He Vanished 13 Years Ago. Now, the US Places Blame

Finger officially pointed at Iran for abduction, death of retired FBI agent Robert Levinson
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 14, 2020 11:12 AM CST
US Points Finger at Iran for Abduction of Retired FBI Agent
In this March 6, 2012, file photo, an FBI poster shows a composite image of former FBI agent Robert Levinson: how he'd look after five years in captivity (right); an image taken from video, released by his kidnappers (center); and a picture before he was kidnapped (left).   (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

The Trump administration for the first time on Monday formally blamed Iran for the presumed death of retired FBI agent Robert Levinson, publicly identifying two Iranian intelligence officers believed responsible for his abduction. Levinson disappeared in Iran under mysterious circumstances more than a decade ago, and though US diplomats and investigators have long said they thought he was taken by Iranian government agents, Monday's announcement in the final weeks of the Trump administration was the most definitive assignment of blame to date, the AP reports. Besides blaming two high-ranking intelligence officers by name, US officials say the Iranian regime sanctioned the plot that led to Levinson's abduction and lied for years about its involvement in his disappearance through disinformation campaigns aimed at covering up the government's role.

Levinson vanished on March 9, 2007, when he was scheduled to meet a source on the Iranian island of Kish. For years, US officials would say only that Levinson was working independently on a private investigation. But a 2013 AP investigation revealed that Levinson had been sent on a mission by CIA analysts who had no authority to run such an operation. Levinson's family received a video in late 2010, as well as proof-of-life photos in 2011 in which he appeared disheveled with a long beard. Even then, his whereabouts and fate weren't known, and Iran's government has persistently denied having any information about Levinson. Earlier this year, a federal judge in Washington held Iran liable for his disappearance. Monday's announcement comes nine months after US officials revealed they'd concluded that Levinson "may have passed some time ago."

(More Iran stories.)

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