WASHINGTON — The White House refused to answer questions about the explosive revelation that Robert “Bob” Levinson, a retired federal agent and America’s longest-held hostage, was in fact a CIA spy. Despite the CIA admitting being “responsible for Levinson,” the White House flatly rejected the notion that he had ever worked for the U.S. government.
Speaking at the White House press briefing on Friday, Jay Carney refuted the claim.
“Bob Levinson was not a U.S. government employee when he went missing in Iran,” Carney said. “As there is an ongoing investigation into his disappearance, I am not going to comment further on what he may or may not have been doing in Iran. I’m not going to fact check every allegation made in the story you reference, a story we believe it was highly irresponsible to publish and which we strongly urged the outlet not to publish, out of concerns for Mr. Levinson’s safety.”
Carney was also questioned by ABC’s Jon Karl about statements made regarding Levinson.
KARL: Seventeen days ago, you issued a statement saying Robert Levinson went missing during a business trip to Kish Island, Iran. When you talked about it just now, you simply said when he went to Kish Island, Iran. I’m wondering, is that statement from 17 days ago, that he went missing during a business trip on Kish Island, Iran, is that still operative, or is that no longer…
CARNEY: Look, I — I mean, I’m simply saying that he is not a U.S. government employee. This is in reaction to a story that was published today. I mean, I’m not adjusting what was said in the past. I’m making clear in response to this story that that is what we can say. We cannot say more for some of the reasons that I just described in answering Julie’s question.
KARL: But is this statement, then, just to clarify…
CARNEY: “Yeah, I’m not — I’m not — I’m not changing or altering what was said in the past. But in response to stories today, I’m making clear that he was not a U.S. government employee when he went missing in Iran.
KARL: This is a philosophical question on this: If by putting out a statement that isn’t exactly accurate or is misleading, you could save somebody’s life or, you know, hasten his return, would that be justified? Would that be something you’d be willing to do from the podium?
CARNEY: I’m not going to speculate about that. We provide the information that we can, that’s accurate, John. And, you know, we’re talking about a matter that’s under investigation. We’re talking about an individual’s disappearance and his safety. So, you know, I just can’t describe further what he was doing. That’s under investigation. But I can tell you he was not a U.S. government employee.