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Robert Levinson, Another Casualty of the Deep State

A CIA cover-up likely cost months and years of searching. Now the longest-held captive in U.S. history is presumed dead.

Robert Alan Levinson, in a screenshot from the last video sent to his family in 2010. (Wikipedia)

The 13-year saga to find Robert Levinson appears to be over. His family was personally notified this week by Washington national security officials, including CIA Director Gina Haspel, that their husband and father, who would have been 72 this year, was likely dead, and had died “some time ago” while in Iranian captivity.

The family thanked Haspel and other top officials on hand, which is gracious, because the CIA is likely responsible for delaying the search for Levinson in the first critical months and years of his disappearance in 2007. The Deep State strikes again.

Levinson’s story is one that highlights a number of cruel realities—not the least of which is that, as aggressive and creative they were in their search, his family had not seen any proof of life since 2011. The real kicker is that the CIA had initially covered up that Levinson was working for them, ostensibly gathering intelligence on Iranian corruption (doesn’t seem worth it now) when he vanished from the Island of Kish on March 9, 2007. It wasn’t discovered by the Associated Press, working with the family, until 2010, that Levinson had been paid “off the books” by a group of CIA analysts who had no authority to deploy spies overseas. In the meantime, the FBI, which investigates missing persons overseas, treated Levinson’s case as a private citizen who was doing his own research and it was shuffled along with other low-priority jobs.

Once the AP and his family brought the information about Levinson’s employment to light, the CIA was forced to admit what happened and a few heads rolled. But it was lost time. The last video of Levinson in 2010 showed him in a prison jumpsuit, he would have been 62, in front of a brick wall. He was a diabetic and was pleading desperately for his return because he was running low of medication. He referred to his long career with the FBI (another irony), where he specialized in Russian organized crime. “Thirty-three years of service to the United States deserves something,” Levinson said. “Please help me.” The family received another set of photos after that, in 2011.

Over the years, the family, now with the aid of federal investigators and Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, believe he might have been moved around, to Pakistan, even Afghanistan. The government believes he was held by an small group within the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. The Iranians have consistently denied their involvement in Levinson’s captivity. Over the years the reward for his return escalated, in 2019 reaching $20 million. The bare truth is, he could have died shortly after that video was made. No one knows. We do know he was the longest held captive in American history, passing that grim marker in 2013, surpassing Terry Anderson.

One might quip that Levinson left on this dangerous mission on his own accord, that American citizens who have vanished over the years in dangerous overseas places receive even less attention. True. We have no idea what his motives were, and to this day, what his assignment was, since all of that still remains locked away in some CIA file. This does not let the government off the hook—breaking the rules, putting Americans in harms way, covering it up, all for some BS mission they were too cowardly to take on themselves. The fact is they sat on their hands while crucial time was lost and a family was shattered in the process. This speaks volumes about the dissonance between the belief in a government by the people and for the people, and the reality that it really isn’t.

 

about the author

Kelley Beaucar Vlahos, executive editor, has been writing for TAC since 2007, focusing on national security, foreign policy, civil liberties and domestic politics. She served for 15 years as a Washington bureau reporter for FoxNews.com, and at WTOP News in Washington from 2013-2017 as a writer, digital editor and social media strategist. She has also worked as a beat reporter at Bridge News financial wire (now part of Reuters) and Homeland Security Today, and as a regular contributor at Antiwar.com. A native Nutmegger, she got her start in Connecticut newspapers, but now resides with her family in Arlington, Va.

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