At Decade Mark for Longest-Held U.S. Hostage, 'When Is Enough, Enough?'
The longest-held U.S. hostage in history today marked the 10th year since his disappearance off the coast of Iran as the White House vowed to "not rest until this case is resolved," while his family wondered "where is the outrage" over his decade-long detention.
When five U.S. hostages were returned from Iran at the time of the implementation of the nuclear deal in January 2016, Bob Levinson was not among them. His frustrated family started the hashtag #WhatAboutBob as the other captive Americans returned home.
A former FBI agent and 68-year-old father of seven, Levinson was working as a private detective on a cigarette smuggling case on Kish Island, an Iranian resort port in the Persian Gulf with looser entrance requirements. He disappeared in March 2007, and his wife made subsequent trips to Iran to try to find out any information. A hostage video of Levinson was sent to the family in late 2010, and in April 2011 they received photos of him. They released the photos in January 2013 out of frustration that not enough was being done by the government. “There isn’t any pressure on Iran to resolve this,” Robert’s wife, Christine, said then in turning the photos over to the Associated Press. “It’s been much too long.”
The Obama administration admitted they believed the government of Iran knows more than it claims, and even tried some PR antics in 2011 to deflect blame from Tehran in hopes that the regime would free him.
Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dropped a hint about Levinson and basically acknowledged he was in their custody or within their grasp in a September 2012 interview with CBS. “I remember that last year Iranian and American intelligence groups had a meeting, but I haven’t followed up on it,” he said. “I thought they’d come to some kind of an agreement.”
This past August, Christine Levinson appealed directly to Iran's supreme leader in a letter.
"It is impossible to convey the depth of the darkness and the tremendous loss our family has experienced without our father, the head of our family. Our father means everything to us. He is a man of deep faith who goes out of his way to help others. He is a loving father of seven children and four grandchildren. He brings light to our world," Levinson's wife wrote to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on behalf of the family.
"Yet he is being held against his will, with no contact with his family or anyone he knows for more than nine years. We are not aware of any charges that have been brought against him that would explain his being kept prisoner. We have had no contact with anyone claiming to be holding him."