|Juan Cole, pictured in 2006|
© AFP/Getty Images/File Alex Wong
WASHINGTON (AFP) - Officials in the George W. Bush administration may have tried to use the CIA to dig up information on an Iraq war critic in order to discredit him, the New York Times reported Thursday.
Glenn Carle, who served as a top counterterrorism official in the Central Intelligence Agency, told the Times that officials twice sought to investigate Juan Cole, a professor and widely read blogger.
Cole, a Middle East expert and history professor at the University of Michigan, was a strident critic of the Bush administration and the Iraq war, which he wrote about extensively on his "Informed Comment" blog.
Carle told the Times he was approached by a supervisor in 2005 who told him that White House officials were out "to get" Cole and asked Carle to collect information on him, a request he said he refused.
"What do you think we might know about him, or could find out that could discredit him?" the supervisor, David Low, said, according to Carle.
Carle said he pointed out that the CIA was legally banned from spying on Americans and refused to get involved, but that Low persisted.
"But what might we know about him?" he said Low asked. "Does he drink? What are his views? Is he married?"
"I couldn't believe this was happening," Carle told the Times. "People were accepting it, like you had to be part of the team."
Carle said he reported the incident to a superior, but the following day he came across a memo from Low to White House officials that contained "inappropriate, derogatory remarks" about Cole's lifestyle.
He said, however, that it was not clear whether the memo was actually sent to the White House in the form in which he saw it.
Low told the Times he had "no recollection" of the exchange and insisted he would have never taken part in such an effort to discredit a critic.
Carle said that several months later a colleague showed him an email from a CIA analyst who had been assigned to gather information on Cole.
Intelligence officials confirmed to the Times that they had asked an analyst for information on Cole in 2006, saying White House officials wanted to know why he had been invited to CIA-sponsored conferences.
The CIA declined an AFP request to comment on the Times story.
Cole addressed the story on his blog Thursday, saying the revelations came as a "visceral shock" and that he hoped the US Congress's intelligence committees would launch investigations.
"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," he 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."
© AFP -- Published at Activist Post with license