President Barack Obama and his administration found themselves facing intense scrutiny on Friday regarding its efforts to locate an alleged CIA contractor named Robert Levinson, from both lawmakers and the Levinson family, seven years after he disappeared in Iran during what is now believed to have been an unofficial spy mission.
Associated Press' national security writer, Lara Jakes, wrote on Friday evening that the CIA paid Levinson's family about $120,000, the value of the new contract the agency was preparing for him when he left for Iran, and the government gave the family a $2.5 million annuity, which provides tax-free income, multiple people briefed on the deal said. No one wanted a lawsuit that would air the secret details.
According to an Examiner news story on Nov. 26, 2013, while President Barack Obama's and Secretary of State John Kerry's announcements regarding their agreement with Iran to halt its nuclear weapons program were covered extensively by news organizations, neither Obama nor Kerry are quoted as mentioning a former U.S. law enforcement officer possibly being imprisoned in an Iranian jail.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, on Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013, Robert Levinson was recognized as the longest held Americans in U.S. history, passing the 2,454 days Terry Anderson spent in captivity in Iran before being freed in 1991.
The 65-year-old Levinson is a retired U.S. law enforcement official with 28 years of service as a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
On March 8, 2007, Levinson visited Kish Island, Iran, reportedly working as a private investigator probing a cigarette smuggling case. But on March 9, 2007, he disappeared.
In March 2011, United States government officials announced they had evidence that pointed to Levinson being held somewhere in southwest Asia. However, investigators outside the government claim he is most likely being held in Iran by its Islamist-controlled government, according to the Examiner story.
“Exhaustive efforts have not yet been successful in locating Bob or establishing a dialogue with those who are holding him, but the FBI remains wholly committed to bringing him home safely to his loved ones,” said the new, Obama-appointed FBI Director James B. Comey.
In March 2012 -- five years after Levinson's "disappearance" -- FBI officials announced a reward of up to $1 million for information leading directly to the safe location and return of Mr. Levinson; that reward still remains unclaimed.
On Friday, Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee told Fox News that U.S. some U.S. officials believe Levinson is still alive and is being held by the Quds Force, which considered Iran's special forces.
"He is in the custody of some pretty bad people," Rep. Mike Rogers said during a Fox News interview.