News / USA

Family Responds to Allegations American Missing in Iran Was a Spy

Family Responds to Allegations American Missing in Iran Was a Spyi
X
December 13, 2013 10:44 PM
The family of an American citizen missing in Iran for more than six years is speaking out after media reports say he had gone to Iran to spy for the CIA, and that his disappearance became part of a U.S. government agency cover-up. VOA's Jeff Seldin reports.
The family of an American citizen missing in Iran for more than six years is speaking out after media reports say he had gone to Iran to spy for the CIA, and that his disappearance became part of a U.S. government agency cover-up.

The last time anyone saw Robert Levinson was March 2007, when he flew to Iran's Kish Island - a hotbed for tourists and organized crime.

For years, the United States has insisted Levinson - a retired FBI agent - had gone on his own. But reports from The Associated Press and The Washington Post now say Levinson was part of a botched U.S. spy operation and that his family was paid $2.5 million to keep quiet.

Levinson's family responded, posting a statement Friday to the website helpboblevinson.com.

It calls Levinson a "courageous man" who risked his own life "in service to the U.S. government" and calls on the U.S. to "step up and take care of one of its own." But it never directly addresses the alleged relationship with the CIA.

The White House also reacted Friday.

Spokesman Jay Carney said, "What I can tell you is he was not a U.S. government employee when he made that trip. But I'm not going to get into any more detail."

His family's Iranian lawyer said if Levinson was working for the CIA, he was never told. Mohammad Hossein Aghasi, now living in the U.S., also told VOA's Persian service via Skype, that in his dealings with Iran's government, Iranian officials never accused Levinson of being a spy.

But Associated Press Washington Investigative Editor Ted Bridis said U.S. officials were convinced Iran knew. “If he was held by the [Iranian] government, they’ve been accused of some fairly oppressive interrogation techniques. Could he have held out for seven days? Seven hours? Surely. Seven years? Probably not.”

Just months after Levinson disappeared, his wife, Christine, went to Tehran, pleading with officials. "They have assured me that they will help me find my husband if possible," she said.

But other than photos and videos showing him in failing health, there has been nothing.

For now, U.S. officials are slamming the news media for publishing the new allegations, saying it "does nothing to further the cause" of bringing Levinson home.

Former CIA Agent Robert Baer, via Skype, agrees. “It’s bad. It’s going to really hurt and it’s very unfortunate.”

He tells VOA's Persian service that if Levinson was part of a CIA operation, it was as sloppy as it gets, and that the implications are huge.

“What I’m afraid of is that this is going to become an issue on the Hill [Capitol Hill] and that any effort to reconcile with Iran, any détente, is going to founder on Levinson," said Baer.

As for Robert Levinson's current whereabouts, if anyone knows for sure they still aren't saying.

Jeff Seldin

Jeff works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters covering a wide variety of subjects, from the nature of the growing terror threat in Northern Africa to China’s crackdown on Tibet and the struggle over immigration reform in the United States. You can follow Jeff on Twitter at @jseldin or on Google Plus.

You May Like

Multimedia Obama, Modi Resolve Nuclear Deal Issues

Leaders find resolution on issues of liability of suppliers to India in event of nuclear accident, US demands to track whereabouts of material supplied to country More

WHO's Late Efforts in Tackling Ebola Highlight Need for Reform

Health experts debate measures to reform agency’s response to global public health emergencies in special one-day session on deadly outbreak More

One Tumultuous Year in Power for CAR's President

As sectarian violence raged across Central African Republic, interim President Catherine Samba-Panza has Herculean task: to end civil war and put country back on right track More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youthi
X
Julie Taboh
January 23, 2015 11:08 PM
Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.
Video

Video Secular, Religious Kurds Face Off in Southeast Turkey

Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast has been rocked by violence between religious and secular Kurds. Dorian Jones reports on the reasons behind the stand-off from the region's main city of Diyarbakir, which suffered the bloodiest fighting.
Video

Video Kenya: Misuse of Antibiotics Leading to Resistance by Immune System

In Kenya, the rise of drug resistant bacteria could reverse the gains made by medical science over diseases that were once treatable. Kenyans could be at risk of fatalities as a result if the power in antibiotics is not preserved. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story from Nairobi.
Video

Video Solar-Powered Plane Getting Ready to Circumnavigate Globe

Pilots of the solar plane that already set records flying without a drop of fuel are close to making their first attempt to fly the craft around the globe. They plan to do it in 25 flying days over a five month period. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video How Experts Decide Ethiopia Has the Best Coffee

Ethiopia’s coffee has been ranked as the best in the world by an international group of coffee connoisseurs. Not surprisingly, coffee is a top export for the country. But at home it is a source of pride. Marthe van der Wolf in Addis Ababa decided to find out what makes the bean and brew so special and how experts make their determinations.
Video

Video Yazidi Refugees at Center of Political Fight Between Turkey, Kurds

The treatment of thousands of Yazidis refugees who fled to Turkey to escape attacks by Islamic State militants has become the center of a dispute between the Turkish government and the country's pro-Kurdish movement. VOA's Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video World’s Richest 1% Forecast to Own More Than Half of Global Wealth

The combined wealth of the world's richest 1 percent will overtake that of the remaining 99 percent at some point in 2016, according to the anti-poverty charity Oxfam. Campaigners are demanding that policymakers take action to address the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid