The American that went missing seven years ago in Iran, and is the longest held US hostage, was working for the CIA — and the Associated Press held the story for at least three years.
Bob Levinson, 65, was a former FBI agent. Now, a report released by the AP and The Washington Post reveals he was actually working for the CIA, as his captors have claimed.
Through the years, Levinson’s family has denied that he was working for the US government while in the country, but on a personal business trip at the time of his disappearance in 2007, while visiting Kish Island in Iran.
However, the report released on Thursday says that the missing American was in the country on a mission to dig up information on the regime.
A source close to the investigation into the missing American’s disappearance says there’s proof that Levinson was working under contract as a CIA undercover agent while also working as a private investigator.
A statement published by Paul Colford in the AP blog on Thursday explains why they are releasing the information now:
“The Associated Press today is publishing an article about serious blunders at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and an effort to cover them up. At the heart of the story is a retired FBI agent, Robert Levinson, who was recruited as a spy by a rogue group of analysts inside the CIA. Without any authority to do so, the analysts sent Levinson into Iran, where he disappeared in 2007.”
“His condition and whereabouts are not known and the Iranian government says it has no information.”
Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll says:
“Publishing this article was a difficult decision. This story reveals serious mistakes and improper actions inside the US government’s most important intelligence agency. Those actions, the investigation and consequences have all been kept secret from the public.”
Carroll continues, saying, that part of what journalism does is help the public to hold the government accountable for wrongdoing.
“This seems particularly true on this subject at a time when the decisions of intelligence agencies are being extensively debated.” Carroll adds, referring to the recent NSA revelations, following leaks from former contractor Edward Snowden.
As to the possibility that the missing American could be harmed because of the release of the new revelations, Carroll says there is no way of knowing with certainty.
“In the absence of any solid information about Levinson’s whereabouts, it has been impossible to judge whether publication would put him at risk. It is almost certain that his captors already know about the CIA connection but without knowing exactly who the captors are, it is difficult to know whether publication of Levinson’s CIA mission would make a difference to them. That does not mean there is no risk. But with no more leads to follow, we have concluded that the importance of the story justifies publication.”
The AP first confirmed the missing American’s ties to the CIA in 2010, and continued pursuing the story. It delayed publishing several times after the government said “it was pursuing promising leads to get him home.”
“The family is aware of the risk created by this story and are praying for his safety, as they have for six years,” a Levinson family spokesman said Thursday night. “All they want is to bring Bob home.”
The missing American’s family are criticizing the White House’s response to Levinson’s situation:
“Bob is a courageous man who has dedicated himself, including risking his own life, in service to the U.S. government. But the US government has failed to make saving this good man’s life the priority it should be.”
CIA spokesman Chris White said in a statement:
“We have no comment on any purported affiliation between Mr. Levinson and the US Government. The US Government remains committed to bringing him home safely to his family.”
The missing American, Bob Levinson, has been paraded by the his captors in several videos and photos for propaganda reasons, looking disheveled, wearing an orange jumpsuit and holding signs that count the number of years he has been a hostage.