WASHINGTON (TIP): An American who went missing in Iran six years ago worked for the CIA and was not in the country on a business trip as US officials had claimed, US media reported. In a case that had long been shrouded in secrecy, the Associated Press and The Washington Post published lengthy reports yesterday revealing how retired FBI agent Robert Levinson had been paid by the CIA to gather intelligence. Levinson flew to an Iranian resort, Kish Island, in March 2007 to investigate corruption in the country, with hopes of also gleaning information about Tehran’s suspect nuclear program, the reports said. But he vanished, and US officials have publicly said that he was a private citizen travelling on private business.
In violation of CIA rules, a team of analysts had hired Levinson — a seasoned FBI agent with expert knowledge about Russian criminal circles — to gather intelligence, the AP and the Post wrote. When Congress finally learned what had taken place, the agency sacked three analysts and seven others faced disciplinary action. To preempt a potentially embarrassing lawsuit, the Central Intelligence Agency also paid Levinson’s family $2.5 million. As a result of Levinson’s case, the spy agency introduced new restrictions on how analysts can work with outsiders. But the scandal and the agency’s response had remained secret until Yesterday’s reports.The Associated Press first learned of Levinson’s CIA ties in 2010 and continued reporting to uncover more details. The news agency agreed three times to postpone publishing the story because the US government said it was pursuing promising leads to secure his return.