It’s sometimes easy to forget, but for eight years, the Bush White House offered a remarkable combination of corruption, incompetence, mismanagement, and moral “flexibility.” Serious scandals — the kind that would rock a White House under normal circumstances — were so common, they’d sometimes pop up on a weekly basis.
Is it really that surprising, then, to hear the Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight might use CIA resources to target a blogger that criticized the administration’s failures in Iraq?
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.
Now, I suspect some folks might hear this and think, “C’mon. Bush, Cheney, Rove, and their team were awful, but they weren’t this awful.”
Except, they were. We’re talking about folks who outed a CIA operative during a war to spite her husband. Is it implausible that they would also want to use CIA resources to “get” a respected professor pointing out the administration’s failures?
In fairness, at this point, all we have is the word of a former CIA official, and others at the agency deny Carle’s account. Officials told the NYT that White House officials did ask about Cole in 2006, “but only to find out why he had been invited to C.I.A.-sponsored conferences on the Middle East.”
Reading the piece, the quotes from various sources, and the level of detail, it’s difficult to just dismiss the allegations out of hand. Indeed, Carle didn’t approach the New York Times with the allegations; the newspaper learned of this elsewhere and approached Carle for comment. In other words, it’s not like this is a disgruntled former employee who ran to the media because he has an axe to grind. We’re talking about a long-time CIA veteran who appears entirely credible and has no incentive to lie.
“I couldn’t believe this was happening,” Carle said of the efforts to dig up dirt on Cole. “People were accepting it, like you had to be part of the team.”
For his part, Cole wants a congressional investigation, and I don’t blame him. If Carle’s revelations are true, using the CIA to spy on Americans for partisan gain is a felony.