His case is as stifling as it is mysterious. American citizen Robert Levinson, a former FBI and DEA agent, was taken hostage by Iranian intelligence officials on March 9, 2007, while on a private business trip to Iran’s Kish Island, where he was seeking information about cigarette smuggling.
American citizens do not require a visa to visit Kish Island. But is it possible Bob Levinson is lost?
Iran’s Press TV had reported at the time that Levinson “has been in the hands of Iranian security forces since the early hours of March 9,” and noted that “authorities are well on the way to finishing the procedural arrangements that could see him freed in a matter of days.” Levinson’s whereabouts have been in question ever since.
It is believed Levinson, who is the father of seven children, was taken hostage and interrogated so he could be used as a bargaining chip for future negotiations between Iran and the United Sates. Although he retired from the FBI nearly a decade before he was taken hostage, an investigation by the Associated Press suggested he was working for the CIA on an unapproved intelligence-gathering mission. Several misleading components have been notable in his case.
A 2011 video of Levinson shows him in an orange jumpsuit and holding up cardboard signs suggesting he is in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. However, U.S. investigators were able to determine that the video was routed through an Internet address in Pakistan, and Pashtun wedding music playing in the background suggested he could also be in Afghanistan, where several photos of Levinson were traced back to through the Internet, according to the Daily Mail.
He also stated that he has been at the same location for the 3.5 years he was in captivity when the video had been taped, suggesting he had not moved from where he was taken originally. Another curious fact to note is that he said he was being held by an unspecific “group” and made no mention of a government or terrorist entity.
Some believe the Iranian government may have intentionally routed the video of Levinson through Pakistan to throw the U.S. government off about his whereabouts.
Two years later, in a 2013 interview on Face the Nation, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Levinson is not in Iran. “We know that he is not incarcerated in Iran. … If he is, he is not incarcerated by the government and I believe the government pretty much has control of the country.”
The last man to see Levinson is Dawud Salahuddin, an admitted assassin who is living in exile in Iran. He told CBS News in an interview that same year that he believes Levinson is alive and it is highly possible he is in a secret prison in Iran. “The military has a lot of facilities in Iran and they are very secure. You could spend a million years and not find someone,” he said. Levinson had been meeting with Salahuddin in Kish, which piqued the interests of Iranian authorities and led to his capture.
An Iranian-American with ties to the Iranian government, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Breitbart News, “We don’t know where the f*ck is Robert Levinson, OK? Can you media people stop the ridiculing [?] [The people of] Iran say they don’t know where he is. They are not shy[ing] away saying he is in jail; he is NOT.” He followed his remarks by stating, “[Tom] Cotton is stupid,” airing his personal sentiments about the backlash from the Republican Party regarding the nuclear deal with Iran.
Another Iranian, living near Tehran, told Breitbart News that he believes Levinson is, in fact, being held in Iran and that the Iranian government is concealing his whereabouts to use him as leverage down the line.
Iran is no stranger to “secret” prison sites, and speculation has also mounted as to whether the American hostage could be held in one of these undocumented locations. Levinson’s family has set up a website to track information about his case. They hope to someday be reunited with him.