Blog of Rights

ACLU Files Lawsuit for Info on Alleged Bush-Era Operation to Discredit Blogger & Professor Juan Cole

By Suzanne Ito, ACLU at 3:39pm

Today we filed a lawsuit to enforce a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking any information pertaining to University of Michigan Professor Juan Cole.

Last month, The New York Times reported that Bush administration officials attempted to "gather sensitive information" to discredit Professor Cole because he was a vocal critic of the Iraq War and the Bush administration on his blog, Informed Comment. Glenn Carle, a former CIA agent, alleged in the Times article that he had seen a memo written by his supervisor, David Low, intended for the White House that contained "derogatory details" about Professor Cole.

On June 23, we filed a FOIA request with the CIA, FBI, Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) seeking the Low memo and any other documents about Professor Cole. The CIA and FBI failed to respond at all. Our lawsuit today seeks to enforce the FOIA request.

Professor Cole said in statement today:

Americans don't need permission from their government to write and publish their political opinions. If the Bush White House pettily attempted to use the CIA to destroy my reputation by seeking dirt on my private life in order to punish me for speaking out, that would be a profound violation of my Constitutional rights.

Our complaint notes:

Such a chilling of First Amendment freedoms, if it did in fact take place, would send shock waves through the public arena, threatening to limit the open debate that makes our democracy strong. The public has an urgent need to know whether government agencies are sweeping aside the law and spying on Americans who do nothing more than speak their minds.

Cole, who considers himself a "relatively small fish," told the NYT: “They must have been dismayed at what a boring life I lead."

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Tags: FOIA
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