News / USA

    Media: American Who Disappeared in Iran Worked for CIA

    Undated handout photo shows retired FBI agent Robert Levinson. His family received these photographs in April 2011.
    Undated handout photo shows retired FBI agent Robert Levinson. His family received these photographs in April 2011.
    VOA News
    Three U.S. media outlets are reporting that an American man who mysteriously disappeared nearly seven years ago in Iran was conducting a rogue operation for the CIA.
     
    The Associated Press first published the story reporting that retired FBI agent Robert Levinson was gathering intelligence for a group of CIA analysts who did not have authority to run overseas operations. The Washington Post and New York Times soon followed up with similar accounts.

    Levinson disappeared in March 2007 while visiting the Iranian island of Kish, on what his family and U.S. government officials have described as a private business trip.
     
    The White House said Friday that President Barack Obama asked Iranian President Hassan Rouhani about Levinson's whereabouts when the two leaders engaged in a 15-minute telephone call in September. White House spokesman Jay Carney, however, said the last information the U.S. has is a 2011 report that Levinson was "being held somewhere in southwest Asia."
     
    Carney said Levinson "was not a U.S. government employee when he went missing," but declined to comment on any of the details of the news reports, including whether he was working for the CIA.
     
    The Levinson family's Iranian lawyer, Mohammad Hossein Aghasi, told VOA's Persian service via Skype on Friday that legal dealings with Iran's government were based on the premise Levinson had entered Iran for personal reasons. He said Iranian officials had never told him Levinson was a spy.
     
    The Associated Press and Post reports say Levinson was actually trying to gather intelligence in Iran from Dawud Salahuddin, a man wanted for the murder of an Iranian diplomat in the U.S. in 1980 and has close ties to Iranian leaders.
     
    The reports say Levinson's lawyers discovered emails in which a CIA analyst assured Levinson before the trip that he would be reimbursed for his expenses.
     
    Levinson's family has not directly addressed allegations that he was working for the CIA.
     
    In a statement issued on their "Help Bob Levinson" Facebook page Friday, the family praised him as a "courageous man who has dedicated himself, including risking his own life, in service to the U.S. government." They called on the U.S. government to "step up and take care of one of its own."
     
    The Post says the emails suggest Levinson was working at the direction of CIA analyst Anne Jablonski. Jablonski denies Levinson was working under her direction, saying she did not know at the time that Levinson had gone to Iran.
     
    The reports say an internal CIA probe into the matter eventually led to the disciplining of 10 employees, including three who were fired. The spy agency is also said to have paid the Levinson family $2.5 million to avoid a lawsuit.
     
    U.S. National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden refused to comment on any affiliation between Levinson and the U.S. government. She said U.S. officials strongly pushed for the stories not to be printed out of concern for Levinson's safety.
     
    Carney called publication of the stories "highly irresponsible."
     
    Hayden's statement said the U.S. remains committed to finding Levinson and bringing him home safely to his family. The U.S. has offered a $1 million reward for information leading to his safe return.
     
    The 65-year-old Levinson was last heard from in 2010, when his family received a short video of him pleading for help and saying he was sick. Iran firmly denies holding him or knowledge of his whereabouts.
     
    The news reports say U.S. officials still believe Iran either is holding him or knows of his whereabouts, and that they had hoped the statement would give Tehran a chance to release him.
     
    On Friday, during a visit to Israel, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry declined to elaborate.
     
    "I don’t have any comment whatsoever on the condition with respect to employment or any other issue," he said, adding that the issue of Levinson's whereabouts has been raised on a continuing basis.

    You May Like

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora