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Friday, January 16, 2009

Senator Says Former FBI Agent Who Vanished in 2007 Is in Secret Iran Prison

A U.S. senator revealed Tuesday that he believes a former FBI agent who disappeared in Iran nearly two years ago is being held in a secret prison there — much to the surprise of the ex-agent's wife.

Sen. Bill Nelson's comments on the disappearance of Robert Levinson came during Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's secretary of state confirmation hearing in Washington.

"I haven't received any information about my husband," Levinson's wife, Christine, told The Associated Press.

She met with government officials in Iran in December 2007, but said there was no word on her husband's fate.

Levinson, 60, was last seen on March 8, 2007, on Kish Island, a tourist haven in the Persian Gulf, where he was doing investigative work for a private security firm. His credit cards and passport have not been used since his disappearance.

Iran says it has "no record" of Levinson's stay on Kish and has resisted attempts by the U.S. government to investigate.

"The door has been closed at every turn," Nelson said during Clinton's confirmation hearing. "We think he is being held by the government of Iran in a secret prison."

Clinton said Iran could improve relations with the U.S. by offering information on Levinson.

"With respect to the Floridian who is in prison, it would be an extraordinary opportunity for the government of Iran to make such a gesture to permit contact, to release him, to make it clear that there is a new attitude in Iran," Clinton said during the hearing.

In November, Nelson introduced a resolution asking Iranian investigators to confer with the FBI and for the Iranian government to provide the assistance it has pledged to Levinson's family, who have kept up a campaign to locate him for nearly two years.

The U.S. does not have formal diplomatic ties with Iran and uses the Swiss government as an intermediary. Iran has refused access to Swiss investigators seeking to visit Kish Island.

The resolution, however, does not have the force of law and cannot impel the government to act on Levinson's behalf.

Outside of declarations of war, Senate resolutions generally have little impact in the U.S. Nelson's resolution is mostly a symbolic gesture, intended to increase pressure on the Iranian regime to account for Levinson.

Anyone with information is urged to contact the U.S. State Department or the Levinson family at

The Associated Press contributed to this report.