Ex-F.B.I. Agent Who Vanished on C.I.A. Mission to Iran Is Likely Dead, U.S. Concludes

WASHINGTON — Trump administration officials have concluded that Robert A. Levinson, the retired F.B.I. agent who disappeared in Iran in 2007 on an unauthorized mission for the C.I.A., died while in Iranian custody, his family announced on Wednesday.

Newly revealed intelligence pointed to Mr. Levinson’s death, top national security officials told his relatives inside White House Situation Room in recent weeks, according to a person familiar with the meeting. The officials provided strong evidence that Mr. Levinson had died sometime in the past several years, the person said, but did not detail the proof.

“We recently received information from U.S. officials that has led both them and us to conclude that our wonderful husband and father died while in Iranian custody,” Mr. Levinson’s family wrote in a statement on Facebook. “We don’t know when or how he died, only that it was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Shortly after Mr. Levinson’s family issued the statement, President Trump appeared to contradict the findings of his national security officials. “It’s not looking great, but I won’t accept that he’s dead,” Mr. Trump said in response to a question about Mr. Levinson during a news conference. “They haven’t told us he’s dead, but a lot of people are thinking that is the case.”

It was not clear why Mr. Trump hedged his answer, but he may have been holding out hope because of a lack of physical proof that Mr. Levinson is dead. The intelligence community made its assessment based on a range of information, including intercepted Iranian communications, a senior American official said.

Mr. Levinson was the longest-held hostage in American history, according to the F.B.I. His disappearance caused a major scandal inside the C.I.A. after lawmakers discovered what happened, but it was kept quiet. Three longtime analysts were forced out, others disciplined and agency rules rewritten.

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The C.I.A. and other government officials never publicly acknowledged that Mr. Levinson was working for the agency even as friends and family confirmed it. Had they never uncovered his work, the secret might have died with Mr. Levinson.

The intelligence community’s assessment that Mr. Levinson is no longer alive puts to rest a question that has haunted his family for years. But it remains unclear how and when Mr. Levinson died.

The retired agent, Robert Levinson, was said to be the longest-held American hostage in history. A scandal erupted inside the C.I.A. over his disappearance.



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