Kerry on the Still-Missing Bob Levinson: ‘I Feel Horrible For The Family’

By Patrick Goodenough | January 19, 2016 | 4:33am EST
Christine Levinson, center, wife of Robert Levinson, and her children, Dan and Samantha Levinson, talk to reporters in New York on Monday, Jan. 18, 2016. The former FBI agent disappeared in Iran almost nine years ago. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

( – Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday the Iranians were “cooperating” in efforts to trace the missing retired FBI agent Bob Levinson, acknowledging how hard it must be for his family since five other Americans held by Iran have now been released.

“I feel horrible for the family,” he told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “I know it’s very, very difficult for his family to see these other folks come back and not have answers.”

Levinson’s wife of 40 years, Christine, told reporters on Monday the family learned from television news reports that he would not be among the Americans returning from Iran.

“We had to learn it from the TV ourselves, and that's very disappointing and heartbreaking,” she said.

Asked whether he thinks Levinson, who went missing in Iran’s Kish island in March 2007, is still alive, Kerry told Blitzer the administration was “proceeding as if he is. We want him to be. We hope he is.”

“We don’t have capacity at this point to draw any kinds of conclusions,” he added. “But we are working on it, and the Iranians are cooperating.”

Kerry said the Iranian government has “agreed to continue to help us try to find the whereabouts and whatever may or may not have happened to Bob Levinson. We are going to continue that effort.”

Asked whether he thought the Iranians had him in their custody, Kerry did not answer directly, saying simply, “We do not have evidence at this point as to where he is. We have been very clear about that. We are tracing every lead …”

In a statement on Sunday, President Obama hailed the release from Iran of Pastor Saeed Abedini, former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati, Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, and two other men whose imprisonment in Iran had not been widely reported – researcher Matthew Trevithick and Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari.

“Iran has agreed to deepen our coordination as we work to locate Robert Levinson – missing from Iran for more than eight years,” he said. “Even as we rejoice in the safe return of others, we will never forget about Bob. Each and every day, but especially today, our hearts are with the Levinson family, and we will not rest until their family is whole again.”

According to a May 2007 classified U.S. diplomatic cable published by Wikileaks, the U.S. government at the time had reason to believe Levinson had been detained during a visit to Kish island by “Iranian security services.”

“Iranian authorities may have believed he was still in USG [U.S. government] employ,” said the cable. “Tehran has not acknowledged detaining Levinson, but strong circumstantial evidence points to official Iranian involvement.”

In late 2010, Levinson’s family received a “proof of life” video showing him in captivity. The family then said it received a photograph of him the following April, showing him with long hair and a beard, shackled, and dressed in an orange jumpsuit. (Islamic terrorists have taken to dressing captives in the garb, associated with early images of terror suspects detained at Guantanamo Bay.)

Also in 2011 – around the fourth anniversary of his disappearance – then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the U.S. had indications that Levinson was “being held somewhere in southwest Asia.”

“As the government of Iran has previously offered its assistance in this matter, we respectfully request the Iranian government to undertake humanitarian efforts to safely return and reunite Bob with his family,” she said in a statement. “We would appreciate the Iranian government’s efforts in this matter.”

In 2012 the FBI offered a $1 million reward for information leading to Levinson’s safe recovery and return home.

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