Report: U.S. Escalating Covert Operations Against Iran

Late last year, Congressional leaders agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran, and charges that the administration is running "cross border" operations into Iran, The New Yorker magazine reported.

In an article published online Sunday, the magazine cites current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources and said the operations were described in a highly classified Presidential Finding signed by Bush and are designed to destabilize the country’s religious leadership.

The State Department's top official in Iraq is refuted the report that special operations forces are conducting cross-border operations from Iraq into Iran.

"I can tell you flatly U.S. forces are not operating across the border in Iran," U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker said on a morning cable news show.

The New Yorker piece by Seymour Hersh, says: "United States Special Operations Forces have been conducting cross-border operations from southern Iraq, with Presidential authorization, since last year. These have included seizing members of Al Quds, the commando arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and taking them to Iraq for interrogation, and the pursuit of 'high-value targets' in the President’s war on terror, who may be captured or killed."

The White House did not comment on the article. And one administration official, who asked not to be identified, dismissed the piece: "We've declined comment on Hersh's quarterly articles. You can almost tell time by them."

The New Yorker said that even though some legislators, including top Democrats, were troubled by the Finding, the $400 million funding for the escalation, which includes gathering intelligence about Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program, was approved.

“The Finding was focused on undermining Iran’s nuclear ambitions and trying to undermine the government through regime change,” the article quotes a person familiar with its contents as saying, and involved “working with opposition groups and passing money.”

The covert activities involve support of the minority Ahwazi Arab and Baluchi groups as well as other dissident organizations, the article states.

The article states that federal law requires, at minimum, the Finding be made known to Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and the Senate as well as to the ranking members of their respective intelligence committees.

Click here to read the entire article in The New Yorker.