Home > Arab Blogs > Carle and Cole on CNN: More Details about Bush/CIA Sting of Cole

Carle and Cole on CNN: More Details about Bush/CIA Sting of Cole

June 18th, 2011

Below is a transcript of an interview by Eliot Spitzer on CNN’s “In the Arena” with Glenn Carle and Juan Cole concerning the Bush White House/ CIA attempt to destroy Cole’s reputation. I think Carle adds some new details and texture to his account beyond what was in James Risen’s NYT piece.

Let me quote here the passage at the bottom, from me, right up front:

And it’s just impossible for me to believe that the White House asked the CIA to Google me; that they were just passing along publicly available information. There must have been an implication that they should actively dig up some kind of dirt. And that is illegal and it’s extremely troubling, and I believe that the Senate Intelligence Committee, the House Intelligence Committee should open investigations, should subpoena documents, should get names, should find out what was going on, who the request came from at the White House, what’s the background of this.

I think Eric Holder, at the Department of Justice, should look into it. And I think that unless we get to the bottom of this story, we can’t be sure that there weren’t others so targeted, that other people were perhaps — their reputation was ruined for political purposes.

And we also — to tell you the truth, we can’t be sure there aren’t black cells inside the CIA that continue to behave in these ways. I mean, I think we really need to shake things up here and get to the bottom of this.

Spitzer at the end notes the CIA’s denial of Carle’s and Risen’s story (Risen has other sources besides Carle who however declined to be named). The denial is clearly dishonest and seems mainly concerned with reassuring other experts that by agreeing to speak to intelligence analysts in DC they are not thereby putting themselves under surveillance! I’d be sorry if this fiasco dried up open sources for the US intelligence community, which is often too stovepiped and inward-looking as it is.

Here is the full transcript:

CNN

June 17, 2011 Friday

SHOW: IN THE ARENA 8:00 PM EST

Bush White House Asked CIA to Gather Information on College Professor; Interview With Robert Reich

BYLINE: Eliot Spitzer, Richard Quest, Diana Magnay

GUESTS: Glenn Carle, Juan Cole, Steve Kornacki, Reihan Salam, Robert Reich, James Traub…

HIGHLIGHT: CIA gathered damaging information on an American college professor on orders from the Bush White House.

HOST: Good evening. Welcome to the program. I’m Eliot Spitzer.

Tonight — a story that smacks of the Watergate era, a tale fit for Woodward and Bernstein., explosive allegations that the CIA gathered damaging information on an American college professor on orders from the Bush White House, this because the professor’s views were critical of Bush administration policies. Sounds un-American, doesn’t it? We’ll have an exclusive interview in just a moment…

SPITZER: …

Tonight, in covert action, did the Bush White House use the CIA to spy on an American citizen who was a critic of the Iraq war? It’s a scary charge. The critic in question is Juan Cole, a controversial history professor at the University of Michigan who often wrote about his unfavorable views of Bush administration policies.

The person allegedly asked to do the spying but says he refused is Glenn Carle, the 23-year veteran of the CIA who rose to the senior ranks of the agency. He says White House officials wanted, quoting here, “to get Juan Cole.”

Glenn Carle is the CIA officer in question. He joins me for an exclusive interview. After he tells his story, Professor Juan Cole will join the conversation.

Welcome.

Glenn, let me start with you. You were asked to do something that you believed and is in fact illegal. Tell us what happened, how the request was made to you, and what followed thereafter.

GLENN CARLE, FORMER CIA OFFICER: Sometime late in 2005, I don’t remember the exact dates, it is a while ago. But sometime late in 2005, my superior returned from a meeting at the White House and called me into his office and asked me if I knew about Professor Juan Cole, who was he. I said, of course, I know who he is. We had worked together on National Intelligence Council business a number of times and then started to ask questions about lifestyle and background, in saying what you just summarized that the White House found him a severe critic and wanted to get him and I was flabbergasted.

SPITZER: You objected to the request to get Juan — to get Professor Cole and you nonetheless saw a few days later that this effort appeared to be continuing. Describe that for us.

CARLE: The following morning there was a staff meeting I had to attend. Details I can spare I think. But in attending the meeting, I had to carry a memorandum that was going to be routed to the White House I believe it was. And although I don’t know the people to whom it was destined, I do not know that.

And in this memorandum was a note on Professor Cole as I recall, four paragraphs long, describing him, his personal life. Not that he thought the Shia were doing this or the Shia were doing, or Hezbollah was this. The substance of what interested him for the National Intelligence Council, but about his personal behavior and taste and practices.

Only one of the paragraphs was objectionable. But I was stunned. So, I took it to the acting chairman of the National Intelligence Council immediately and said this is really very disturbing. You need to know about this. You need to take some action because it’s beyond my power to stop this.

He immediately did. He said watch me.

SPITZER: And was that David Gordon? Again, I know you’re hesitant to mention — was that David Gordon?

CARLE: Yes. David Gordon was the acting chairman, yes.

SPITZER: OK.

CARLE: And he — in front of me, scratched out the offending paragraph of that memorandum.

SPITZER: Now, there’s no question in your mind the memo that you read one paragraph of which you found objectionable was responsive — would have been responsive to the request to get information to get Professor Cole. This is what somebody had crafted and prepared in response to that sort of request.

CARLE: It was a response to a request for personal information about Professor Juan Cole, yes.

SPITZER: Not substantive information about his views about the Iraq war or Middle Eastern affairs but personal information that would have been deemed derogatory, somehow critical or somehow useful in an effort to discredit?

CARLE: Well, who is Juan Cole, the man, and to include inappropriate personal assessments of him or behaviors he would engage in. None of which I recall whatsoever.

SPITZER: And, clearly, just to complete the circle, David Gordon must have agreed with you because as you say –

CARLE: Absolutely.

SPITZER: — he X’ed out one of the paragraphs, coming to the same conclusion you did that it was not appropriate information to be passing along.

CARLE: Oh, absolutely. I knew him to be an outstanding professional and man of judgment and he also was the man in charge. And that’s why I went to him, telling him he needed to know about this, he needed to take measures to stop it because I was aware of this and I was unable to stop this sort of thing. And he said never, ever, would he have involvement in something like that and he would see to it that it was stopped.

SPITZER: Now, was there a further instance where you got the sense or direct evidence that there was an effort to get information about Professor Cole?

CARLE: Well, the answer is yes. One could have thought this was the episode we just talked about. This is an aberration, sort of strange and misunderstanding end of story. But a number of months later, I was about to have lunch with a colleague of mine who said, Glenn, take a look at this. He showed me an e-mail to him seeking guidance from a concerned or troubled more junior officer saying, how do I respond to this? This is bizarre — essentially was the inquiry.

This is a person that my colleague was mentoring and the request was from, as the article describes, from the front office of the agency for personal information that anybody knew about Professor Juan Cole. And I just — there I thought my goodness. This is inconceivable. This is really not just an aberration. So, I took steps, forcible as I could, to try to stop it and within my circle of knowledge, I think that I succeeded. But I, of course, don’t know what’s beyond it.

SPITZER: Can you tell us to whom you reported this at the point when you saw the second incident? Clearly, you must have concluded this was not one-off, this was not one aberrant misstep. This was a continuing course of conduct. Can you tell us to whom you reported it and therefore what paper trail or what evidence should be there to corroborate the story?

CARLE: Yes. Well, there is — you know, CIA officers don’t their work home and I have no documents or proof whatsoever. It’s just my word against the institution and other individuals, of course, which is unfortunate possibly from me. But I’m telling — everything I’m telling is exactly the truth in what happened.

There were e-mails, however, and other individuals, colleagues of mine, have said to me that they remember the events as I do, but they are unwilling to speak.

SPITZER: As you just said, this will ultimately become a test of your credibility versus the credibility of those in the agency who may want to dismiss this. So, let me just sort of lay the foundation and probe a little bit. How many years did you spend in the CIA?

CARLE: Twenty-three — well, almost 23 years I served. Full career.

SPITZER: What was the most senior position that you attained, the — your highest position there?

CARLE: Yes, I had somewhat unusual career. But I was actually an operations officer, clandestine services officer. So, most of my career, I was undercover and I was doing things I can’t really speak about.

But that’s what I did. And until my last position, which was the most senior one, to answer your question, and there I was the deputy national intelligence officer for transnational threats — a long winded term for senior most analytical position on terrorists analysis.

SPITZER: So, in the end, to put this into parlance, so we can understand, you went from being James Bond to Q.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLE: No, not Q. Q makes funny gizmos and so on. Jack, what he’s face from Tom Clancy novels, without the operational status.

(CROSSTALK)

SPITZER: All right. Just so we understand what you were doing.

But you left the agency on your own terms. You were not dismissed? You were not fired? There was no ongoing litigation between you and the agency?

CARLE: No. I retired, normal retirement.

SPITZER: Do you have any reason to believe there are other instances of inquiries such as the one we’ve been discussing that — you know, where the agency was asked to gather information that could be used to injure somebody’s reputation?

CARLE: Yes. Well, of course, this is the question that “The New York Times” asked me and everyone asks and would like the answer to. I have spoken to the facts that I lived them. I only know the incident concerning Professor Cole as I — as we’ve summarized it today. I don’t know what happened beyond my knowledge or sight or professional activities.

SPITZER: Do you — you know these facts. You lived them as you just said. Do you believe those facts constitute illegal behavior, the request, and the effort to gather information through the agency that could be used to damage a U.S. citizens reputation?

CARLE: Well, this is why I was shocked and why I took the steps that I did, why I said I was flabbergasted, and I hurried around the building looking for the person to challenge about it because it smothers milk in the agency. Executive order 12333, American — not American — the CIA has nothing to do with, doesn’t spy on, doesn’t collect information on, do anything concerning American citizens, unless there’s a very rigorous protocol followed.

That was not the case in this instance. This is personal information unrelated to a national security issue, and it’s clearly something that the CIA cannot engage in.

And all of my colleagues and I know that.

SPITZER: Professor Cole, I apologize. You have been more the innocent bystander in this conversation. But, obviously, what the CIA did is core of this problem.

Having heard this, having read the stories that have emerged over the last few days, what do you believe should happen to be — what should be done to pursue and investigate this?

JUAN COLE: Well, it’s clearly extremely improper and illegal for — even for the paragraphs that may have been sent over which were unobjectionable about an American citizen, the CIA shouldn’t be telling the White House about an American citizen.

And it’s just impossible for me to believe that the White House asked the CIA to Google me; that they were just passing along publicly available information. There must have been an implication that they should actively dig up some kind of dirt. And that is illegal and it’s extremely troubling, and I believe that the Senate Intelligence Committee, the House Intelligence Committee should open investigations, should subpoena documents, should get names, should find out what was going on, who the request came from at the White House, what’s the background of this.

I think Eric Holder, at the Department of Justice, should look into it. And I think that unless we get to the bottom of this story, we can’t be sure that there weren’t others so targeted, that other people were perhaps — their reputation was ruined for political purposes.

And we also — to tell you the truth, we can’t be sure there aren’t black cells inside the CIA that continue to behave in these ways. I mean, I think we really need to shake things up here and get to the bottom of this.

SPITZER: All right. Juan Cole, Glenn Carle, thank you so much for joining us.

CARLE: Thank you.

SPITZER: We’ve received a response to the allegations made by former CIA officer Glenn Carle and Professor Juan Cole.

The CIA spokesman says and I quote here, “We’ve thoroughly researched our records and any allegation that the CIA provided private or derogatory information on Professor Cole to anyone is simply wrong. We value the insights of outside experts, including respected academics, who follow many of the same national security policies that we do.”

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