ACLU FOIAs CIA for Documents on Juan Cole

The ACLU has just FOIAed the CIA and Director of National Intelligence for any information on Juan Cole. It asks for,

e-mails, letters, faxes, or other correspondence, memoranda, contemporaneous notes of meetings or phone calls, reports or any other material relating to the gathering, collecting, copying, collating, generating or other use of information and material regarding Professor Cole,

The FOIA is addressed to CIA, Director of National Intelligence, and DOJ.

Now, far be it for me to tell ACLU how to FOIA–after all, they’re the best in the business at wringing embarrassing documents out of the government.

But they might want to FOIA DOD, too.

You see, there’s something that has been haunting me about this description from James Risen’s story on this.

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.

That first request elicited, Carle told Amy Goodman, four paragraphs of information, one of which included derogatory information.

GLENN CARLE: Yes, that’s correct. I was—the following day, I came to work and was asked to represent my office at the senior staff meeting, which is routine. And I did. And it was also routine that I take a memorandum of some sort up to the front office, I believe, for the White House. And I thought that I should know what I was doing for the morning, and I read the memo, and it was a memo on Professor Cole with four paragraphs, as I recall, only one of which was about inappropriate personal information. The other three struck me as innocuous. I don’t remember specifically what they said, but one of the four.

Now maybe it’s Carle’s reference, also in the Democracy Now interview, to the Plame outing. But I can’t help but think of how the White House got people across the national security community to reveal that Plame worked for the CIA: They kept asking for information on Wilson’s trip, long after they had already gotten the information they purportedly needed. So, for example, the day after John Hannah briefed Cheney on the trip, Cheney asked someone at CIA for more information on the trip, using incorrect information that would need corrected (I suspect this request was made at a Deputies Committee meeting at the White House, and I think Libby is the one who formally made the request). Then, two days later and almost certainly after Cheney had been briefed personally by (he says) George Tenet as well as (records show) John McLaughlin, and almost certainly after Libby had gotten information from Marc Grossman on Plame’s work at the CIA, Cheney and Libby called the CIA from a meeting with Cathie Martin, to ask for information they already knew. That call was ultimately how Martin learned, from Bill Harlow, that Plame worked for the CIA.

You see, the White House kept asking for the same information they already knew so they could try to get the CIA to share that information in a way they could use it. Of course, along the way, they increased the circle of people who knew that information, which is one of the things that led to the leak of Plame’s identity.

Now, this may not be what is happening here: an attempt to get CIA to take note of information about Cole the White House believed was derogatory.

But it would be worth checking to see whether likely co-participants in a meeting with National Intelligence Council’s David Low or CIA’s Deputy Director for intelligence, John A. Kringen also got similar requests–not least because DOD, with its CIPA program, would likely have been less squeamish about digging up dirt on Cole.

In any case, given the way the government responds to FOIAs, we’ll probably learn more about this in 5 years or so.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

14 replies
  1. mattcarmody says:

    I think it goes without saying that if you’re gonna FOIA CIA you should include DoD to get files maintained by by DIA which doesn’t have a prohibition against operating within the country’s borders, not like that ever stopped CIA. They should also check with the State Department which has its own gun-carrying intelligence agents stationed throughout the world and within this country, New York being a huge office.

    • historypunk says:

      I suspect that the ACLU is filing their FOIA requests with the support and approval of Juan Cole. This means that the CIA is going to have to take it a bit more seriously particularly in light of the ACLU considerable legal firepower and willingness to use it.

      In contrast, all I am truly able to do is submit a request and then fire off an administrative appeal. This weakness gives the CIA and other agency’s a rather free hand when it comes to how they are going to handle a request.

  2. thatvisionthing says:

    You see, the White House kept asking for the same information they already knew so they could try to get the CIA to share that information in a way they could use it. Of course, along the way, they increased the circle of people who knew that information, which is one of the things that led to the leak of Plame’s identity.

    Ha! Like Ron Suskind said, the CIA’s code name for Cheney was Edgar, as in Edgar Bergen, the ventriloquist. See how it’s done.

  3. thatvisionthing says:

    From the Amy Goodman interview:

    GLENN CARLE: It was—the exact date I don’t recall, but I think it was sometime late in 2005, as best I can reconstruct the calendar. I was asked by my superior if I knew who Professor Cole was. I responded, “Yes, he worked for the National Intelligence Council, where I was serving as the deputy national intelligence officer for terrorism, essentially, at the time.” And then the question was, “Well, the White House wants—what do you know about him personally?” His lifestyle type of questions and practices. “Because the White House wants to get him.” And I was just flabbergasted.

    Why not FOIA the White House?

  4. chetnolian says:

    OT and before I go to bed. The mouse has roared. The Murdoch attempt to create Fox News UK is toast. And listening to commentators discussing the FCTA I found myself thinking Emptywheel was a couple of days ahead.

    Really interesting is the fact that the tipping point, at which the problem moved outside the UK equivalent of the Beltway, was when the very people who read Murdoch’s papers found they were messing with the phones of young female murder victims and their families, the very sort of people these papers had used as camoflage for their infamy.

    • marksb says:

      NPR/APR Marketplace was openly discussing the question of did Murdoch’s US employees illegally access the phones of 9/11 victim’s families? I have no idea if there’s fire behind the smoke, but the question was being asked on fairly respectable media outlet.

      Interesting…will this scandal make Fox’s usual antics be publicly discussed–finally?

      Tim Rutten, the media critic at the LA Times, looked at Murdoch and his properties–as well as other US media idiocy–today.

      Fox News played a key role in legitimizing the notion of partisan news coverage and political commentary as not just normative but somehow inevitable.

      News Corp.’s unquestioned financial success has taken other media organizations — many essentially unmoored from their own values by the stress of technological change — down these same paths. Pre-Murdoch, could we really imagine a dubious gossip website and syndicated TV program such as TMZ being regularly quoted by mainstream media? Would CNN have given license to one of its news personalities to campaign for a guilty verdict in a criminal trial — and to excoriate a jury for disagreeing with her — as it has done with Nancy Grace in the Casey Anthony trial?

      The seeds of Murdoch’s British newspapers’ abuse of trust and power were sown in a media culture whose essentials — salacious celebrity coverage, gossip, overt partisanship — have infiltrated our own under his influence. The meltdown in London ought to be a wake-up call.

      More of this, please.

      • prostratedragon says:

        While I expect to see more resistance here for a while, that Dowler matter over in the UK was the first tree on the horizon. There seems to be at least a row of them waving about in the wind by now. And consider how convenient for a political operation like the ones aimed at Juan Cole and the Wilsons it would be to have something like the News Corp around keeping things goosed up.

        Mixed metaphor music break:
        Fallout! by Henry Mancini; the Henry Mancini Orchestra vintage 1987.

  5. prostratedragon says:

    The Guardian has been covering the phone hacking story for at least 2 years, to general derision, elaborate expressions of ennui, etc. Here’s a spot of their revenge:

    Phone Hacking Denials

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