CORAL SPRINGS (CBSMiami) – Coral Springs ex-FBI agent Robert Levinson, who vanished in Iran more than six years ago, has achieved a sad record in U.S. history. Levinson is now the longest-held hostage in U.S. history, eclipsing the previous record of 2,454 days that Terry Anderson was held in the 1980’s.
The family of Levinson wrote an editorial in the Tuesday edition of the Washington Post, some 80 months after his abduction. The editorial’s timing comes on the heels of a historic accord between the U.S. and other allies and the Iranian government.
“What we do understand is that the Iranian government takes great pride in its security efforts,” the editorial said. “We respectfully request that the (Hassan) Rouhani administration help us find my father…We believe that Rouhani and Zarif, who was Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations when my father was taken, are well-respected men committed to the goodwill of all human beings, regardless of their nationality.”
Last year, the Federal Bureau of Investigation offered a reward of up tom $1 million for information leading to the location of Levinson.
Despite a lengthy investigation, however, the U.S. government has no evidence of who is holding the 63-year-old father of seven.
In November 2010, Levinson’s family received a hostage video in which Levinson pleaded with the U.S. government to meet the demands of the people holding him, whom he did not identify. The 54-second hostage video showed Levinson looking haggard but unharmed, sitting in front of what appeared to be a concrete wall.
“I have been treated well. But I need the help of the United States government to answer the requests of the group that has held me for three and a half years,” Levinson said. “And please help me get home.”
In the more than six years that Levinson has been missing, the U.S. government has never had solid intelligence about what happened to him. Levinson had been retired from the FBI for years and was working as a private investigator when he traveled to Iran in March 2007.
His family has said an investigation into cigarette smuggling brought him to Kish, a resort island where Americans need no visa to visit.
The prevailing U.S. government theory had been that Levinson was arrested by Iranian intelligence officials to be interrogated and used as a bargaining chip in negotiations with Washington. But as every lead fizzled and Iran repeatedly denied any involvement in his disappearance, many in the U.S. government believed Levinson was probably dead.
The video contained clues which suggested that Levinson was not being held in Iran at all, but rather in Pakistan, hundreds of miles from where he disappeared. Photographs, which arrived a few months after the video, contained hints that Levinson might be in Afghanistan, according to several U.S. officials.
The Levinson’s Washington Post editorial on Tuesday ended with another plea to the Iranian government.
“Given the negotiations between the United States and Iran over Tehran’s nuclear program, we particularly hope that officials can use their ongoing contact to resolve my father’s case. Doing so would show the world that our two countries can work together to resolve our differences and would demonstrate Iran’s willingness to help an average American family’s plight.”
Levinson’s son, Dan Levinson, spoke to CBS4’s Carey Codd Tuesday about his father’s situation.
“It’s a milestone that we’ve dreaded and hope’d we were never going to reach,” said Dan Levinson. “It’s a tough day because nobody would wish this upon their worst enemy.”
Levinson and his family, despite the milestone, remain hopeful.
“He’s sitting, rotting away somewhere sitting waiting for us to figure out how to get him home and waiting for the people that are holding him to release him. It’s tough. It really weighs on you every day.”
Levinson’s family said that, during his time held captive, he has missed the births of two grandchildren, several weddings, countless graduations and other major family events. But they believe the family bond will get him through this ordeal—no matter how difficult.