Is this a ploy by the White House to make Mahmoud Ahmahdinejad and the ruling mullahs think we're taking covert action? Such an announcement would certainly play to their paranoia and force them to use up ever decreasing resources to deal with the CIA actions, even if none are taking place.
Of course neither the White House or the CIA will either confirm or deny any such order has been given.
“Us, performing covert operations in Iran? Uh-uh. We wouldn't do that! (wink wink, nudge nudge).”
This is a stroke of genius.
If the 'leak' to ABC was intentional, then the CIA may be just going through the motions of performing covert operations in and around Iran, giving the Iranian government fits. It would be a great feat of misinformation.
If the leak was genuine, then it's quite possible that the Iranians might take it with a grain of salt, believing it is a disinformation campaign designed to cause their government to waste time, money, and manpower to counter a threat that never materializes.
In either case, the Iranians won't know one way or the other whether it's true or not. Knowing their paranoia when it comes to the US (and Israel), they will believe it's true and act accordingly. They will see every little bump in the road, every protest, every economic setback, every bit of unrest as evidence of CIA activity, even if there is none.
It will be interesting to watch what happens in Iran over the next year.