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Did It Begin and End with Juan Cole?

Juan Cole,  University of Michigan professorby Jacob G. Hornberger

The New York Times is reporting that a former CIA official, Glenn L. Carle, has revealed that the George W. Bush White House “sought damaging personal information on a prominent American critic of the Iraq war in order to discredit him.” Carle said that officials in the Bush administration “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.”

Cole’s response to Carle’s revelation is posted here.

It’s not clear yet whether the CIA complied with Bush’s request, but given the propensity of the Pentagon, CIA, and NSA officials to comply with whatever orders were issued by Bush, it is a virtual certainty that even though Carle himself refused to participate in the scheme, the president was able to find some loyal, obedient lackies within the CIA who were more than willing to do his bidding — in the name of the war on terrorism and national security, of course.

After all, don’t forget the NSA spying scheme, in which Bush enlisted officials in several American telecommunications firms to illegally turn over information about their customers to NSA officials who were participating in the criminality. When one of the telecom heads, a man named Joseph Nacchio, the CEO of Qwest Communications, refused to break the law and sell out his customers, the Justice Department retaliated with a criminal indictment against him for insider trading.

Don’t forget the Valerie Plame matter. When Plame’s husband, Joe Wilson, revealed that the Bush administration was lying about Saddam Hussein’s purported attempts to secure yellow cake in Niger as a way to get people to support his undeclared war of aggression against Iraq, Bush officials retaliated by outing Plame as a CIA agent, effectively ending her career with the CIA.

What will Congress do about the Carle’s allegations? Probably nothing given that this is the CIA we’re talking about. What member of Congress wants to take on the CIA, especially given that the CIA could end up revealing the dirt it has acquired on the members of Congress and reveal it to the public?

But it is the responsibility of Congress to fully investigate the matter. For that matter, it’s also up to the Justice Department to investigate whether any criminal laws were violated. After all, the CIA isn’t supposed to be spying on Americans, is it?

My hunch is that this matter did not begin and end with Juan Cole. My hunch is that the Bush administration used the CIA and other means at its disposal to secure information on American war critics, just like the U.S.-supported dictators in the Middle East do their citizens. After all, when a regime has no reluctance to violate laws against torture, spying, and undeclared wars of aggression, how likely is it that it is going to stop at one single journalist who’s writing an antiwar blog?

The Congress needs to be fearless. It needs to conduct a full public investigation (i.e., no secret proceedings), one in which the former president himself is summoned to testify under oath. Americans have a right to know the full extent to which the powers of the national-security state in the much-vaunted 10-year war on terrorism have been turned upon them.

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of the Future of Freedom Foundation.

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