Jonathan H. Adler of The Volokh Conspiracy points to quite an alarming story in the New York Times reporting allegations that the George W. Bush White House directed the CIA to gather damaging information about blogger Juan Cole, a University of Michigan professor whose liberal views on his Informed Comment blog were highly critical of Bush’s foreign policy.
The allegations come from ex-CIA officer Glenn L. Carle. The NYT reports:
According to Mr. Carle, Mr. Low returned from a White House meeting one day and inquired who Juan Cole was, making clear that he wanted Mr. Carle to gather information on him. Mr. Carle recalled his boss saying, “The White House wants to get him.”
“ ‘What do you think we might know about him, or could find out that could discredit him?’ ” Mr. Low continued, according to Mr. Carle.
Mr. Carle said that he warned that it would be illegal to spy on Americans and refused to get involved, but that Mr. Low seemed to ignore him.
“But what might we know about him?” he said Mr. Low asked. “Does he drink? What are his views? Is he married?”
Mr. Carle said that he responded, “We don’t do those sorts of things,” but that Mr. Low appeared undeterred. …
Wow. That sure seems illegal. A former CIA general counsel interviewed for the story agreed, saying, “The statute makes it very clear: you can’t spy on Americans.”
If Carle’s allegations are correct – or even partly right – this is just completely outrageous. But I can’t do a better job of pointing out how absurd it all is than Cole does himself:
… I mean, really. How inept do you have to be to enlist intelligence officials in monitoring bloggers? They put up their thoughts for everyone to see every day! I keep thinking of David Low’s stupid question as to what the CIA could find out about me. Did he mean, aside from the gigabytes of data at my own blog?
As Cole says, maybe the Bush administration should have been trying to use some of those CIA resources to get Osama Bin Laden instead of digging up info on American bloggers.