, Professor Cole said he probably made for a disappointing spying target. “They must have been dismayed at what a boring life I lead,” he said.

While Intelligence officials confirmed that the White House sought information about Cole, they disputed Carle’s account of the nature of the information, claiming the White House had merely wanted to “find out why he had been invited to C.I.A.-sponsored conferences on the Middle East.” CIA Spokesperson George Little said: “We’ve thoroughly researched our records, and any allegation that the C.I.A. provided private or derogatory information on Professor Cole to anyone is simply wrong.”

If Carle’s allegations are accurate, they would be painting a disturbing picture of a White House political culture that never learned the lessons of Watergate and the impermissibility (legal and ethical) of spying on political opponents, as well as a CIA culture that is ready to follow the orders of those in power, no matter how illegitimate or indefensible. American citizens must feel free to exercise the right of free expression and thought without the fear that they may become the targets of invasive government measures. To think otherwise would be to hold a fundamentally un-American view of how our country should be run. 

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