Nine years after former FBI agent Robert Levinson went missing on the Iranian island of Kish, U.S. officials say there is disagreement over his whereabouts.
Former and current FBI agents say they think that Levinson, if he is alive, remains in Iran. But others in the U.S. government think he may be elsewhere, after the family was sent a hostage video in late 2010 that officials say came from Pakistan. The family also received from Afghanistan pictures of Levinson in an orange jumpsuit, officials say.
The debate over Levinson’s location comes nearly two months after an agreement with Iran led to the release of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian and four other Americans. Levinson’s family hoped that he would be among those freed, but after the deal was announced, the White House said that Levinson may not be in Iran after all.
Iranian officials have insisted that the government does not know what happened to Levinson, who was also working as a CIA contractor at the time of his disappearance.
On Wednesday, Secretary of State John F. Kerry marked the ninth anniversary of Levinson’s disappearance with a statement that vowed “to locate Bob and bring him home.”
“As the president has said, and as I have told the Levinson family when I have met with them, we will never forget Bob, and we will not rest until the Levinson family is whole again,” said Kerry, who repeatedly raised Levinson’s disappearance during negotiations with Iran.
Kerry noted that the FBI has a $5 million reward for information leading to the safe return of Levinson, who turns 68 on Thursday.
“The U.S. government in its entirety will continue all efforts to locate Bob and bring him home,” he said in a statement. “The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has committed to cooperating with the United States to determine the whereabouts of Mr. Levinson, and we are holding Iran to its promise.”
Levinson’s wife, Christine, implored Washington and Tehran to dig into her husband’s disappearance and to keep pushing for his freedom.
“These past 9 years – 3,288 days – have been harder for our family than anyone could ever imagine,” she said. “But, as difficult as it has been for us, we know that Bob is living a nightmare that is 100 times worse. We need the United States government and the country of Iran to work together to resolve what happened to Bob and return him safely to his family.”
In a statement, FBI Director James B. Comey said, “We are encouraged by recent cooperation between the government of Iran and the United States and believe that our ability to locate Bob and reunite him with his family requires a shared commitment by the Iranian government.”
(C) 2016, The Washington Post · Adam Goldman, Carol Morello