Robert Levinson: mystery of the CIA spy captured by Iran
American who vanished in 2007 was part of 'rogue' CIA operation and agency paid $2.5m to cover its tracks
ROBERT LEVINSON, an American who disappeared from an Iranian resort island seven years ago, was part of a “rogue” CIA spying operation, an Associated Press investigation has found.
For years, the US described Levinson as a private citizen who went to Kish Island on business. But AP says he was a CIA agent who was paid to collect information from the “darkest corners” of the world.
For several months after Levinson disappeared on 8 March, 2007, Washington denied any ties with him. But when officials discovered the former FBI officer had been commissioned by a team of CIA analysts with no authority to conduct spying missions it triggered “one of the biggest scandals in recent CIA history”.
Three CIA veterans were forced to resign and the agency paid $2.5 million to Levinson’s family to head off a lawsuit, AP says. It also “rewrote its rules restricting how analysts can work with outsiders”.
So, where is Levinson now? By all accounts he is being held in an Iranian prison, but whether he is still alive is unclear.
In 2010, his wife, Christine, was sent a 54-second video showing her husband looking “haggard, but unharmed”. He pleaded with the US government to bring him home and said his supply of diabetes medicine was getting “dangerously low”.
A year later, five photographs arrived showing Levinson wearing an orange jumpsuit and a long grey beard. He was holding a sign in each picture. One read: “4th YEAR... You can't or you don't want...?”. Another said: “Why you can not help me”. A third sign said: “I am here in Guantanamo – Do you know where it is?”
Though the photos were disturbing, the US government and Levinson's family “saw them as a hopeful sign that whoever was holding Levinson was interested in making a deal,” AP reports. But there has been no contact since then.
Iran insists it knows nothing about Levinson’s whereabouts. Its new president, Hassan Rouhani, told CNN: "We have no news of him. We do not know where he is."
The US government remains committed to bringing Levinson home, but refuses to comment on any “purported affiliation” with the alleged spy. Meanwhile, a spokesman for the National Security Council has criticised AP for publishing the story, saying it "does nothing to further the cause of bringing him [Levinson] home". ·