A retired FBI agent goes on an unauthorized CIA mission to Iran, then disappears

The World
Christine Levinson (R), wife of former FBI agent Robert Levinson, watches as her son Daniel Levinson

Christine Levinson, right,, wife of former FBI agent Robert Levinson, watches as her son Daniel Levinson displays a web print of his father's picture to journalists while attending a news conference at Switzerland's embassy in Tehran on December 22, 2007.

Morteza Nikoubazi/Reuters

Robert Levinson, a retired FBI agent, traveled to the Iranian Island of Kish in 2007, checked into a hotel and several days later checked out. Normal enough. Then he mysteriously disappeared. 

The US government at the time, and since, said Levinson was on a private business trip. But now, an investigation by the Associated Press has revealed he was in fact working for a rogue group of analysts inside the CIA.

"We know almost nothing about how he disappeared," says Ted Bridis, Washington Investigative Editor for the Associated Press.

He says Levinson's wife, Christine Levinson, traveled to Iran and saw the guest book where her husband checked in and out of the hotel. But what happened after remains a mystery.

According to Bridis, Levinson's family uncovered "irrefutable evidence" that showed he was sent on behalf of a rogue group of CIA analysts.

"Within the CIA, this was considered as big a scandal as the false information about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq," he says. "Analysts are not supposed to run operatives, they're not supposed to be involved in field work ... This was a case where they were well outside their lanes."

As a result of an internal CIA investigation, Bridis says, three analysts lost their jobs and seven others were disciplined. Robert Levinson's whereabouts remain unclear.

The Iranian government has repeatedly said it has no information about where he is held. In 2011, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released a statement saying the US had evidence Levinson was being held "somewhere in southwest Asia."

But Bridis says while no one really knows where Levinson is, the US intelligence community believes he is still held in Iran.