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Wyden, Feinstein, Roberts
Senators Wyden, Feinstein, and Roberts in Intelligence meeting (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

The Senate Intelligence Committee will investigate allegations by a former CIA official that the Bush administration ordered the agency to spy on Professor Juan Cole, prominent blogger and Iraq War critic during that administration. Greg Sargent reports:
"The Committee is looking into this," Dianne Feinstein, the chair of the intel committee, said in a statement sent my way. "Depending on what we find, we may take further action."

The news comes after the New York Times reported yesterday that former CIA official Glenn Carle, a top counterterrorism official during the Bush administration, had gone on the record with this allegation. Carle said his supervisor at the National Intelligence Council made clear to him in 2005 that he wanted Carle to collect info about University of Michigan professor and blogger Juan Cole.

Carle said that his supervisor had asked him: "What might we know about him? Does he drink? What are his views? Is he married?" Carle also said his supervisor had told him: "The White House wants to get him."


Judging from Senator Feinstein's quote, the scope and goals of this initial effort to look into the story are unclear, but at a minimum, Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee are now taking a first step in that direction. This could also force a public relitigation of the Bush administration's efforts to sell the Iraq War to the public—a topic that is likely to stir intense passions on both sides.

A public relitigation of the lead up to the Iraq War and the Bush/Cheney administration is something that many of us have argued as a critical step in the nation reclaiming the mantle of a nation of guided by the rule of law. Adam Serwer writes about this, and makes an excellent point: "Prior to the Church Committee of the 1970s, the CIA was literally opening Americans' mail in secret. At minimum, an investigation will have the deterrent effect of reminding the CIA that there are lines they aren't ever allowed to cross."

It appears that the CIA needs to have that reminder on an extremely frequent basis. It's also good for the Congress to remember and practice that critical function it holds: checking executive power.

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