WASHINGTON -- In March 2007, retired FBI agent Robert Levinson flew to Kish Island, an Iranian resort awash with tourists, smugglers and organized crime figures. Days later, after an arranged meeting with an admitted killer, he checked out of his hotel, slipped into a taxi and vanished.
For years, the U.S. has publicly described him as a private citizen who traveled to the tiny Persian Gulf island on private business.
But that was just a cover story. An Associated Press investigation reveals that Levinson 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.
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Blagojevich seeks appeal: Imprisoned former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich today gets what's likely his last chance to win his freedom as a three-judge federal panel hears oral arguments in his appeal. A lawyer for the disgraced Illinois Democrat steps before the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago to ask that it toss Blagojevich's corruption convictions. Short of that, Blagojevich's defense team hopes the court will at least agree to reduce his 14-year prison term -- one of the longest sentences ever imposed for political corruption in a state where four of the last seven governors ended up in prison.
Executes NK leader's uncle: North Korea said today that it had executed Kim Jong Un's uncle as a traitor for trying to seize supreme power, a stunning end for the leader's former mentor, long considered the country's No. 2. In a sharp reversal of the popular image of Jang Song Thaek as a kindly uncle guiding leader Kim Jong Un as he consolidated power, the North's official Korean Central News Agency indicated that Jang instead saw the death of Kim's father, Kim Jong Il, in December 2011 as an opportunity to challenge his nephew and win power. Just days ago, North Korea accused Jang of corruption, womanizing, gambling and taking drugs, and said he'd been "eliminated" from all his posts. But today's allegations, which couldn't be independently confirmed, were linked to a claim that he tried "to overthrow the state by all sorts of intrigues and despicable methods with a wild ambition to grab the supreme power of our party and state."