UK & World News

  • 13 December 2013, 20:05

Robert Levinson: US Quiet On Missing 'CIA Spy'

US Secretary of State John Kerry has refused to answer questions about whether an American citizen who vanished in Iran seven years ago was working for the CIA on an unapproved spying mission.

A team of CIA analysts - with no authority to run spy operations - paid Robert Levinson to gather intelligence on the Iranian regime for the US government, according to an investigation by the Associated Press.

After Mr Levinson vanished, the CIA reportedly paid his family $2.5m (1.56m) to head off a lawsuit that would reveal details of his spying activities.

Three veteran CIA analysts were forced out of the agency and seven others were disciplined over the ex-FBI agent's disappearance, AP said.

Mr Kerry side-stepped questions about Mr Levinson's alleged CIA connections during a news conference in Tel Aviv, Israel.

"I don't have any comment whatsoever on the condition with respect to employment or any other issue," he said. "We have raised the issue of his whereabouts on a continuing basis."

The US government has always claimed Mr Levinson is a private citizen who went missing during a business trip to Iran's Kish Island.

Mr Levinson's family have issued a statement calling him a courageous man who risked his life for the US. They said the White House has failed to make finding him the priority it should be.

AP said it has spoken to dozens of current and former US and foreign officials close to the search for Mr Levinson.

Nearly all spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to discuss the sensitive case.

There is no confirmation who captured Levinson or who may be holding him now, AP said.

Although US authorities have investigated possible involvement of drug traffickers or terrorists, most officials believe Iran either holds him or knows who does.

AP said it first confirmed Mr Levinson's CIA ties in 2010 and continued reporting to uncover more details.

It agreed three times to delay publishing the story because the US government said it was pursuing promising leads to get him home.

AP said it is reporting the story now because, nearly seven years after his disappearance, those efforts have repeatedly come up empty.

The government has not received any proof that Mr Levinson is alive since his family received five photos and a video of him three years ago. He was dressed in prison garb, like that worn by military detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

Immediately after Mr Levinson's disappearance in March 2007, the CIA acknowledged to Congress that he had previously done contract work for the agency.

But the agency had no current relationship with Mr Levinson and there was no connection to Iran, the CIA said.

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