Carter's goal is to try to secure the release of Aijalon Mahli Gomes, 30, of Boston, who was sentenced to eight years in prison in April after he was arrested crossing into North Korea from China, the Foreign Policy Journal reported Monday.
Earlier in August, the State Department secretly sent a four-person team to Pyongyang to visit Gomes but couldn't secure his release.
No government officials will accompany Carter, similar to when former President Bill Clinton traveled to North Korea to bring home Current TV reporters Laura Ling and Euna Lee, arrested after they crossed the North Korean border from China.
A senior administration official would not confirm that Carter decided to go, only saying, "If anyone goes it would be a private humanitarian effort," the Journal said.
U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., has been working on the Gomes case for months, but sources told the Journal Carter was chosen because he is not a serving U.S. official.
Carter also has experience dealing with North Korea. When North Korea threatened to reprocess its spent nuclear fuel and the Clinton administration sought U.N. sanctions in 1994, Carter went to Pyongyang to meet with Kim Jong Il's father, Kim Il Sung, and persuaded him to negotiate.