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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Robert Levinson / Ex-FBI / Captive of the Iranians


I’ve been thinking about Robert Levinson.  He is the retired FBI Agent who disappeared in 2007 on the Iranian Island of Kish.

Levinson, who was operating as a private investigator, was initially described, by government officials and his family, as investigating cigarette smuggling.  He was to meet with a potential 'source' of information on Kish.

Kish Island is located approximately 12 miles from the Iranian mainland and falls within the territorial jurisdiction of Iran.  It is considered to be a rather attractive tourist destination.  And, is relatively free-wheeling compared to mainland Iran.  The island is a money maker for Iran – hence the relaxation of the strict standards that ordinarily apply to Iranian citizens and visitors to their country.  Make no mistake, however, it is part of Iran - a country that cares little for Americans, particularly those Americans connected with American intelligence agencies.

As we now know, or at least what has been reported as accurate, Levinson was working as a contractor for the CIA.  Apparently, Levinson had been recruited by certain CIA Analysts, and was collecting information on the CIA’s behalf.  What is concerning is that his actions were not appropriate under CIA guidelines, and were apparently hidden from higher-ups in the CIA bureaucracy.  I tend not to believe that, but that is the official story – at least for now.  Several CIA employees were fired or disciplined.  All the fired employees seemed to immediately land on their feet – obtaining other government positions outside the CIA.

Regarding Levinson, personally, he was from reports within the Bureau, very well liked, and an outstanding Agent.  He had a wife and seven children.  Post retirement, he was trying to make extra money as a PI to help his seven children through college.

The CIA was paying him very well on a contractual basis.  His last contract with the CIA was worth $120,000.  Interestingly, the CIA gave Levinson’s family a $2.5 million annuity to keep, early on, Levinson’s actual purpose in going to Kish a secret.  So, Levinson’s family will be taken care of financially.  This is, as we all understand, small comfort to the family.

Should Levinson have gone to Kish?  Well, in retrospect, we all know the answer to that.  In this day and age, all any foreign government needs to do is run a basic Google search on an individual’s name; and, bingo, they know Levinson was a retired Agent.  That would be enough to pick him up and find out what he was really doing in Iran.  Under questioning, he would quickly reveal his purpose.  FBI Agents are not trained to thwart intense interrogation techniques.  Furthermore, the more professional CIA operatives apparently did not know Levinson was even in the region – and, of course, he had no backup.  He probably was not even missed for several days.

On a personal note, it’s been many years since I was an Agent; but I would not accept an assignment or attempt to ‘vacation’ in any number of present-day countries; particularly Iran and North Korea.  To voluntarily go there, as far as I’m concerned would be fool-hardy, if not downright stupid.  I assume that the FBI advises their current Agents of that; just as I was advised not to have FBI credentials in my possession if an airplane on which I was traveling was ever hijacked to Cuba.  That was the advice given in the ‘70’s.  As a supervisor once told me, “eat your credentials if you have to.”

I want to be very clear here.  I have deep sympathy for Levinson’s family.  In a perfect world, the Iranians would now have all the information they need; and would return Levinson if and when the US had admitted their error – which the CIA has done – sort of.  My advice to the President is that he has to stop playing Mr. Nice Guy.  Someone in the CIA high-up needs to be fired.  Perhaps, it should be the Director.  The President’s position should be, ‘I don’t care if you didn’t know.  It’s your job to know.  I want your resignation.’

But, as we are all discovering, President Obama couldn’t really do that.  If he had such staunch principals, he would have to also resign.

And, so it goes.  Robert Levinson may not be alive.  Nonetheless, the FBI is offering $1 million for his return.  It’s been approximately three years since his family has heard anything.  They continue to keep his name before the public; but hope is dimming.  Of course, the CIA and our government continues to play footsie.  It’s their nature.


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