Did the United States, or did it not, approve a $400 million covert operation against Iran last year, backed by an official "presidential finding"? And did the Democrats in Congress, including leaders of the intelligence committees, approve it? That's what Sy Hersh is reporting in the New Yorker.
So far, Hersh's blockbuster has gotten mentions here and there in the mainstream media--a brief mention in the Washington Post, a citation in a Los Angeles Times blog, and so on. It ought to be big news, and you'd assume that reporters for the major papers would assign their intelligence beat people to look into, and confirm, Hersh's scoop. It's not just a vague assertion but a concrete, verifiable report. (Yes, I'm trying, myself.)
It was first reported in May by Andrew Cockburn in Counterpunch, and his report didn't get much traction anywhere in the media.
When I was in Iran, in March, Iranian government and religious officials made charges about a U.S. covert operation, aimed at splintering Iran into pieces by stirring up Arab, Kurdish, and Baluchi separatists, which I reported for The Nation. Such charges are routine for Iranians, and Tehran blamed a recent explosion in the southern city of Shiraz on the United States' support for Arab rebels.
Here's the lead of Hersh's piece:
Late last year, Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran, according to current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources. These operations, for which the President sought up to four hundred million dollars, were described in a Presidential Finding signed by Bush, and are designed to destabilize the country's religious leadership. The covert activities involve support of the minority Ahwazi Arab and Baluchi groups and other dissident organizations. They also include gathering intelligence about Iran's suspected nuclear-weapons program.
He also writes:
None of the four Democrats in the Gang of Eight--Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Intelligence Committee chairman John D. Rockefeller IV, and House Intelligence Committee chairman Silvestre Reyes--would comment on the Finding, with some noting that it was highly classified.