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Bob Levinson not missing after all, says Iran's PRESS TV


Stop the presses! An Iranian news source says former FBI agent Robert A. Levinson, who vanished in early March on Kish Island, isn't missing after all.

He's merely been, um, detained:

The truth of the matter is he has been in the hands of Iranian security forces since the early hours of March 9, and his inability to communicate with his family or his company, has raised the alarm about his health, safety and whereabouts. Speaking to PRESS TV on condition of anonymity the sources made clear that aside from the obvious inconvenience, the person is being well looked after.

The sources also said that the matter, though routine, has been complicated by the mounting tensions stemming from repeated American threats against Iran, actual ongoing covert actions within Iran run by the Americans and the particulars of the man's background with the FBI. Not a happy configuration under the circumstances. Nevertheless the authorities are well on the way to finishing the procedural arrangements that could see him freed in a matter of days.

It has been established that his retirement from federal law enforcement took place nearly a decade ago, his area of expertise was organized crime not intelligence and his trip to Kish was purely that of a private businessman looking to make contact with persons who could help him make representations to official Iranian bodies responsible for suppressing trade in pirated products which is a major concern of his company. The outstanding reason for making such a connection is the man has no prior experience in this part of the world.

The enterprise he works for deals in low technology high visibility brand name products sold worldwide and the Persian Gulf has been proving to be a major problem area for illegal production and marketing of these products. Iran is not the origin of this activity but is the largest market by far on the waterway and thus a primary target area for the pirated goods.

His visit to Kish was supposed to be a one day affair but drew the attention of the security forces because his Iranian national host registered in the same hotel room as he did and local police thought they had discovered some discrepancy in the Iranians identification papers routinely handed into the hotel. Turns out, there was nothing irregular in the Iranian national's papers but this drew the attention of the local police onto the American, and he was detained some 12-15 hours after arriving on the island.

It is a case of ordinary business running into extraordinarily bad circumstances. It is expected the matter will be over in a few days time. The Swiss Embassy in Tehran is in the process of or has already delivered a note from the U.S. State Department concerning his welfare and whereabouts to the Iranian Foreign Ministry. One of the ironies of the retired FBI man's ordeal is that he had been instrumental in persuading his former colleagues not to put former president Mohammad Khatami and his retinue through the ordeal of fingerprinting when he traveled to that country in September 2006.

Let's hope the security forces are good to their word and that Bob's back home in Coral Gables soon.

NOTE: A report by the official Iranian news agency, IRNA, disputes the PRESS TV story: "There is no evidence on the alleged disappearance of a US citizen in Kish Island, southern Iran, local officials said on Tuesday. IRNA reporter in Kish quoted the local officials as saying that the US is required to indicate identity of the individual and the flight he took to Iran. It is likely such allegations are being made for political purpose, because no tourist was disappeared in Kish Island."

UPDATE: Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald and John Holland of the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinal have put together excellent background pieces on Levinson. He's quite an impressive investigator. Hope he gets out of Iran while the getting's good.

UPDATE (4/4/07 1:07 PM EST): Iran seems to be playing an interesting game here. According to this report by Channel 4, the CBS affiliate in Washington, DC, officials haven't officially admitted they're detaining Levinson: "Officials in Iran have said there is no evidence that Levinson has disappeared, but declined to say where he may be. They’ve reportedly asked U.S. officials for his flight records, and any possible itinerary, so that they can conduct a more thorough investigation." Does one hand really not know what the other is doing, or are they trying to decide whether to start another propaganda circus, this time with an American?

UPDATE (4/4/07 2:45 PM EST): ISNA, the Iranian Students News Agency, is also taking the "no idea what you're talking about" line:

There is no verifiable proof indicating the allegedly disappearance of an U.S. citizen in Kish Island. U.S. high ranking officials and the media have making statements about the supposedly disappearance of the U.S. citizen in Kish Island, a tourist resort and free-trade zone in South Iran. U.S. secretary of state spokesman, Sean McCormack requested Iranian high ranking officials on Monday to deliver some information about the allegedly missing U.S. citizen and former FBI agent, Robert A. Levinson who had traveled to Iran for an apparently personal purpose.

"Such allegations are of no validity and seem to be based on some political intentions," said a local Kish official. The official also added that there was no evidence indicating whether the retired FBI agent had entered Kish Island at all. He asked the US official to indicate identity of the individual, the flight he took to Iran and other related documents instead of making false allegations.

Something definitely doesn't smell right here. I've sent an email to PRESS TV to inquire about their sourcing for the story and point out that it hasn't been picked up anywhere in the MSM. I'll let you know what I hear back.

Don't forget to sign the Free Bobby! petition.

Posted by Rodger on April 4, 2007 at 12:16 AM | Permalink


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