President George W. Bush's White House ordered the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to find information to "discredit" a liberal University of Michigan professor who was critical of the Iraq war, according to a recent report.

Former CIA officer Glenn Carle told The New York Times' James Risen that while he was working as a counterterrorism expert for the agency in 2005, the Bush White House asked intelligence officials to uncover sensitive information about Professor Juan Cole on at least two occasions.

Cole, an expert on the Middle East, writes a popular blog where he has often used Arabic news sources to counter the official U.S. Iraq war narrative.

Carle said that his supervisor at the National Intelligence Council, David Low, returned from the White House one afternoon in 2005 with instructions to gather information on Cole.

"What do you think we might know about him, or could find out that could discredit him?" Carle recalled Low asking.

Low was undeterred after being warned by Carle that such actions would be illegal.

"But what might we know about him?" Low allegedly asked. "Does he drink? What are his views? Is he married?"

The next morning, Carle said he intercepted a memo from Low to the White House with "inappropriate, derogatory remarks" about Cole's lifestyle.

"I couldn’t believe this was happening," Carle told Risen. "People were accepting it, like you had to be part of the team."

Several months later, Carle was asked by the National Intelligence Council to look at an email from a CIA analyst seeking advice about an assignment from CIA Deputy Director for Intelligence John A. Kringen to again collect information on Cole.

"Have you read his stuff?" Krigen's assistant asked after being confronted by Carle. "He’s really hostile to the administration."

Carle threatened to go to the agency's inspector general if the inquiry was not stopped.

For their part, the CIA has denied Carle's account. "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," agency spokesman George Little told the Times.

"These allegations, if true, raise very troubling questions," former CIA general counsel Jeffrey H. Smith said. "The statute makes it very clear: you can't spy on Americans."

Cole responded to the story on his blog Thursday.

"Carle's revelations come as a visceral shock," he wrote. "I believe Carle's insider account and discount the glib denials of people like Low. Carle is taking a substantial risk in making all this public. I hope that the Senate and House Intelligence Committees will immediately launch an investigation of this clear violation of the law by the Bush White House and by the CIA officials concerned."

Cole said that what alarmed him most was that the Bush administration may have actually succeeded in discrediting other opponents.