Spying On Juan Cole

A former CIA official says the Bush administration tried to get him to gather information to discredit Juan Cole. But forget the accusations. Anyone can accuse anyone of anything. Check out the denials:

White House officials did ask about Professor Cole in 2006 […] Mr. Low, who no longer works in government, did recall being curious about Professor Cole. […] Intelligence officials confirmed that the assistant sent e-mails to an analyst seeking information about Professor Cole in 2006. They said he had done so at the request of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which had been asked by White House officials to find out why Professor Cole had been invited to CIA-sponsored conferences.

The denials seem to me to make the story perfectly clear. Juan Cole was a fierce critic of the Bush administration. At the same time, conservative activists were organizing a campaign in the press to deny him a job at Yale and generally discredit him. And White House officials asked questions about him to people in the CIA, and managers there were “curious” about him. Was anyone brazen enough to do anything illegal? Or did they merely stick to a “will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest” strategy of trying to get someone else to do something illegal on their behalf without actually crossing any bright legal lines? No doubt we’ll never know. But they were curious. They were asking questions.