The Mystery of the Ex-FBI Agent Missing in Iran

Richard Levinson's wife and Florida lawmakers appeal to the Obama administration for help on the case.

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Christine Levinson is hoping for news, any news, about her husband, a former FBI agent who disappeared under strange circumstances in Iran nearly two years ago. Robert Levinson was reportedlyl working as a self-employed private investigator on the trail of cigarette smugglers on the island of Kish in the Persian Gulf when he vanished in March 2007.

Congressional representatives from Levinson's home state introduced a resolution today calling on the Iranian government to divulge information about their suspected prisoner. Joined at the Capitol by Christine Levinson and her children, Florida Sen. Bill Nelson and Rep. Robert Wexler called for the Obama administration "to engage with officials of the government of Iran to raise the case of Robert Levinson at every opportunity."

The only official news since his disappearance was a cryptic report from Iran's state-affiliated television in April 2007 that said Levinson was a prisoner of the country's security service. There has been no public word of his whereabouts since. When pressed in back-channel meetings, according to U.S. government officials, the Iranian representatives have implied his imprisonment by quietly suggesting a prisoner exchange for Iranian nationals captured in the northern Iraqi city of Arbil, also in 2007.

Who Levinson's clients were or why he was in Iran remain publicly unanswered questions. The FBI declined to comment on specifics of the case. His wife told U.S. News that she knew few details and that this was Levinson's first trip to the Middle East. She said he had worked on fraud and counterfeit cases during his 22 years with the bureau.

The case has drawn little public attention since the original news that he went missing, but it surfaced during Hillary Clinton's confirmation hearings last month. The incoming secretary of state told senators that the issue afforded Tehran "an extraordinary opportunity" to show diplomatic good faith by freeing or permitting contact with Levinson. Past official entreaties to the Iranians through Swiss intermediaries have failed to net results.

Nelson, for his part, says he believes that Levinson is being held in a secret Iranian prison. Wexler says the Iranians have a chance with the Levinson case to "show us they are capable of dealing in goodwill."