A day after The Associated Press reported that an ex-FBI agent who went missing in Iran seven years ago was on a rogue mission for the CIA, the White House has reiterated its long-held position that Robert Levinson was not on the U.S. payroll when he disappeared.
As we reported on Thursday, the last time Levinson’s family saw him was in an April 2011 “proof of life” photo from his unknown abductors. He vanished in March 2007 after traveling to the Iranian island of Kish.
The AP says Levinson made the trip as he was in the process of negotiating a contract with the CIA but was nonetheless being paid to gather intelligence by “a team of analysts who had no authority to run spy operations” in what amounted to “an extraordinary breach of the most basic CIA rules.”
The U.S. government has always maintained that Levinson was a private citizen when he traveled to Iran.
White House spokesman Jay Carney reiterated Friday that, “He was not a U.S. government employee when he went missing in Iran,” adding, “I just can’t describe further what he was doing.”
Carney’s statement follows a similar one made by Secretary of State John Kerry, who was speaking at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv on Friday:
“[With] respect to Mr. Levinson, I don’t have any comment whatsoever on the condition with respect to employment or any other issue except to say to you that we have raised the issue of his whereabouts on a continuous basis,” Kerry said. “I have personally raised it with the Iranians in the course of our discussions, and we will continue to try to seek his release and return to the United States.”