The U.S. government has concluded that retired FBI agent Robert Levinson, who vanished more than a decade ago, died while in the custody of Iran, Politico reports. The circumstances and timing of Levinson’s death were unclear, but White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien said Wednesday the U.S. believes Levinson “may have passed away some time ago.” His family said information U.S. officials had received had led them to conclude he was dead. The death is believed to have occurred before the recent outbreak of the coronavirus that has affected Iran and another countries. President Donald Trump appeared to equivocate on the news, saying, “I won’t accept that he’s dead.” based on information from Iran’s foreign minister.
Levinson disappeared on March 9, 2007, when he was scheduled to meet a source on the Iranian island of Kish. The Associated Press reported in 2013 that Levinson had been sent on a mission by CIA analysts who had no authority to run such an operation. The Trump administration has made it a priority to seek the release of U.S. hostages and prisoners detained overseas. Last week, administration officials touted the release from Lebanon of a New Hampshire restaurant owner jailed on decades-old allegations and the medical furlough of a Navy veteran from an Iranian prison. A Levinson family statement said, “Those who are responsible for what happened to Bob Levinson, including those in the U.S. government who for many years repeatedly left him behind, will ultimately receive justice for what they have done.”