Since March 2007, the CIA has insisted publicly that Robert Levinson was merely a private citizen when he disappeared in the Iranian resort getaway of Kish Island. Today, weeks after Levinson became the longest-held American hostage ever, that story was revealed by the AP as a lie.

According to the report by Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman, Levinson — a retired FBI agent — was working under the direction of rogue CIA analysts who authorized an intelligence gathering mission related to the Iranian government without the permission of their supervisors. Those analysts reportedly had no authority to handle a spy, but they nonetheless were able to contract Levinson anyway.

Per Apuzzo and Goldman, the CIA initially denied any involvement with Levinson. Soon, though, a Congressional committee discovered the connection, and behind closed doors the CIA fired three employees and paid Levinson's family $2.5 million in order to preempt a lawsuit that could have made details of the operation public.

As recently as last month, the Obama White House was reiterating that Levinson had no current connection to the government at the time of his disappearance. According to the AP, they were on the verge of publishing the story three times before obliging the government's request to hold off because it was pursuing leads that could lead to his recovery.

But there have been no signs of Levinson since a "proof of life" video was distributed in April 2011. In the mean time, his wife Christine continue to travel to Washington to pester congressional and White House officials for more information on her husband's whereabouts.

[Images via AP]