Robert Levinson was used by the CIA, forgotten by the USA, recently burned by media revelations, and left in Iran nearly seven years ago. The details surrounding the Levinson case are complex and his present whereabouts and physical condition are unconfirmed. It was back in 2007 that the retired FBI agent went missing in Iran. The story at the time was that he was simply a business man who had traveled there for private purposes. This idea has since been discounted as recent media revelations clearly assert that Levinson was in fact contracted in some capacity by the CIA. The revelations go on to show that, contrary to past statements by U.S. officials denying his connection to the government, Levinson had indeed been working on an unsanctioned intelligence gathering mission when he went missing.
An AP investigation was responsible for shedding light on the details of the CIA-contractor’s disappearance. The investigation highlights the issues that resulted from revelations about the unsanctioned intelligence operation. Perhaps the most significant point made by the AP was that the firestorm that resulted was all kept secret and took place behind closed doors. Even with the lack of initial publicity however, the Levinson case represents of one of the largest CIA scandals to take place in recent years.
It was reported and maintained by U.S. officials that Levinson was simply a private citizen who had vanished while on a business trip to Kish Island, Iran. This characterization was totally refuted as recent media reports show that he was in close contact with CIA analysts, who the agency maintains were operating without authority, and had gone to Iran to gather intelligence for the U.S. government. As details continue to emerge regarding the entire debacle, its appears as though Robert Levinson was used by the CIA, forgotten later by the USA, now possibly burned by the media, and all after he was left in Iran seven years ago.
When information surfaced regarding the team of analysts and their unsanctioned operation which was making use of the services of Robert Levinson, Congress became involved. The result was that the CIA fired three of its own agents and handed down disciplinary actions to seven others. While this seems like significant corrective action, its has been reported that two of the three fired analysts were quickly hired on with other agencies, and while Levinson remains out in the cold the seven disciplined associates remain at their posts.
The reasons for the recent revelations coming from the AP have been explained as an attempt to remedy the situation. The AP apparently delayed its reporting of information within its possession at the behest of U.S. officials who suggested that revealing information would not help solve the problem.
It is unclear whether the recent media revelations are indeed in line with the stated motives, or whether they might have in fact placed Levinson’s life in greater jeopardy. This all assuming that Levinson is still alive. After all, it has been nearly three years since there has been any definitive sign that the ex-FBI agent is alive.
It was in late 2010 and early 2011 that information showing proof-of-life was delivered to the contractor’s family. Since that time there has been no solid evidence suggesting that Levinson is alive, but conversely there is also no reason to believe that he is dead. Some suggest that it stands to reason if he were preserved for nearly four years by a regime wishing too bolster its negotiating position with the west, that he would be kept alive as a bargaining chip instead of discarded. Although it has not been confirmed that Iran is directly or even indirectly responsible for Levinson’s disappearance, many believe that either Iran has Levinson or is well aware of his whereabouts.
The missing American’s family are disappointed with the effort put forth by U.S. officials to retrieve a man they say put everything on the line for his country. The CIA, when it first learned of the affair, had initially reported to Washington officials that it had no connection to Levinson but later changed its position as officials learned of the unsanctioned behavior of certain analysts. The U.S. government on the other hand had attempted to pass Levinson off as simply a private citizen on business in Iran at the time of his disappearance. It is not absolutely clear what the competing motives were for all parties involved.
There is no doubt that Levinson’s family would like to see the man home, however even the family accepted a $2.5 million preemptive settlement from the CIA to keep related details from coming to light in an embarrassing public trial. The press on the other hand has brought to light Levinson’s CIA connections and, although altruistic motives have been claimed, the release of such information could be hazardous to the missing man’s health. Iran has continued to deny that it has any connection or knowledge of the event, but many remain doubtful of these statements.
This all comes at a tough time. Negotiations between the U.S. and Iran regarding the nation’s nuclear program have been underway and the world is watching carefully as attempts are being made for a lasting agreement. Israel, perhaps the most interested of the world’s nations, is also keeping a watchful eye on the continuing negotiations. This sensitive political environment is sure to complicate the U.S. administrations ability to deal with the recent publicity surrounding Robert Levinson, but public pressure may force officials to address the missing American’s situation more directly.
What is known for now is that the missing American’s whereabouts and the status of his health remain unknown and his family continues to try and pressure Capitol Hill to make greater efforts to find and hopefully return their missing loved one. Sadly it appears that Robert Levinson was used by the CIA, forgotten by the USA, possibly burned by media revelations, and all this after being left in Iran seven long years ago.
It does appear that all the parties involved now wish to bring resolution and closure to the situation, but only time will tell whether serious action to do just that will be pursued.
By Daniel Worku