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Former G-man missing in Iran


Here's one to keep an eye on:

The U.S. is seeking information from Iran about a former FBI agent who was reported missing while on a business trip there several weeks ago.

FBI spokesman Rich Kolko said Monday the agent had retired nearly a decade ago and appeared to be in Iran on private business. According to the AP, he said the missing man was last seen there in early March and was not working for the FBI as a contractor.

"At this time, there are no indications that this matter should be viewed other than as a missing person case," Kolko said. According to Kolko, the former agent had worked on traditional criminal issues such as organized crime cases—drawing a distinction between those and international terrorism or intelligence work that could have taken him to Iran.

On his part, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack declined to give details about the name, age or occupation of the missing man. Kolko also declined to identify him. But the Tuesday edition of The Miami Herald, citing sources familiar with the case, identified him as Robert A. Levinson, 59.

McCormack said the United States saw no connection between the missing man and the current crisis between Iran and Britain over 15 British sailors and marines seized last month by Iranian forces.

The department has sent a letter to Tehran via diplomatic intermediaries, asking if authorities there have any information about the man, McCormack conveyed. "It's an American private citizen who is in Iran on private business about whom we are pursuing welfare and whereabouts (information)," McCormack told reporters. "We have been monitoring this situation for a couple of weeks now."

The man was last heard from around March 11 while in a coastal area of southern Iran or near Kish Island [pictured above], where he was apparently working on a project for an independent filmmaker.

I'll keep you updated on developments.

UPDATE: Here's an interesting item from Iran Daily from last December:

TEHRAN, Dec. 3--Kish Documentary Film Festival seeks to draw the attention of filmmakers to the island so that they will be able to present a correct image of Iran to the world by taking advantage of its special location in the Persian Gulf.

Expressing this view, secretary of the Seventh Kish Documentary Film Festival Hojjatollah Seifi regretted that documentary and narrative cinema have suffered irreparable losses because of the lack of robust management and planning mega policies, the Persian daily Bonnie Film reported.

He further said, “Documentary and narrative cinema should be viewed more dynamically, especially after a lapse of years since the victory of the Islamic Revolution.“

Filmmaking originates from a culture, value and artistic view, which is not common in the country, he said, adding, “We have rich historical identity and our country is made up of various ethnic groups, each having a bright history. So we can make more progress in documentary cinema.“

Commenting on holding thematic festivals such Kish Festival and its impact on documentary cinema, Seifi said that festivals are principally meant to create proper conditions for promoting art unless of course they belong to a specialized institute and pursue special objectives in the society, like the Police and Roshd film festivals which were aimed at conveying special objectives of a specific institute.

Seifi pointed out that the works produced in Kish Island can present a proper image of the country to the world. This is among the main objectives for organizing Kish Festival, he noted.

Moreover, the event can serve as a venue to identify talents and create conditions for nurturing them.

Educational classes on documentary films will also be conducted during the event, he said, adding that documentaries from India, England, Myanmar, Holland, Belgium and Germany will be screened in one section of the event.

The same source further said that eight Golden Dolphins as well as 55 gold coins will be awarded to the best entries in the main section of the festival.

An article by Robin Wright in today's Washington Post quotes "a senior U.S. official" opining that Levinson was doing research for an "innocuous" book and documentary film project that "had no connection with anything political."

As filmmakers from Theo Van Gogh to Nahid Persson to Jane Kokan to Wayne Kopping have shown us, however, documentaries are rarely "innocuous," especially when viewed through Islamists' eyes.

If I had to make a guess, I'd say that somebody connected to the Islamic Revolution came to the conclusion that the documentary Levinson was working on wasn't going to present "a proper image of Iran," and that's why he disappeared.

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

Posted by Rodger on April 3, 2007 at 02:48 PM | Permalink


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