'American who went missing in Iran in 2007 was on rogue CIA mission'

'Washington Post' reports that ex-FBI agent Robert Levinson was not in Iran as a private citizen as has been claimed.

December 13, 2013 01:49
2 minute read.
Kidnapped American Robert Levinson

Kidnapped American Robert Levinson 311. (photo credit: helpboblevinson.com)


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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.

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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.

However, The 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 operation.

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.

Levinson, who 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 America.

On Kish Island, he was scheduled to meet Dawud Salahuddin, formerly known as David Belfield, an American Islamic terrorist, friends of Levinson said.

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 since.

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.

In November 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 whereabouts.

In a March 2011 statement, Hillary Clinton, then US secretary of state, said Levinson was being held somewhere in South Asia.

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 United States.

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.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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