Back in September 2006, a big concern for the Bush administration was how to deal with Iran’s nuclear-weapons program. But one morning that month, another difficult U.S.-Iran situation came up, according to “Deep State: Inside the Government Secrecy Industry” (Wiley), a new book excerpted on the Atlantic's website. President Bush’s daily intelligence brief explained it like this:

“A U.S. Secret Service agent, in an apparent accident, discharged his shotgun as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was loading his motorcade at the InterContinental Hotel yesterday.” Said one official, “When I read that, I remember closing my eyes.”

Would Ahmadinejad accuse the U.S. of trying to assassinate him? The gun, on one of the motorcade’s armored Chevy Suburbans, had gone off when the agent was adjusting it. “Everyone just stopped,” “Deep State” reveals. “The Iranians looked at us and we looked at the Iranians. The agent began to apologize. Ahmadinejad just turned his head and got into his car.”

And that was it, the book reveals. “The Iranians told no one," the Atlantic points out. "Their silence led several White House aides to begin to see Ahmadinejad in a new light. Here was evidence that maybe Iran was acting strategically, and therefore cautiously.”