The Independent

Iran Grabbing for Straws

Robert Levinson
Robert Levinson
Robert A. “Bob” Levinson, born March 10, 1948, is an American private investigator and retired DEA and FBI agent. He was taken hostage on March 9, 2007 when visiting Iran's Kish Island while supposedly researching a cigarette case. | Photo: Associated Press | Robert Levinson, Iran, Cia, Fbi, Spy, Prisoner,

Robert Levinson was not government employee

White House spokesman Jay Carney clearly stated that Robert Levinson, reportedly working for the Central Intelligence Agency when he went missing in Iran six years ago, was not a US government employee.

News outlets like the Washington Post and the Associated Press were teaming with knee-jerk reports that the US spy agency had been paying Levinson, a former FBI agent, to gather intelligence.

Then, the best truth the White House could offer was delivered;

"Levinson was not a US government employee when he went missing in Iran," said Carney as he divulged few more details on Levinson's case. His phrasing was specifically non-specific when ruling out that Levinson was working for the CIA. Statements like "I am not going to comment further on what he may or may not have been doing in Iran" and "Levinson was on a business trip when he disappeared on the 'tourist destination' of Kish Island" were flowing from the White House spokesman as expected.

Unfortunately, news outlets, in search of the almighty dollar... I mean "scoop" jump the proverbial news gun and put Levinson in greater danger. As Carney concur's, if an individual is detained overseas and it is published, true or false, that he's working for the CIA, it's dictated by logic the individual is placed in greater danger.

Iran, starved for issues to leverage against the US, now has more cause to grab for straws using the propaganda, courtesy of overzealous US news agencies.

Barack Obama
Barack Obama

Barack Hussein Obama II is the 44th and current President of the United States. He is the first African American to hold the office. He was born on August 4, 1961 and as of 2010 his reported net worth was US$ 11.8 million. | Photo: Associated Press |
President Obama raised Levinson's plight with Iranian President Hassan Rowhani in what was called a "historic phone call" this past September. When did a conversation between heads of State become "historic?"

Secretary of State John Kerry earned his paycheck as well by raising Levinson's case with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif during nuclear talks in Geneva. Kerry reinforced the US requests to release American citizen Levinson to no apparent avail. Even a United Nations panel has urged Iran to free the former FBI agent jailed on espionage charges, specifically stating that the trial did not comply with international standards of "fairness."

Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, currently sitting on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations said
"What disturbs me is apparently they did not tell the truth to the Congress. The CIA did not tell the truth to the American Congress about Mr. Levinson... If that's true, then you put this on top of things that our intelligence committees didn't know about other activities, which have been revealed by (NSA leaker Edward) Snowden -- maybe it means that we should be examining the oversight role of Congress over our different intelligence agencies."

The government of Iran states over and over that it's not holding Levinson and doesn't know where he is. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was asked what he could tell Levinson's family, to which he replied; "We don't know where he is, who he is... He is an American who has disappeared. We have no news of him."

Stating that he doesn't know "who he is" demonstrates the level of deceit Rouhani and his country are willing to take diplomacy to. It is a complete impossibility that Rouhani, the president of Iran, doesn't not know of the individual topping headlines across the western hemisphere with regard to Iran and the US. Furthermore, the fact that Levinson has not been publicly executed is tell tale that he is being held by Iran's government and not an independent group, terrorist or otherwise.

Iran is grabbing for straws, desperately trying to play any card they can to draw support away from the US, in this case by way of discrediting the CIA.

The complexities of identifying a CIA officer
Due to current laws about specific positions within the CIA;
  • What is expected of the US government when a case like this arises?
  • What can a case officer do when operating under non official cover (NOC)?
  • How much information is the press owed? What responsibilities do press agencies have?
  • How should one defend him/herself without breaching those laws?
These points are now routinely debated and are becoming more and more relevant to everyday issues. This particular editorial is not the forum for these answers but think about the ramifications of too much or too little information when it comes to covert operator identities. Consider the chess game of intelligence. Remember that all countries spy. An increase or reduction in "open books" must be done with acute forethought, strategy, and caution.

Despite what the likes of CNN, FOX, BBC, and MSNBC report, intelligence is still the tip of the spear when it comes to our nation's defense. It is still the best path toward peace. It is still the one and only way to reduce loss of life and preserve balance between countries, cultures, religions, and people.

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Updated Feb 1, 2018 7:50 AM EST | More details


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