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THIS WEEK'S release of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran answered many questions, but the White House's reaction raised far more dangerous ones, for which we deserve answers.

Despite White House blustering about the growing threat of a "nuclear Iran," the NIE found, with "high confidence," that Iran shut down its nuclear weapons program in 2003, and also found that it had not been restarted. There is almost no one who believes a nuclear Iran wouldn't be a severe threat, so the findings were a relief.

The good news: we don't need to think about any military action against Iran for a while.

Yet, downplayed by the media were the confusing set of answers from the White House and President Bush on when, exactly, they learned of this intelligence. That's important, because until recently, Bush and his administration had been adamant that Iran sought nuclear weapons, and therefore, we must consider military strikes.

In the initial White House press conference, National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley said the president was made aware of what intelligence was saying in August. That would imply that, for months, the White House knowingly made false statements to the American people about Iran. Yet, in his press conference the following day, Bush said that he didn't know what the NIE said until just last week. Which is it?

Additionally, Bush said he did recall his Intelligence Director, Mike McConnell, coming to him in August to report they had new findings on Iran, but that McConnell didn't tell him what those findings were. Are we to seriously believe that? If McConnell didn't tell him, it may warrant removal from office for gross negligence. If he did, then we have a president and his administration who made false statements about Iran's nuclear program.

This is all very dangerous for America and its security. Military action is a last resort, and if not used with extreme caution, it can have disastrous results, as we've seen with the war in Iraq. If the president and his administration knew there was no immediate security threat from Iran, and decided to lie and pretend there was to whip up the winds of war, it certainly would have to be at least considered to rise to the level of "high crimes and misdemeanors."

We deserve the truth. Congress must begin an investigation into what the president knew on Iran, and when he knew it. *