First, Robert Levinson was just an American tourist/businessman who mysteriously disappeared seven years ago from Kish, an island off Iran's southern coast.
True, he was a retired FBI agent, but we were told he was there for his own purposes when he simply vanished from the glam resort island (yes, there is such a thing in Iran).
Then, we were told he had done "minor" contract work for the CIA. But, rest assured, he was not working for the U.S. government when he disappeared.
Now seven years later, lo and behold, the story of Levinson -- who remains missing -- has taken a turn that reminds us of the television and movie franchise "Mission Impossible."
On that show every "mission" carried the disclaimer, "if you or any member of your team is caught or killed, the secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions."
In other words, you're on your own, pal. Levinson and his family probably can relate.
The most recent revelations about Levinson came in a report by The Associated Press last week revealing evidence that he was, in fact, on Kish gathering intelligence with the knowledge of at least some in the CIA. An expert on Russian mobsters and money laundering, he had a knack for developing sources, which is apparently what he was doing there.
Granted, the person who authorized the Kish trip apparently did not have authority to do so and was part of a group that left the CIA in 2008 as a result of this case. But it's clear Levinson fully believed he was working for the CIA.
So much so, the AP story revealed, that the CIA paid $2.5 million to Levinson's family to avoid any uncomfortable legal entanglements.
For what it's worth, the Iranians have repeatedly insisted they don't know Levinson, didn't take him, don't have him and don't know where he is.
The family received a proof-of-life video and pictures in 2011. But there has been no contact since, which leads analysts to believe he may have died while a captive.
The AP held off writing this story for nearly three years at the request of the government and the family, hoping Levinson might be located.
But the family has run out of patience and has slammed the government for failing to save a "good man's life."
Secretary of State John Kerry spent the weekend assuring us that was not true, saying the U.S. government is actively trying to locate Levinson. Perhaps, now that the story has become public, that effort will become a little more active because Levinson's family has a right to know what has happened to him. As does the nation.