The U.S. authorities has concluded that retired FBI agent Robert Levinson, who vanished greater than a decade in the past, died whereas in the custody of Iran, his household and administration officers stated Wednesday.
The circumstances and timing of Levinson’s loss of life had been unclear, however White House nationwide safety adviser Robert O’Brien stated Wednesday night that the U.S. believes Levinson “could have handed away a while in the past.” Hours earlier, his household stated info U.S. officers had acquired had led them to conclude he was lifeless. Neither the federal government nor the household described that info.
The loss of life is believed to have occurred earlier than the current outbreak of the coronavirus that has gravely affected Iran and one other international locations, in keeping with a press release from Levinson’s household.
The authorities’s acknowledgment of Levinson’s loss of life got here hours after a White House briefing in which President Donald Trump appeared to equivocate on the information, saying, “I will not settle for that he is lifeless.”
U.S. officers communicated the information to Levinson’s household in a gathering in Washington in current weeks, in keeping with an individual accustomed to the scenario who spoke on situation of anonymity to debate the non-public encounter. The individual stated the details about Levinson had come from Iran’s international minister.
“It is unimaginable to explain our ache,” the household’s assertion stated. “Our household will spend the remainder of our lives with out essentially the most superb man, a brand new actuality that’s inconceivable to us. His grandchildren won’t ever meet him. They will solely know him via the tales we inform them.’
Levinson disappeared on March 9, 2007, when he was scheduled to fulfill a supply on the Iranian island of Kish. For years, U.S. officers would say solely that Levinson was working independently on a personal investigation. But a 2013 Associated Press investigation revealed that Levinson had been despatched on a mission by CIA analysts who had no authority to run such an operation.
The Trump administration has made it a precedence to hunt the discharge of American hostages and prisoners detained abroad. Last week, administration officers touted the discharge from Lebanon of a New Hampshire restaurant proprietor jailed on decades-old allegations and the medical furlough of a Navy veteran from an Iranian jail.
The Levinson household thanked a number of U.S. officers for his or her assist, together with FBI Director Chris Wray, CIA Director Gina Haspel, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and O’Brien, who earlier than his submit as nationwide safety adviser additionally served because the State Department’s chief hostage negotiator.
Whereabouts, destiny unknown
But the household assertion additionally stated: “Those who are accountable for what occurred to Bob Levinson, together with these in the U.S. authorities who for a few years repeatedly left him behind, will finally obtain justice for what they’ve achieved. We will spend the remainder of our lives ensuring of this, and the Iranian regime should know we won’t be going away.”
The household stated it doesn’t know when or if Levinson’s physique will probably be returned for burial.
At a White House briefing on the coronavirus, Trump resisted confirming the household’s account, saying that Iranian officers had not instructed the U.S. about Levinson’s destiny and that “I will not settle for that he is lifeless.”
But he additionally acknowledged that “it is not wanting promising” and stated Levinson, who had diabetes and hypertension, had had “some tough issues” previous to his disappearance.
“He was an amazing gentleman,” he stated.
Around the identical time, although, the White House’s appearing nationwide intelligence director appeared to verify Levinson’s loss of life with a tweeted assertion conveying condolences to the household. And by the night, the White House issued a brand new assertion designed to take away a number of the uncertainty expressed by the president.
“As President Trump stated right this moment, Iran should present a whole accounting of what occurred with Bob Levinson earlier than the United States can totally settle for what occurred in this case,” O’Brien stated. “While the investigation is ongoing, we consider that Bob Levinson could have handed away a while in the past.”
The household acquired a video in late 2010 in addition to proof-of-life pictures in 2011 in which he appeared dishevelled with a protracted beard and carrying an orange jail jumpsuit like these given to detainees on the Guantanamo Bay jail. Even then, his whereabouts and destiny weren’t recognized.
Iran repeatedly has stated that it has no details about Levinson, although U.S. diplomats and investigators have lengthy stated they thought he was taken by Iranian authorities brokers.
In November, the Iranian authorities unexpectedly responded to a United Nations question by saying that Levinson was the topic of an “open case” in Iranian Revolutionary Court. Although the event gave the household a burst of hope, Iran clarified that the “open case” was merely an investigation into his disappearance.
The announcement of his loss of life comes simply weeks after a federal decide in Washington held Iran chargeable for his disappearance, saying the nation was “in no unsure phrases” accountable for Levinson’s “hostage taking and torture.”
The decide’s determination adopted a weekslong trial of emotional testimony from Levinson’s household, together with from every of his seven kids.