In 2006, I wrote about a nasty smear campaign mounted against Juan Cole, who’d been nominated for a prestigious endowed chair in history at Yale. Jewish pro-Israel alumni and right-wing blogs trumpeted Cole’s alleged anti-Semitic utterances and his supposed hatred for Israel. The campaign worked. While his appointment was approved by the department, through an unprecedented intervention it was eventually scuttled and he returned happily to his position teaching at the University of Michigan.
Now, the NY Times’ James Risen reports a U.S. intelligence official was dragooned into a CIA investigation involving Cole in an attempt to find out embarrassing information about him that could damage his reputation. The official notes there were at least two separate attempts to do this which he frustrated each time. It is, of course, illegal for the CIA to investigate U.S. citizens. Which seems to me to give Juan a built-in lawsuit. I’d give up on a Congressional investigation since the Obama administration seems almost as backward on national security as the Bush administration was.
What the article doesn’t reveal is who in the U.S. government initiated the request for an investigation of Cole. It seems clear to me that this would not have come from the CIA itself. In fact, the official reveals that the discussions began after his boss came back from a White House meeting. My money of course is on the devil himself, Dick Cheney. This is the part of the story I’d like to see expanded. I’m hoping Juan has filed an FOIA request, though if Cheney was smart he wouldn’t have left any fingerprints that would lead directly back to him. It’s just too damn bad he can’t sue Cheney himself if he’s the culprit.
An equally intriguing question would be whether members of the Republican pro-Israel Jewish community and/or the Israeli government were interested in this little adventure. They certainly would’ve been able to get Cheney’s ear. So the question, if Cheney was the initiator, would be whether he thought this up himself or the issue was brought to him by others. And if so, whom.