Today marks the 2,000th day since American Robert Levinson went missing off the southern coast of Iran.
In March, to mark the five-year anniversary of the former FBI agent’s disappearance, the Bureau announced a $1 million reward for information leading to Levinson’s safe return.
“Bob is now the second-longest-held hostage in American history. Only Terry Anderson who was held as part of the Lebanon Hostage Crisis was in captivity longer,” the Levinson family said in a statement.
“Bob has been held four and a half times longer than the Americans held during in the Iranian Hostage Crisis, a group of people caught up in the middle of political turmoil, and more than a month longer than the Americans kidnapped by FARC guerillas and released in 2008. This is not a milestone any human being would want to achieve. We love and miss Bob more than words can say, and we desperately worry about his health with each day that passes.”
Levinson retired from the FBI in 1998 and went into private investigating. He was looking into a cigarette smuggling case on Kish Island, Iran, when he was last seen March 9, 2007. In March 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the U.S. government believed he was being held captive in southwest Asia; in 2010, a video purportedly from Levinson’s captors was sent to his family.
“The United States reiterates its call on the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to provide any information on Mr. Levinson’s whereabouts and to help ensure his prompt and safe return to his family,” the State Department said in a release this week.
In a 2008 interview with NBC, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad brushed off the suggestion that the Islamic Republic had something to do with his disappearance. “There was a claim made some time ago, some people came over, the gentleman’s family came over,” Ahmadinejad said. “They talked and met with our officials and were given our responses. I see no reason for a person who was given an Iranian visa and — came into Iran, arrived in Iran through official channels, to have problems here.”
Two years after Levinson’s disappearance, though, Iran seized three young American hikers at the Kurdish border and claimed the trio were spies.
“Determining Mr. Levinson’s whereabouts and reuniting him safely with his family continues to be a priority for the U.S. Government,” the State Department said. “The United States also continues to welcome the assistance of our international partners in this investigation.”
From Florida, Levinson has been married for 37 years to his wife, Christine, and has seven children and two grandchildren. His family notes that he suffers from diabetes, high blood pressure and gout, “along with countless other unknown health issues a person would suffer from while being held in captivity for five and a half years.”
“We need to bring him home now so that he can spend whatever time he has left surrounded by the people who love him, not in captivity.”
In January, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Pete King (R-N.Y.) said he’s “convinced the CIA is doing all that they can on this.”
“I would just ask that our intelligence community to do all it possibly can to bring him home and obviously if that involves negotiations, if that involves any trading, you know, I don’t want to get involved and tell them how to do it but I would certainly hope that Robert Levinson could be brought home to his family as soon as possible,” King said on CBS. “It’s really a tragedy.”