Robert Levinson Photos Show Iran Holding Former FBI Agent Hostage Since 2007, U.S. Officials Say

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two years after a hostage video and photographs of retired FBI agent Robert Levinson raised the possibility that the missing American was being held by terrorists, U.S. officials now see the government of Iran behind the images, intelligence officials told The Associated Press.

Levinson, a private investigator, disappeared in 2007 on the Iranian island of Kish. The Iranian government has repeatedly denied knowing anything about his disappearance, and the disturbing video and photos that Levinson’s family received in late 2010 and early 2011 seemed to give credence to the idea.

The extraordinary photos — showing Levinson’s hair wild and gray, his beard long and unkempt — are being seen for the first time publicly after the family provided copies to the AP. The video has been previously released.

In response to Iran’s repeated denials, and amid secret conversations with Iran’s government, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement in March 2011 that Levinson was being held somewhere in South Asia. The implication was that Levinson might be in the hands of terrorist group or criminal organization somewhere in Pakistan or Afghanistan.

The statement was a goodwill gesture to Iran, one that the U.S. hoped would prod Tehran to help bring him home.

But nothing happened.

Two years later, with the investigation stalled, the consensus now among some U.S. officials involved in the case is that despite years of denials, Iran’s intelligence service was almost certainly behind the 54-second video and five photographs of Levinson that were emailed anonymously to his family. The tradecraft used to send those items was too good, indicating professional spies were behind them, the officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to talk publicly. While everything dealing with Iran is murky, their conclusion is based on the U.S. government’s best intelligence analysis.

The photos, for example, portray Levinson in an orange jumpsuit like those worn by detainees at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay. The family received them via email in April 2011. In each photo, he held a sign bearing a different message.

“I am here in Guantanamo,” one said. “Do you know where it is?”

Another read: “This is the result of 30 years serving for USA.”

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has personally and repeatedly criticized the U.S. over its detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.

U.S. operatives in Afghanistan managed to trace the cellphone used to send the photographs, officials said. But the owner had nothing to do with the photos, and the trail went cold.

It was that way, too, with the hostage video the family received. It was sent from a cyber cafe in Pakistan in November 2010. The video depicted a haggard Levinson, who said he was being held by a “group.” In the background, Pashtun wedding music can be heard. The Pashtun people live primarily in Pakistan and Afghanistan, just across Iran’s eastern border.

Yet the sender left no clues to his identity and never used that email address again.

Whoever was behind the photos and video was no amateur, U.S. authorities concluded. They made no mistakes, leading investigators to conclude it had to be a professional intelligence service like Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security.

Levinson’s wife, Christine, provided the photos to The Associated Press because she felt her husband’s disappearance was not getting the attention it deserves from the government.

“There isn’t any pressure on Iran to resolve this,” she said. “It’s been much too long.”

Though U.S. diplomats and the FBI have tried behind the scenes to find Levinson, of Coral Springs, Fla., and bring him home, both presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have said little about his case and have applied little public pressure on Iran for more information about Levinson’s whereabouts.

Christine Levinson has watched more public pressure result in Iran’s release of a trio of hikers, a journalist named Roxana Saberi and a team of British sailors captured by the Iranian Navy. Everyone has come home except her husband.

Washington’s quiet diplomacy, meanwhile, has yielded scant results beyond the Iranian president’s promise to help find Levinson.

“We assumed there would be some kind of follow-up and we didn’t get any,” Christine Levinson said. “After those pictures came, we received nothing.”

In one meeting between the two countries, the Iranians told the U.S. that they were looking for Levinson and were conducting raids in Baluchistan, a mountainous region that includes parts of Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan, U.S. officials said. But the U.S. ultimately concluded that the Iranians made up the story. There were no raids, and officials determined that the episode was a ruse by Iranian counterintelligence to learn how U.S. intelligence agencies work.

An expert on Russian organized crime, Levinson retired from the FBI in 1998 and became a private investigator. He was investigating cigarette smuggling in early 2007, and his family has said that took him to the Iranian island of Kish, where he was last seen. Kish is a popular resort area and a hotbed of smuggling and organized crime. It is also a free trade zone, meaning U.S. citizens do not need visas to travel there.

FBI spokeswoman Jacqueline Maguire said: “As we near the sixth anniversary of his disappearance, the FBI remains committed to bringing Bob home safely to his family.”

In an interview, Levinson’s wife said that because her husband disappeared in Iran, she believes her husband is still being held there. She doesn’t think the U.S. government has put enough pressure on Iran to release her husband.

“It needs to come front and center again,” Levinson said. “There needs to be a lot more public outcry.”

She said she has met with Obama and John Brennan, Obama’s counterterrorism czar and nominee to run the CIA. She said that both men pledged to do everything they could to free her husband. Now, nearly six years after his disappearance, she thinks Iran is being let off the hook.

“He’s a good man,” she said. “He just doesn’t deserve this.”

Meanwhile, Robert Levinson will miss another family milestone when his oldest daughter Susan gets married in February.

“He’s missed so many,” his wife said. “It’s very upsetting.”

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White House Petition

Please sign the petition via the link below and share it with anyone that you know. We need 25,000 signatures. Thank you for your support.

The Levinson Family

We Petition the Obama Administration to:
Make rescuing US Citizen Robert Levinson being held hostage in the Middle East since 2007 a top priority.

US citizen Robert Levinson was kidnapped from Kish Island, Iran in March of 2007. Since then he has been held hostage against his will for over 2,100 days. In December 2011, the family released a proof of life video received from his captors. In the video his deteriorating health was evident. He had lost much weight and was in need of diabetes medicine. Since then he has not been heard from but it is believed he is still alive and being held in the Middle East.

It is the government’s job to protect the lives of all US citizens; rescuing Levinson should be top priority right now for our country. He is greatly missed by his family and friends. Iran has been uncooperative and blocked investigations. We the people of the US wish to bring this man home no matter what it takes.

Created: Dec 21, 2012

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Billboard in Times Square

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Statement from the Family of Robert Levinson, Held Hostage for 2000 Days

Statement from the Family of Robert Levinson, Held Hostage for 2000 Days

Tomorrow, August 29, 2012, will mark 2,000 days that Robert “Bob” Levinson – 64 years of age, husband of 38 years, father of seven children and grandfather of two – has been held hostage after disappearing while visiting Kish Island, Iran, in March 2007. Two thousand days since Bob has heard the voices of his children and his wife, and since we have heard his. Two thousand days since he has worn the clothes in his closet – which we are sure no longer fit him – and 2,000 days since he has slept on his side of the bed. We ask ourselves how is it possible that someone – especially someone 6’4″ and (then) 225 pounds – disappears without a trace.

It is time for Bob to be released.

Bob is now the second-longest-held hostage in American history. Only Terry Anderson who was held as part of the Lebanon Hostage Crisis was in captivity longer.

Bob has been held four and a half times longer than the Americans held during in the Iranian Hostage Crisis, a group of people caught up in the middle of political turmoil, and more than a month longer than the Americans kidnapped by FARC guerillas and released in 2008. This is not a milestone any human being would want to achieve. We love and miss Bob more than words can say, and we desperately worry about his health with each day that passes.

Bob was last seen leaving his hotel on Kish Island on March 9, 2007. Our family received a proof of life video (Bob Levinson Proof of Life Video)almost two years ago, but we have heard nothing from Bob’s captors even after making repeated pleas for his release, which have been met with silence, including this past December and again in March. We don’t know where Bob is or how he is. Once again, we beg Bob’s captors to tell us what we need to do to get Bob home. We are beyond ourselves with worry. It is time for him to be released.

Bob is getting older with each day that passes and his health is failing. He suffers from diabetes, high blood pressure and gout, along with countless other unknown health issues a person would suffer from while being held in captivity for five and a half years. We need to bring him home now so that he can spend whatever time he has left surrounded by the people who love him, not in captivity.

We will not be silent. It is time for Bob Levinson to be released so that his suffering and ours can end.

For more information about the case of Robert Levinson, please refer to the family’s Facebook page Help Bob Levinson or the website The FBI has offered a $1 million rewardto bring Bob home.

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Statement From the Levinson Family

It is unbelievable to us that five years have passed since our last contact with Bob.

Bob was 59 years old when he was abducted: He will be 64 tomorrow, his birthday. Bob is getting older, as are we. We are deeply concerned about his health. He suffers from hypertension, diabetes and gout – all of which get worse with age.

Life is passing, yet, wherever Bob is, we know he has no life. For us, his family, all we focus on is getting through each day and doing everything we can to find him. Not knowing where he is, whether he is ok and how to get him home is complete agony. Here in this country, most of us would be filled with concern if someone we love were to drop out of sight for just 24 hours. For us, it has been 1827 days – or 43,848 hours. And we have been counting every one of them.

On December 9, 2011, the family released a video (Link Here) showing Bob to be alive when it was recorded and we publicly pled with his captors to tell us what we need to do to get Bob home. We have heard nothing. We are at a loss for what to do.

To the people holding Bob: We ask once again that you please – please – let us know what you want from us. Perhaps you are parents, or grandparents, as Bob is. Perhaps you are the head of a large family of sons and daughters, as Bob is. We beg you to show him the mercy you would want shown to you if you were in his place, and allow him to return home to his family. We are all just human beings.

— March 9, 2012

Christine Levinson and the Levinson children: Susan Levinson, Stephanie (Levinson) Curry, Sarah (Levinson) Moriarty, Daniel Levinson, David Levinson, Samantha Levinson and Douglas Levinson

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Billboard Announcement of $1 Million Dollar Reward

A publicity campaign is being launched this week in southwest Asia to heighten awareness of Levinson’s abduction, announce the $1,000,000 reward, and solicit information. Billboards, radio messages, and flyers will be used to publicize the reward and the investigation. A telephone tip line will be provided to listeners and viewers in that region so that they can confidentially provide information.

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Press Statement, Hillary Rodham Clinton Secretary of State

Fifth Anniversary of Robert Levinson’s Disappearance

Press Statement
Hillary Rodham Clinton Secretary of State
Washington, DC
March 6, 2012

This Friday marks the five-year anniversary of the disappearance of U.S. citizen Robert Levinson, a retired FBI agent who disappeared during a business trip to Kish Island, Iran in 2007. Today, we reaffirm our commitment to locating Mr. Levinson and bringing him home safely. This remains a priority for the United States, and we welcome the assistance of our international partners in this investigation. We also call on the Government of Iran to uphold its promise of assistance and help safely return Mr. Levinson to the United States.

Over the past year, we have had reason to believe that he is being held in southwest Asia, so the FBI is launching a public information campaign in that region and announcing a $1 million reward for information on Mr. Levinson’s whereabouts that could lead to his safe return. Anyone who may have information about this case should contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The U.S. Government is committed to Mr. Levinson’s safe return and we will continue to use all available resources until he is home and reunited with his family.

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