Senate Intelligence Committee to Investigate Cole-CIA Allegations

Historians in the News

UPDATE -- June 21 -- Thomas E. Ricks, author of Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq and The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006-2008, wrote in a short blog post that he "doesn't trust [Congress or the Justice Department] to handle the job" of investigating Carle's allegations. "Congress was part of the problem



UPDATE -- June 20 -- The Detroit News and Democracy Now are reporting that the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee has begun an investigation into allegations that the Bush administration sought to use the CIA to discredit historian Juan Cole.

"The committee is looking into this," committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said in a statement. "Depending on what we find, we may take further action."

The the chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), has not announced that his committee will undertake an investigation of its own. Rogers represents Michigan's 8th Congressional District, which does not include Ann Arbor, where the University of Michigan is located.

In the blogosphere, Steve Benen wrote on his Washington Monthly that former CIA official Glenn Carle's allegations seemed "pretty credible," and that "it seems implausible that the West Wing didn’t have a longer list of potential targets." Libertarian commentator Justin Raimondo said the alleged abuse of power is evidence of the toxic growth of the national security state, and Tom Engelhardt, whose TomDispatch frequently publishes commentary by Professor Cole, noted that "that the journalist who revealed this little shocker, James Risen, is being hounded by the Obama administration. He's been subpoenaed by federal authorities to testify against a CIA agent accused of leaking information to him (on a bungled CIA plan to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program) for his book State of War."

Conservative blogs and websites have so far remained largely silent on the allegations, including websites like FrontPageMag and Middle East Forum that have been intensely critical of Professor Cole in the past.

Salon has compiled a handy reading list of some of Professor Cole's more controversial pieces from their archives.



June 16 -- A former CIA official quoted in the New York Times alleges that the Bush administration sought to discredit influential antiwar blogger Juan Cole.

Glenn L. Carle told the Times that the White House wanted "'to get" Cole and that his supervisors requested that he "collect information" on the University of Michigan history professor to use against him, an action which is almost certainly illegal.

A CIA spokesman denied the allegations, but Jeffrey Smith, a former counsel for the CIA who was quoted in the article, said that the charges were "troubling." "You can't spy on Americans," he told the Times.

The Times claims to have received information about the request elsewhere, and only approached Mr. Carle for confirmation.

Professor Cole wrote on his blog, Informed Comment, that, although aware of the Bush White House's hostility, Carle's allegations are "a visceral shock" to him. He is calling for an investigation by the Senate and House Intelligence Committees.

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.

Juan Cole spoke last January at the American Historical Association convention in Boston about the public uses of history and the global war on terror:


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