Since 2007, ABC News and the New York Times have known that ex-FBI agent Robert Levinson, missing in Iran, was spying there for the CIA. Since then, however, they've repeatedly lied about the purpose of his trip. J.K. Trotter tallies the misleading stories:
It’s one thing for a news outlet to keep secrets at the request of the government, or in order to keep someone safe. It’s another thing to affirmatively and knowingly spread lies. And this isn’t the first time the Times has knowingly repeated false information at the request of the CIA. The paper was criticized in 2011 after it revealed that it had known that Ray Davis, an American accused of murder in Pakistan, had been a CIA contractor, even as it repeated false statements from Barack Obama claiming he was a diplomat.
To avoid endangering Levinson, they could have simply said that he had disappeared in Iran. Instead, knowing otherwise, they repeated specific details ("on a business trip") that they knew were untrue, until the AP found out and exposed him yesterday:
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.