The family of part-time CIA consultant Robert Levinson filed a lawsuit against the government of Iran Tuesday, claiming it had concealed its role in his disappearance.
Levinson’s family is seeking unknown compensation for Iran’s role in inflicting emotional distress on the family, among other things. A former FBI agent and private investigator, Levinson traveled to Iran in 2007, subsequently disappearing March 9.
U.S. officials initially insisted Levinson went to Iran’s Kish Island as a private investigator working on a cigarette smuggling case, but it was later discovered he had been working as a contractor for the CIA at the time.
While the circumstances surrounding Levinson’s disappearance remain a mystery, some U.S. officials believe he may have been captured by Iranian intelligence for later use in negotiations with the U.S. government. Iran’s PressTV acknowledged his arrest April 4, 2007, however, Iranian officials have denied any involvement in his disappearance.
Levinson was last heard from in late 2010, when his family received a hostage video dated November, 2010. The quality of the video led U.S. officials to believe Iranian intelligence was responsible for its creation. Levinson appeared sickly in the video and had lost significant weight. Some experts believe the 69-year-old died in captivity, but his family believes he is still alive. His family released the hostage video in conjunction with a plea for his return in December, 2011. The family later received photos of Levinson dressed in an orange jump suit in 2011, later releasing them in 2013.
The FBI initially offered a $1 million reward for information leading to Levinson’s recovery, later increasing the amount to $5 million in 2015. Little progress has been made in the investigation, despite the efforts of the U.S. government and Levinson family.
U.S. law enforcement officials believe that elements within Iran’s hierarchy were likely involved with Levinson’s disappearance, but the Obama administration did not push those concerns with Iran. The Levinson family may have better luck working with the Trump administration, as President Donald Trump promised to return Levinson in 2015. No known progress has been made since the administration took over in January.
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