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Bush-CIA’s Attempted SmackDown of Prof. Juan Cole’s Truth-Based Iraq War Dissent

First Amendment: Protects the freedom of religion, speech, and the press, as well as the right to assemble and petition the government

Fourth Amendment: Prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures and sets out requirements for search warrants based on probable cause

Remember before the Patriot Act when it was shocking and ILLEGAL for the government to poke into one’s privacy to find potentially damning information? Information to discredit, blackmail, intimidate, and/or punish law-abiding citizens. The days when much of the citizenry and more than only one or two Congresspeople gave a serious damn about assaults on the rights to privacy of US citizens.

This is not to say that such covert ops weren’t done. During the Watergate days Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office was invaded for “dirt”. The disclosure of Valerie Plame’s identity was punishment by Bush et al. for Joe Wilson’s assertion that there weren’t WMDs in Iraq.

According to NYT’s James Risen, it turns out 58-year old Juan Cole, history professor at the University of Michigan, pre-eminent scholar on the Middle East, and, since 2002, host blogger of “Informed Comment”, was enough of an ENEMY of the Bush administration re the Iraq War to inspire pushback.

What’s a corrupt, mendacious, anti-constitutional prez like Bush to do? Why, put a phone call in to the CIA to “get him” -- “get something” on such a big-mouthed truth- and reality-talking troublemaker like Professor Cole whose Arabic sensibility was such an inconvenience to the lies the public was being fed about the Iraq War. Something personal and unsavory for perhaps a nice character assassination. At the very least, something to help throw a monkey wrench into a well-respected and highly educated scholar’s career path?

According to retired 23-year CIA veteran Glenn Carle in an interview with Eliot Spitzer:

Sometime late in 2005, I don’t remember the exact dates, it is a while ago. But sometime late in 2005, my superior returned from a meeting at the White House and called me into his office and asked me if I knew about Professor Juan Cole, who was he. I said, of course, I know who he is. We had worked together on National Intelligence Council business a number of times and then started to ask questions about lifestyle and background, in saying what you just summarized that the White House found him a severe critic and wanted to get him and I was flabbergasted. [emphasis added]


So, I took steps, forcible as I could, to try to stop it and within my circle of knowledge, I think that I succeeded. But I, of course, don’t know what’s beyond it.


Executive order 12333, American — not American — the CIA has nothing to do with, doesn’t spy on, doesn’t collect information on, do anything concerning American citizens, unless there’s a very rigorous protocol followed.

That was not the case in this instance. This is personal information unrelated to a national security issue, and it’s clearly something that the CIA cannot engage in.

And all of my colleagues and I know that.

And as Carle incredulously told Risen:

“I couldn’t believe this was happening,” ... “People were accepting it, like you had to be part of the team.”

One wonders what happened at the CIA beyond Carle’s ken. Among those, unlike Carle, who did not feel outraged by the illegal boundary crossing? Authoritariansim and cronyism being what they are in that security/military culture. Even Carle’s pushback was limited in his own narrow CIA orbit back then, though he gets credit for the courage to come forth now, especially when this citizenry needs to wake up and pay attention to government surveillance and the increasing regard of domestic dissent by US administrations as criminal and treasonous.

Juan Cole says of Carle:

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. Like Mr. Carle, I am dismayed at how easy it seems to have been for corrupt WH officials to suborn CIA personnel into activities that had nothing to do with national security abroad and everything to do with silencing domestic critics. This effort was yet another attempt to gut the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution, in this case as part of an effort to gut the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

One wonders if Professor’s Cole’s aborted appointment to the Yale faculty during that time had anything to do with those WH/CIA efforts to stifle his truth to power commentaries? One wonders if Professor Cole considered this himself dealing with the probable disappointment over the lost Yale opportunity. Or was Cole unwilling to attribute such possible extreme vindictiveness and amorality even to Bush et al.? How could they go to such lengths? Cole was simply exercising his right of free speech just like millions of other Americans. Unlike millions of other Americans, though, Cole had an extra measure of knowledge on the Middle East in which to question the US’s mad plunge into war with Iraq. How very inconvenient was his knowledge and eagerness to share it to the jingoist manipulations of government. And to administrations like Bush’s (and, hell, let’s face it, Obama’s) the ENDS JUSTIFIES THE MEANS in protecting their and their corporatist pimps’ ambitions and goals.

Interestingly, Professor Cole was and still is a well-respected figure among some of the CIA community for the very Middle East expertise that had caused his targeting. He had been a frequent speaker at seminars, conferences, think tanks about Mid-East affairs. Then all such invitations according to Cole suddenly dried up. The White House’s black-balling and marginalization had begun to take hold. Perhaps it is because of the CIA community’s respect for Cole that he is learning the truth about his targeting now. Better late than ...

Juan Cole quipped to Risen:

“They must have been dismayed at what a boring life I lead.”

But Cole posts most seriously on his own blog about the meaning of this incident to himself as well as America, especially in the context of the dismantling of the constitution under the anti-terrorism rationale:

Very unfortunately, President Obama just signed a four-year extension of the so-called PATRIOT Act, with three central provisions that permit warrantless spying by government agencies on US residents. This extension was rushed through the Congress with parliamentary maneuvers and opponents of it who wanted a public debate were shut down by Reid and Boehner.

If the Bush White House blithely picked up the phone and asked the Central Intelligence Agency to gather information on my private life for the purpose of destroying me politically– a set of actions that was illegal every which way from Sunday– then imagine how powerful government officials are using the legal authorization they receive from the PATRIOT Act to spy on and marginalize perceived opponents.

The act is clearly unconstitutional and guts key Bill of Right protections. Among its disturbing aspects is the access it gives government agencies to individuals’ library records, business records and other personal effects without requiring probable cause of a crime being committed. And while the wiretap provisions target non-US citizens, they extend to any conversations the latter have with US citizens. The framers of the constitution in any case believed that the liberties they proclaimed extended to “all men,” not just citizens.

Worse, Sen. Ron Wyden has said that there is a “secret PATRIOT Act” in the sense that there is a government interpretation of the act that allows surveillance and intrusiveness far beyond what the letter of the statute seems to permit.

The scale of the electronic surveillance of Americans’ private correspondence by the National Security Agency is barely imaginable, and we have no idea how much of our communications are being stored on NSA servers and sifted through by computer programs.

The Congress should revisit the PATRIOT Act in the light of the revelation of what was attempted in my regard, and should repeal the damn thing. Failing that, the federal judiciary should find it unconstitutional, which it is. But one of the things that worries me is that some of the key political and judicial personnel who might want to move against it may themselves already have been victims of surveillance, entrapment and blackmailing. Just how corrupt has our whole governmental apparatus become, that clear violations of our Constitution are blithely accepted?

Expanding on the threat of government surveillance, Thomas R. Eddlem in the New American:

So should Americans be worried about the federal government downloading the entire Internet without a warrant? The fool says to himself, "I'm not doing anything wrong, so I'm not worried about government wiretapping." The real power of surveillance is not just dependent upon proving the virtuous few are doing something illegal, but in the ability to blackmail and intimidate the great masses. Warrantless surveillance allows the government to find out anything embarrassing about anyone on the Internet. It allows the government to know — and blackmail — people with embarrassing medical histories (mental illness, incontinence, STDs, "erectile disfunction," etc.), Internet traffic (in pornography, foul language, wasted time at work on Facebook, etc.), people who have made negative or angry remarks about bosses (or colleagues, family members, etc.), poor grades in school, disciplinary measures or negative reviews at work, and an almost limitless list of perfectly legal but embarrassing measures. Even a citizen without any sin (if such a thing exists) and a perfect health, work and school record can be impacted by the wide accessibility for blackmail by government officials with such unfettered access to Americans' private data. Even a perfect man can see that the whole of society could be bullied and blackmailed by a government that sees all of its citizens' personal data.

Relating back to the Bush-CIA/Cole scenario, Cole discloses that then Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte responded to the allegations by protesting that he had NO MEMORY OF THE EVENT but that others in the office may have been approached about Cole. Cole notes this as “hardly a decisive refutation of the charges.” Cole also points out that Negroponte is now “a research fellow and lecturer in international affairs at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs.”

Hmmmmm. Yale University for Negroponte, eh? Gotta sting I would speculate. Can’t help thinking about Cole’s lost opportunity there. In Orwellian America knowledge and honesty are political liabilities. Truth to power certainly seems to have rather high and maybe hidden price tags for people of conscience in ethics-compromised, fast-hardening of soft-fascism America. When will the majority of citizens appreciate those costs to the brave messengers of truth to power and be willing to more earnestly join in to pay them?

[cross-posted at correntewire]