An American private investigator who went missing in Iran more than six years
ago was working for the CIA at the time as part of an unsanctioned rogue
operation, The Washington Post revealed on Thursday.
Retired FBI agent
Robert Levinson, a Jewish father of seven from Florida, disappeared during a
trip to an Iranian island in the Persian Gulf in March 2007. US officials have
said Levinson made the trip as a private investigator.
According to The
Washington Post, CIA officials told Congress and FBI investigators in closed
meetings that Levinson did not go to Iran for the CIA.
Washington Post cited emails and documents suggesting Levinson was in Iran at
the behest of CIA analysts who had no authority to direct such an
The investigation into the incident eventually led the CIA to
discipline 10 employees involved, including three analysts who were removed from
their jobs, the The Washington Post reported. The CIA also took responsibility
for the abduction of Levinson, paying his wife a $2.5 million settlement, The
Washington Post quoted intelligence officials as saying.
worked for 28 years as an investigator for the FBI and the Drug Enforcement
Administration, traveled on March 8, 2007, to Kish Island, a Gulf resort and
free trade zone. Friends of Levinson said he had been investigating the
counterfeiting of cigarettes around that time, though mainly in Latin
On Kish Island, he was scheduled to meet Dawud Salahuddin,
formerly known as David Belfield, an American Islamic terrorist, friends of
In July 1980, during the hostage crisis in which American
diplomats in Tehran were held prisoner by Iranian students, Salahuddin allegedly
shot dead a former spokesman for the Shah-era Iranian Embassy at his suburban
home in Washington, DC. Salahuddin then fled to Iran, where he has been ever
Earlier this year, an Iranian lawyer for Levinson’s family told
the US-supported broadcasting outlet Radio Free Europe that Levinson did meet
with Salahuddin on Kish Island before mysteriously vanishing.
2010, a video surfaced in which Levinson asked for help in winning his freedom
but did not say who was holding him or where.
The Iranian government has
repeatedly said it knows nothing about Levinson’s disappearance or
In a March 2011 statement, Hillary Clinton, then US
secretary of state, said Levinson was being held somewhere in South
Secretary of State John Kerry met with Levinson’s family in March
and urged anyone with information about his whereabouts to come forward. The
White House said at the time that finding Levinson is “a high priority” for the
According to the The Washington Post report, Levinson had
gone around the world acting as a spy for the CIA, even though he was supposed
to provide academic reports on money laundering only.
to this report.