It’s not a secret anymore. Some righty media outlet must have already linked it, too, because Brian Ross and company are getting reamed in the comments over there for revealing it.

I assumed we’ve been doing covert ops over there all along so I don’t know how much of the cat was still in the bag, but whoever’s trying to undermine it at the CIA clearly wants to make sure it’s well and fully out before things get going.

The CIA has received secret presidential approval to mount a covert “black” operation to destabilize the Iranian government, current and former officials in the intelligence community tell the Blotter on ABCNews.com.

The sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the subject, say President Bush has signed a “nonlethal presidential finding” that puts into motion a CIA plan that reportedly includes a coordinated campaign of propaganda, disinformation and manipulation of Iran’s currency and international financial transactions…

Current and former intelligence officials say the approval of the covert action means the Bush administration, for the time being, has decided not to pursue a military option against Iran.

“Vice President Cheney helped to lead the side favoring a military strike,” said former CIA official Riedel, “but I think they have come to the conclusion that a military strike has more downsides than upsides.”…

[Former CIA agent Bruce] Riedel says economic pressure on Iran may be the most effective tool available to the CIA, particularly in going after secret accounts used to fund the nuclear program.

Makes sense given reports that gas rationing is expected to begin on June 5th.

Neither the fact that we’ve eschewed the military option for now nor the fact that the order is “nonlethal” will satisfy the left, who see in any U.S. action against Iran a casus belli justifying any action Iran might take. Whether it’s something highly lethal like a raid on the reactors, minimally lethal like assassinations of Iranian officials, or nonlethal like economic warfare, not only are they against it but they’ll treat it as a provocation by Bush instead of as a response to the provocations of Iran’s Bomb-seeking and lethal meddling with men and materiel in Iraq. The only “responsible” solution is to give them what they want and hope that the resulting goodwill solves the problem, just like the Times says in its editorial from this morning:

Given the urgency and ambition of Iran’s nuclear program, what is needed is a more urgent and ambitious international response. Let us be clear, this is not a call for more White House saber rattling and certainly not for military planning. There is no military solution. But unless Iran’s leaders are offered far more attractive rewards — yes, we’re talking about a grand bargain — and threatened with far more painful punishments — yes, that could mean another spike in world oil prices — there is no chance of changing their behavior.

That means that President Bush is going to have to put a lot more on the table, including a clear offer of full diplomatic relations and security guarantees should Iran agree to verifiably contain its nuclear ambitions. And it also means that the Europeans, Russians and Chinese are going to have to take a lot more off the table, cutting back diplomatic and trade relations if Tehran continues to push its nuclear program ahead.

The part about Russia and China is window dressing. Those countries aren’t going to vote for harsh sanctions on Iran given their oil interests; if they were, they’d have already done it by now. That’s why, as you’ll note, the Times isn’t insisting that the U.S. refrain from offering full diplomatic relations until Russia and China act. They won’t act and the Times knows it, but they’d rather have us “lead by example” by rewarding Iran for its years of sabotage in hopes that the friendly gesture will buy us cooperation, which it won’t. But how nice that our intentions will have been so good.

Meanwhile, plans for “blowback” might already be afoot in Europe:

Iran is attempting to draw up plans to strike targets in Europe and has reconnoitered European nuclear power stations, a security analyst told a meeting at Britain’s parliament.

Claude Moniquet, president of the European Strategic Intelligence and Security Centre, a private think-tank in Brussels, said his organisation also had evidence Tehran has increased the number of its intelligence agents across Europe.

“We have serious signals that something is under preparation in Europe,” Moniquet said. “Iranian intelligence is working extremely hard to prepare its people and to prepare actions.”

The centre, which he said deals directly with European intelligence agencies, believes Iranian operatives have carried out “reconnaissance of targets in European cities, including nuclear power stations,” Moniquet said. He mentioned no other specific targets.

Exit question: “European” nuclear power stations usually means French nuclear power stations. Is this Sarkozy’s first test?