Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Global Impact: The Search for Retired FBI Agent Bob Levinson, AP Says He Worked for CIA Many Years

According to ABC News, and after years of secrecy, the family of the retired FBI agent Robert Levinson, now 65, and who reportedly disappeared in Iran in March 2007, acknowledged last week that he was working as a "spy" for the CIA and accused the CIA, FBI and the Obama Administration of "betraying" him by not doing enough to gain his release."

"The CIA sent Bob Levinson to Iran to do an investigation on its behalf," said David McGee, a family lawyer and spokesperson deeply involved in efforts to secure Mr. Levinson's release.

McGee told ABC News the CIA and the FBI betrayed Levinson as it attempted to hide the fact that Levinson had a long-term relationship with the CIA, spying on Iran's nuclear program and on the terror group Hezbollah in the rogue operation. Levinson disappeared from Iran's Kish Island in 2007.

"And rather than acknowledge what they had done and try and save Bob's life, they disavowed any knowledge of him," said McGee.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney declined to discuss Levinson's connection with the CIA, beyond saying that when he went missing, Levinson "was not a US government employee."

COMMENT: Technically, Carney was accurate in his carefully chosen words, statement, keeping in mind that the CIA often engages specialists in contracts deemed useful to the Agency's goals, although such persons are never described as "employees."

No doubt, the CIA seemingly did a disservice to both Bob Levinson as well as his family, by concealing for years that Mr. Levinson worked for the Agency, only to apparently abandon the retired FBI agent when he most needed to be saved by his government, who put him in Harm's Way.

To the anger of the Levinson Family, and over the objections of the FBI and the White House, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS and THE WASHINGTON POST reported on Thursday on Levinson's ties to the CIA as a private contractor.

According to McGee, the AP gave the Levinson Family only a two-hour notice and said top editors had made the decision to go with the story."

ABC News and a number of other media organizations had known of Levinson's ties to the CIA for years, but were asked by the family and US officials to hold off reporting on them because it could put Levinson'a life in danger. 

Once the AP went public with their report that Levinson had a long-term relationship with the CIA, Carney told reporters that the AP report making such allegations public would logically "put that person in further danger" and described the AP's intention to "go public" "highly irresponsible."

The AP said it decided to report the story to expose a bungled CIA operation. Marty Baron, the Executive Editor at THE WASHINGTON POST, said through a spokesperson that the POST "decided to publish their story contained important revelations about the CIA that deserved ultimately to be disclosed.

In a statement, The White House said, "We regret that the AP would choose to run a story that does nothing to further the cause of bringing him [Levinson] home."

Now that the secret is out, Levinson's family has decided to tell all it knows about the 65-year-old retired FBI agent's relationship with the CIA in hopes it will put pressure on the Obama Administration to do more to gain his release.

McGee told ABC NEWS the CIA first attempted to deny to the family that Levinson was sent to Iran as a spy. "They denied that they had sent him, they denied that they had a relationship with him. They lied," McGee said.

And the FBI became part of the cover-up, according to what McGee says he was told by FBI agents assigned to the case.

"The field agent told us he knew the CIA was lying but there was nothing he could do about it and passed on a word that we should just drop the issue and go away, leave Bob in Iran," McGee recounted.

In testimony before Congress, CIA officials gave similar testimony, denying any relationship with Levinson.

Only after McGee and his paralegal obtained access to Levinson's computer files, were they able to prove the secret relationship, said McGee.

"The CIA ultimately issued a formal apology to the family," said McGee who then negotiated a $2.5 million settlement between the government and the Levinson family.

At least three CIA employees have been fired after the rogue operation was discovered and several others disciplined, according to McGee.

Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) said early Friday (December 13) that he urged The Associated Press not to publish a story about Levinson, as he had been working for the CIA.

The AP reported ran its story on Levinson on Thursday (December 12). In the report, the wire service said that it confirmed Levinson's CIA ties in 2010 and had continued its reporting. AP said it had agreed three times to delay publishing the story "because the U.S. government said it was pursuing promising leads to get [Levinson] home." 

Sen. Nelson, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, took interest in the case after he was approached by friends of Levinson, who is from Florida. “I urged the editor of AP not to run the story," Nelson said in an interview. He added that he personally asked the news service's executive editor, Kathleen Carroll, to withhold publication.

"My only response that I can give is [that] this is classified information. I can’t talk about it," he said, adding later: "That’s all I can tell you. Just stay tuned."

Levinson traveled to the Iranian island of Kish in March 2007, to apprently investigate corruption as he was discussing the renewal of a CIA contract he had held for several years.

The AP said in its report that it decided to publish the piece because it had determined that attempts to rescue Levinson "have repeatedly come up empty" and because the US government has not received any confirmation that Levinson was still alive in nearly three years.