American missing in Iran is CIA - report

Comment on this story


iol pic wld Missing American Iran~1

AP

This undated handout photo provided by the family of Robert Levinson after they received it in April 2011, shows retired-FBI agent Robert Levinson. Picture: Levinson Family

 Washington - An American who went missing in Iran six years ago worked for the CIA and was not in the country on a business trip as US officials had claimed, US media reported on Thursday.

In a case that had long been shrouded in secrecy, the Associated Press and The Washington Post published lengthy reports revealing how retired FBI agent Robert Levinson had been paid by the CIA to gather intelligence.

Levinson flew to an Iranian resort, Kish Island, in March 2007 to investigate corruption in the country, with hopes of also gleaning information about Tehran's suspect nuclear program, the reports said.

But he vanished, and US officials have publicly said that he was a private citizen travelling on private business.

In violation of CIA rules, a team of analysts had hired Levinson - a seasoned FBI agent with expert knowledge about Russian criminal circles - to gather intelligence, the AP and the Post wrote.

When Congress finally learned what had taken place, the agency sacked three analysts and seven others faced disciplinary action.

To pre-empt a potentially embarrassing lawsuit, the Central Intelligence Agency also paid Levinson's family $2.5 million.

As a result of Levinson's case, the spy agency introduced new restrictions on how analysts can work with outsiders.

But the scandal and the agency's response had remained secret until Thursday's reports.

The Associated Press first learned of Levinson's CIA ties in 2010 and continued reporting to uncover more details.

The news agency agreed three times to postpone publishing the story because the US government said it was pursuing promising leads to secure his return.

The AP, however, said it had chosen to report the story now because efforts to find and free him have failed.

The White House condemned the agency's decision to publish its report.

“Without commenting on any purported affiliation between Mr Levinson and the US government, the White House and others in the US government strongly urged the AP not to run this story out of concern for Mr Levinson's life,” the

“We regret that the AP would choose to run a story that does nothing to further the cause of bringing him home. The investigation into Mr Levinson's disappearance continues, and we all remain committed to finding him and bringing him home safely to his family.”

There has been no video or photo proving Levinson is still alive since early 2011.

Senior US officials also say the Iranians almost certainly know about Levinson's CIA association.

Photos and video in 2010 and 2011 led to a brief diplomatic exchange between Washington and Tehran to secure his release but there have been no promising leads since, according to the reports.

Some officials suspect Levinson is dead but the FBI says it is committed to bringing him home.

If Levinson is still alive, at age 65, he has been held in captivity longer than any American citizen, longer than AP reporter Terry Anderson Ä who was held for more than six years in Beirut.

Iran has denied any knowledge of Levinson's whereabouts.

The AP story was reported by Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman, who recently began work at the Post. Goldman's byline also appears on the Post's article.

The CIA was not immediately available to comment on the report. - Sapa-AFP


sign up
 
 

Comment Guidelines



  1. Please read our comment guidelines.
  2. Login and register, if you haven’ t already.
  3. Write your comment in the block below and click (Post As)
  4. Has a comment offended you? Hover your mouse over the comment and wait until a small triangle appears on the right-hand side. Click triangle () and select "Flag as inappropriate". Our moderators will take action if need be.

     

Join us on

IOL-Social networks IOL-Social networks IOL-Social networks IOL-Social networks

Business Directory