American Jew Who Vanished in Iran Was on Rogue CIA Mission

Robert Levinson Traveled to Island of Kish in 2007

Gone Missing: Daniel Levinson shows a picture of his father, ex-FBI agent Robert Levinson during a press conference with his mother Christine in 2007.
Getty Images
Gone Missing: Daniel Levinson shows a picture of his father, ex-FBI agent Robert Levinson during a press conference with his mother Christine in 2007.

By JTA

Published December 13, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

An American Jewish man who disappeared in Iran in 2007 had been working for the CIA in a rogue operation, an American newspaper reported.

Robert Levinson, a retired FBI agent, traveled to the Iranian island of Kish in March 2007 to investigate corruption at a time when he was discussing the renewal of a Central Intelligence Agency contract he had held for several years, according to a report Friday by the Washington Post.

He also inquired about getting re­imbursed for the Iran trip by the CIA before he departed, unnamed U.S. intelligence officials told the paper.

After he vanished, CIA officials told Congress in closed hearings as well as the FBI that Levinson did not have a current relationship with the agency and played down its ties with him. Agency officials said Levinson did not go to Iran for the CIA.

In November, the White House press office said Levinson was on a business trip and requested the Iranian government’s help in finding him. His family obtained gthe last sign of life from him in 2011. He was seen in chains wearing an orange jumpsuit while holding up an A4 sheet of paper that read: “4TH YEAR… You Cant or you don’t want…?” .

Months after Levinson’s abduction, e-mails and other documents surfaced that suggested he had gone to Iran at the direction of CIA analysts who had no authority to run operations overseas, The Post reported. That revelation prompted a major internal investigation that had wide-ranging repercussions, officials told the Post, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The CIA leadership disciplined 10 employees, including three veteran analysts who were forced out of their jobs, the officials added.

The agency changed the rules outlining how analysts conduct business with contractors, including academics and other subject-matter experts who don’t work at the CIA, making it harder for agency employees to have such relationships.

The CIA ultimately concluded that it was responsible for Levinson while he was in Iran and paid $2.5 million to his wife, Christine, former U.S. intelligence officials told the Post. The agency also paid the family an additional $120,000, the cost of renewing Levinson’s contract.

In a statement released Thursday, Levinson’s family said the U.S. government has failed to make saving his life a priority. “It is time for the U.S. government to step up and take care of one of its own,” a family member told the Post.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • This 007 hates guns, drives a Prius, and oh yeah — goes to shul with Scarlett Johansson's dad.
  • Meet Alvin Wong. He's the happiest man in America — and an observant Jew. The key to happiness? "Humility."
  • "My first bra was a training bra, a sports bra that gave the illusion of a flat chest."
  • "If the people of Rwanda can heal their broken hearts and accept the Other as human, so can we."
  • Aribert Heim, the "Butcher of Mauthausen," died a free man. How did he escape justice?
  • This guy skipped out on seder at his mom's and won a $1 million in a poker tournament. Worth it?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.