U.S. urges Iran to help free missing retired FBI agent
US Daniel Levinson (L) shows a picture of his father, ex-FBI agent Robert Levinson, holding his grandson Ryan during a press conference with his mother Christine at the Swiss embassy in Tehran, 22 December 2007.
November 26th, 2013
11:55 AM ET

U.S. urges Iran to help free missing retired FBI agent

By CNN Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jill Dougherty

With a breakthrough interim nuclear deal and relations between the United States and Iran improving, the White House on Tuesday "respectfully" asked the Iranian government to help return Robert Levinson, a retired FBI agent who went missing in Iran more than six years ago.

"We do want to test the regime. The new administration has said that they want to take a different approach toward the West, toward the United States. One way that they could clearly demonstrate that is they could help us find Bob Levinson, help reunite him with his family," Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told CNN.

Rhodes said that Levinson and two other Americans are being "detained in Iran unjustly, in our view."

A separate White House statement said the United States welcomes help from "our international partners in this investigation, and we respectfully ask the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to assist us in securing Mr. Levinson's health, welfare, and safe return."

Levinson became a private investigator after his three-decade career with the FBI and disappeared in March 2007 during a business trip to Kish Island, Iran. It is believed he was investigating cigarette smuggling.

His wife, Christine, told CNN the family has no new information about him but is "hopeful," with the leadership of Iran's new and more moderate president, Hassan Rouhani.

Christine Levinson said Tuesday marked "an unimaginable milestone" for her husband, noting he has now surpassed journalist Terry Anderson to become the "longest-held American hostage." Anderson spent 2,454 days in captivity before being freed by Islamic militants in Lebanon in 1991.

"Our family will soon gather for our seventh Thanksgiving without Bob, and the pain will be almost impossible to bear," she said in a statement.

Iran's government repeatedly has said it is not holding Levinson and does not know his whereabouts.

Iran's previous president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said he was willing to help find Levinson, and the family received what then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described in 2010 as "proof of life."

CNN was told some discussions with Iran were being held. The White House said there still is uncertainty over Levinson's whereabouts.

FBI Director James Comey said Monday that the agency continues "to follow every lead into his disappearance."

CNN's Susan Candiotti contributed to this report.

soundoff (16 Responses)
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  4. Tim

    Obamas top aid, Valerie Jarrett was born in Iran.
    Kerry's son in law is also was born in Iran.
    Is that reason the USA foreign policy to the fascist regime of Iran is so soft?

    November 27, 2013 at 7:17 pm | Reply
  5. Jeff

    Zarif today told: We continue to construct the heavy water station in city of Arak!!!
    Can somebody explain what was the super deal agreement about?!
    How the USA trust those liars?

    November 27, 2013 at 6:50 pm | Reply
  6. George patton

    First, we need to give diplomacy a chance to work. All that stupid warmongering and sabre rattling produced absolutely nothing and made us all look war hungry maniacs in the meantime!!!

    November 26, 2013 at 3:49 pm | Reply
  7. Jtefghtre Dutrefh

    censorship is in full effect now.

    November 26, 2013 at 2:18 pm | Reply
  8. Jtefghtre Dutrefh

    The Client who hired the P.I. should hire a P.I. to find the missing P.I.

    November 26, 2013 at 2:12 pm | Reply
  9. John Smith

    America is the root of all terror. America has invaded sixty countries since world war 2.
    In 1953 America overthrow Iran's democratic government Mohammad Mosaddegh and installed a brutal dictator Shah. America helped Shah of Iran to establish secret police and killed thousands of Iranian people.
    During Iran-Iraq war evil America supported Suddam Hossain and killed millions of Iranian people. In 1989, America, is the only country ever, shot down Iran's civilian air plane, killing 290 people.
    In 2003,America invaded Iraq and killed 1,000,000+ innocent Iraqi people and 4,000,000+ Iraqi people were displaced.
    Now America is a failed state with huge debt. Its debt will be 22 trillion by 2015.

    November 26, 2013 at 12:19 pm | Reply
    • Cliff C.

      Ahh, John Smith! What slimy rock have you been hiding under lately? Your tired, redundant disinformation mantra hasn't been buzzing around Iran-related stories like a mosquito around my ear for a while. You weren't missed, I assure you, just as you weren't–and aren't–and never will be believed by anyone with at least one working brain cell. Please stop lying to the ill-informed while pandering to those who always have and always will hate all those who are not Iranian Shi'ia. Those who post here have long recognized that you're just a coward hiding behind a common English name, despite the obvious fact that you are really an Iranian disinformation specialist or a regime sympathizer. Just give it up! You've been caught; continuing on this way just makes you look desperate. And pathetic.

      November 27, 2013 at 1:29 pm | Reply
      • Grammy

        Actually Cliff, that skeeter has been buzzing around every story here for months now.

        November 27, 2013 at 7:20 pm |
    • JT

      "America is the root of all terror." Are you serious? "America, is the only country ever, shot down Iran's civilian air plane..." Not true. For one, I recall Soviets shot down Korean airliner. Now countries just use airliners as weapons. No need to shoot one down. Just hijack it and crash it into buildings and kill 3000, right? As far as conflicts go, they are never one-sided. Prior to the civilian jetliner going down, Iran fired on a US ship and killed nearly 40 Americans. There are at least two sides to every story. I hope you can open yours to see your arguement lacks factual information in part. If you presented your case with accurate points and not merely emotional opinion, it would allow for more meaningful dialogue. You seem to portray the brainwashed mentality of so many that see things through what they have read or been told or feel. Nobody knows the full story here. And your victim, hate-filled mentality is hardly palatable.

      November 27, 2013 at 1:56 pm | Reply
    • gstranyord

      We would take you more seriously if you could spell. Evil America huh, well you can go to Iran anytime you want buddy.

      November 30, 2013 at 9:08 am | Reply

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