" In an echo of the intelligence wars that preceded the U.S. invasion of Iraq, a high-stakes struggle is brewing within the Bush administration and in Congress over Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program and involvement in terrorism.strobel is channeling larisa.
U.S. intelligence and counterterrorism officials say Bush political appointees and hard-liners on Capitol Hill have tried recently to portray Iran's nuclear program as more advanced than it is and to exaggerate Tehran's role in Hezbollah's attack on Israel in mid-July.
The struggle's outcome could have profound implications for U.S. policy.
President Bush, who addresses the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, has said he prefers diplomacy to stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, but he hasn't ruled out using military force.
Several former U.S. defense officials who maintain close ties to the Pentagon say they've been told that plans for airstrikes - if Bush deems them necessary - are being updated.
The IAEA's written protest, dated Tuesday, was echoed privately by U.S. intelligence analysts, who saw the House report as an attempt to discredit the CIA and other agencies on Iran.
Some officials at the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the State Department said they're concerned that the offices of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney may be receiving a stream of questionable information that originates with Iranian exiles, including a discredited arms dealer, Manucher Ghorbanifar, who played a role in the 1980s Iran-Contra scandal.
Officials at all three agencies said they suspect that the dubious information may include claims that Iran directed Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group, to kidnap two Israeli soldiers in July; that Iran's nuclear program is moving faster than generally believed; and that the Iranian people are eager to join foreign efforts to overthrow their theocratic rulers.
The officials said there is no reliable intelligence to support any of those assertions and some that contradicts all three.
Adding to the unease, Rumsfeld's office earlier this year set up a new Iranian directorate, reported to be under the leadership of neoconservatives who played a role in planning the Iraq war.
Current and former officials said the Pentagon's Iranian directorate has been headed by Abram Shulsky. Shulsky also was the head of the now-defunct Office of Special Plans, whose role in allegedly manipulating Iraq intelligence is under investigation by the Pentagon's inspector general.
Some officials say they fear the office, whose existence was first reported by the Los Angeles Times, is being used to funnel intelligence from Ghorbanifar, the arms dealer, and an Iranian exile group known as the Mujahedeen Khalq.
Bill Murray, a retired CIA station chief in Paris who met with a Ghorbanifar associate and found his claims about Iran to be bogus, called the office's establishment "a big bell ringer."
"That is outright manipulation of information to suggest a predetermined policy," Murray said."
(update: larisa in the comments notes that much of Laura's work in the strobel's article too)