A published report says the U.S. Congress agreed late last year to a request from President George Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran.

The New Yorker magazine says Mr. Bush asked Congress for up to $400 million to try to destabilize Iran's religious leadership.  Citing unnamed intelligence, congressional and military sources, the magazine says the approved covert activities include support for minority and dissident groups, as well as intelligence-gathering about Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program.

The New Yorker says the new operations are described in a highly classified Presidential Finding that Mr. Bush signed.  It says the measures significantly expand the "scale and scope" of existing U.S. operations in Iran.

There has been no immediate reaction from the Bush administration to the report.  But the magazine says that some congressional leaders have had serious questions about the nature of the new operations, which involve the Central Intelligence Agency and the Joint Special Operations Command.

Presidential Findings are highly classified documents that must be issued for covert intelligence operations to a small group of Congressional leaders and their intelligence committees.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist, Seymour Hersh, wrote the article.  Hersh has uncovered many stories about U.S. military action abroad, including the My Lai massacre in the Vietnam War and the mistreatment of detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.