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 and is national security correspondent. You can follow Jeff on Twitter at @jseldin or on Google Plus.

You May Like

Cambodia Seeks Official UN Maps for Vietnam Border

Notice of request comes as 2 countries open border talks Tuesday after a clash last month More

From South Africa to Vietnam, Cyclists Deliver Message Against Rhino Horns

Appalled by poaching they saw firsthand, sisters embark on tour to raise awareness in countries where rhino horn products are in demand More

Uber Wants Johannesburg Police Protection

Request follows recent protests outside ride-hailing service's Johannesburg office More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
Maia Pujara
July 07, 2015 10:01 PM
A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbs

A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deal

If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.

VOA Blogs