WASHINGTON Pentagon officials in late 2001 and 2002 concealed from the CIA and other intelligence agencies potentially useful information gleaned from Iranian agents, said a Senate report released Thursday.
The Iranians told Pentagon employees about a tunnel complex in Iran used to store weapons and move its personnel covertly out of the country, likely into Afghanistan in the post 9/11 war period, according to the report by the Senate Intelligence Committee.
The Iranians also told of a long-standing relationship with the Palestinian Liberation Organization, and the growth of anti-regime sentiment inside Iran, it said.
The new report adds more details to the storied mistrust and lack of cooperation by Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld with the CIA in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the United States.
It focuses on a much-investigated series of meetings held in Rome over three days in December 2001 as the war in Afghanistan was being waged and the invasion plan for Iraq was in the initial planning stages.
Then-Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Doug Feith sent two Pentagon employees to the Rome meetings with Manucher Ghorbanifar, an Iranian dissident already dismissed by the CIA as untrustworthy, and several Iranians who were former and current members of the security service. It also involved an unspecified foreign government's intelligence service.
Ghorbanifar used one of those meetings to press for regime change in Iran, and outlined a plan for it on a napkin, according to the report, saying it would cost about $5 million to start.
The report said then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley failed to inform then-CIA Director George Tenet and then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage fully about the meeting, either before or after it occurred. It said, however, that Hadley and the Pentagon did not exceed their authority in conducting the meeting.
It also said that Defense Department officials refused to allow "potentially useful and actionable intelligence" to be shared with intelligence agencies, even the Pentagon's own Defense Intelligence Agency.
Senate Intelligence Committee Republicans strongly dissented from the report, calling it a "disappointment" to those looking for evidence that anything "unlawful" occurred.