Getting on the wrong side of a political fight can land you in the crosshairs of a White House smear campaign, at least that is what appears to have happened during the Bush administration years. According to recent testimony by former US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer Glenn Carle, the Bush White House ordered the agency to dig up dirt on a prominent university professor that had been outspoken against the war in Iraq, in order to publicly discredit him -- and that was apparently not the only time the administration targeted those who dared to question the legitimacy of its actions.
Bush officials allegedly approached top CIA counter-terrorism officials after observing Juan Cole, professor of History at the University of Michigan, blogging heavily against the war in Iraq. According to Carle, his supervisor at the National Intelligence Council (NIC), David Low, approached him in 2005 and asked him to dig up information about Cole in order to discredit him.
"The White House wants to get him," said Low, according to Carle's recollection of the event. "What do you think we might know about him, or could find out that could discredit him?" Upon responding back that such spying is illegal, Low allegedly responded, "But what might we know about him? Does he drink? What are his views? Is he married?" In response, Carle allegedly stated, "We don't do those things," and told The New York Times (NYT) in a recent interview that the interaction was "intensely disturb[ing]."
Low, of course, has denied the allegations, claiming that he does not recall ever saying those types of things, or participating in any spying activity on Cole. And George Little, a CIA spokesman, told the NYT that it has "thoroughly researched our records, and any allegation that the CIA provided private or derogatory information on Professor Cole to anyone is simply wrong."
However according to the NYT, David Gordon, the acting director of NIC at the time of the incident,does not deny Carle's account of the situation. Carle had approached Gordon about the incident at the time, only to be told that he was not personally involved with any such activity.
"Carle's revelations come as a visceral shock," wrote Cole on his blog in response to the admissions. "I believe Carle's insider account and discount the glib denials of people like Low. Carle is taking a substantial risk in making all this public. I hope that the Senate and House Intelligence Committees will immediately launch an investigation of this clear violation of the law by the Bush White House and by the CIA officials concerned."