On December 12, 2013, the Associated Press (AP) reported that their investigations revealed that Levinson indeed had been working for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), contradicting the U. S. government's statement that he was not an employee of the government at the time of his capture, U. S. officials had publicly insisted that Levinson went to Iran as a private investigator, working a cigarette smuggling case. AP had first confirmed Levinson's CIA ties in 2010. He was on an unauthorized intelligence-gathering mission about the Iranian government for the U. S. government. When his case came to light inside the U. S. government, it produced a serious scandal. Levinson's travel was planned by three CIA officials who did not follow the proper vetting process or seek the necessary approval for the mission from their supervisors. Kish Island in the Persian Gulf is a free-trade zone, meaning Americans do not need a visa to enter, a tourist destination and stronghold of international organized crime. In 2008 the CIA forced the CIA officials to turn in early resignations and disciplined seven others after an internal investigation determined they were responsible for sending Levinson on the mission to Iran. Levinson's source on Kish was Dawud Salahuddin, an American fugitive accused of the killing of the prominent former Iranian diplomat Ali Akbar Tabatabaei in 1980. The exiled Tabatabaei was holding meetings of a counter-revolutionary group at his US home at the time.