WASHINGTON, Dec. 6 — When clandestine meetings between Pentagon officials and Iranian dissidents were first revealed last summer, the Bush administration played down the importance of the contacts, particularly with one participant — a discredited Iranian deal maker who had played a role in the Iran-contra affair in the late 1980's.
But now officials say the initial meeting with the Iranians was organized with the knowledge of a top national security adviser to President Bush, who also informed George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence, and Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage.
The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is examining the December 2001 and June 2002 meetings, which were initiated by Manucher Ghorbanifar, an Iranian who acted as a middleman in the Iran-contra affair during the Reagan administration and was long ago labeled a fabricator by American intelligence officials. One important question is whether any senior administration officials were aware of his involvement before the meetings.
Stephen J. Hadley, Mr. Bush's deputy national security adviser, raised no objection when Pentagon officials told him of plans to meet with the Iranians in late 2001, several officials said. A senior administration official familiar with Mr. Hadley's version of events said Mr. Hadley did not remember being told that Mr. Ghorbanifar would be at the meeting.
When the contacts with Mr. Ghorbanifar and other Iranians were first reported in the press last summer, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said that nothing came of the meetings and that beforehand, "Everyone in the interagency process, I'm told, was apprised of it." But the high-level attention the meetings received at the White House and other agencies was not disclosed then.
The fresh details about the contacts also illuminate a schism between American intelligence agencies and more hawkish officials at the Pentagon and in the White House who pursued the contacts.
As part of its review of intelligence agencies' work before the war in Iraq, the Senate Intelligence Committee is also examining the influence of a small group of analysts working for Douglas J. Feith, under secretary of defense for policy and planning. The Pentagon officials who met with Mr. Ghorbanifar worked in Mr. Feith's policy office.
Mr. Ghorbanifar's involvement caused concern within the Bush administration because it evoked memories of Iran-contra and questions about whether the Pentagon was engaging in rogue covert operations. The Pentagon has conducted its own internal review of the Ghorbanifar matter, officials said.
Saturday, December 06, 2003
I'm so tired of this crap.
by Atrios at 18:18