The past week — including this CNN video report — has seen increased pressure on the White House to produce information on former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who went missing from Iran in 2007. The controversy reignited last week after Iran freed a group of prisoners as part of a prison swap, which was a “one-time gesture” and symbolic of the upcoming “Implementation Day.” Indeed, the big day arrived with the U.N. watchdog lifting all nuclear-related sanctions on Iran. Several detainees, including the Washington Post‘s Jason Rezaian, found freedom, but Levinson did not materialize with the group, and his family was “devastated.”
Levinson initially disappeared during a visit to Iran’s Kish Island. At the time, the U.S. claimed he wasn’t working for the government, but — and this is nebulous — Levinson’s family later learned he disappeared while working as a “freelance spy” with the CIA. The mission involved Iran’s nuclear program. Five years ago, Levinson appeared in a 2010 video, though no one knows where the video was shot. Levinson, in poor health, begged the U.S. for help. Years later, Levinson’s family believes he is still alive and feels “extremely betrayed.” John Kerry’s official word is that “we have no idea” whether Levinson lives, but Iran will continue to cooperate in efforts to find him.
A new piece from New York Times digs into the matter and emerges with new clues, which are extensive. Two major points show how someone dropped the ball.
In 2011, the Iran Ambassador “made it clear” (during a meeting in Paris) that Levinson was in custody. The country offered to release him with “tangible, symbolic assurances” about Iran’s nuclear program. Levinson’s wife, Christine, wants to know why the U.S. never took action despite a 15-page memo the F.B.I. received, which detailed the conversation. Current F.B.I. spokespeople decline to comment or acknowledge receipt of the report. The assurances sought by Iran involved the quashing of a report by the U.N. watchdog, which concluded that Iran was trying to develop weapons with its nuclear program rather than using it “for peaceful purposes.”
Later in 2011, the F.B.I. ditched its Iranian sources after “they had not produced worthwhile information.” Meanwhile, a Christian group called The Fellowship had already secured the release of several American detainees. The group began working on Levinson’s case and, to “be clear and upfront,” alerted the F.B.I. of their intents. The group visited with an Iranian diplomat, who claimed “with absolutely no shadow of a doubt” that Levinson remained in Iran. However, the diplomat did not reveal which Iranian faction was holding him. The diplomat wished to discuss the American detainees, and he promised Levinson would be freed in by November 17, 2011, which was the date of an anticipated U.N. watchdog report.
The specified report was released on November 8, 2011, but Levinson never emerged from custody.
(Via New York Times)