The Associated Press and WashPo Unspool The Tale of Missing American, Working for the CIA, About Whom the USG Lied For Years.
Above, images of retired FBI agent Robert Levinson, who vanished in an Iranian resort island in 2007. The State Department has repeatedly said he was a private citizen on a private trip.
The AP and The Post, via the redoubtable team of Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman, show he was working for the CIA.
In an extraordinary breach of the most basic CIA rules, a team of analysts — with no authority to run spy operations — paid Levinson to gather intelligence from some of the world’s darkest corners. He vanished while investigating the Iranian government for the U.S.
The CIA was slow to respond to Levinson’s disappearance and spent the first several months denying any involvement. When Congress eventually discovered what happened, one of the biggest scandals in recent CIA history erupted.
Behind closed doors, three veteran analysts were forced out of the agency and seven others were disciplined. The CIA paid Levinson’s family $2.5 million to pre-empt a revealing lawsuit, and the agency rewrote its rules restricting how analysts can work with outsiders.
But even after the White House, FBI and State Department officials learned of Levinson’s CIA ties, the official story remained unchanged.
"He’s a private citizen involved in private business in Iran," the State Department said in 2007, shortly after Levinson’s disappearance.
"Robert Levinson went missing during a business trip to Kish Island, Iran," the White House said last month.
Details of the unusual disappearance were described in documents obtained or reviewed by the AP, plus interviews over several years with dozens of current and former U.S. and foreign officials close to the search for Levinson. Nearly all spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the sensitive case.
The AP first confirmed Levinson’s CIA ties in 2010 and continued reporting to uncover more details. It agreed three times to delay publishing the story because the U.S. government said it was pursuing promising leads to get him home.
The AP is reporting the story now because, nearly seven years after his disappearance, those efforts have repeatedly come up empty. The government has not received any sign of life in nearly three years. Top U.S. officials, meanwhile, say his captors almost certainly already know about his CIA association
Read the rest, on the AP’s The Big Story page or on The Washington Post. (The story is a combined production by @MattApuzzo & @Adam GoldmanWP, seemingly from their time as an AP duo; Goldman recently started at The Post. He seems to have dragged this big kill, already bagged and tagged, to his new employer’s door. The pre-pub back story here should be interesting when it emerges with time.)