Missing man’s family puts its faith in Trump’s negotiating skills

WASHINGTON — Ten years after former FBI agent Robert Levinson disappeared on Kish Island, Iran, his family remains resolute in its belief that he is alive, and that President Donald Trump is their best hope for his release.

David Levinson was 19, single and in college when his father was kidnapped. Now 29, married and expecting his first child in April, he said, “Today we believe that President Trump is the right president to bring my father home. He has the skills and abilities in negotiation that would put my father front and center in any discussion and we hope that would be enough to bring him home.”

With frustration, Levinson said, “we have worked with the State Department and the FBI across three presidencies to try to get my father home.”

Careful not to disparage efforts by the Obama and Bush administrations, he said, “We’ve been encouraged by what President Trump said on the campaign trail about my father’s case. He said Iran knows exactly where my father is, which we agree with; and President Trump said he’s going to get to the bottom of it.”

Levinson said the government of Iran has told the family the issue of his father’s whereabouts is “a government-to-government” matter.

The family has met with Trump administration officials, but not yet with the president, Levinson said.

The elder Levinson worked as a private investigator following his retirement from the FBI in 1998. He traveled to Kish Island, Iran, on March 8, 2007, working on behalf of the CIA. His whereabouts, well-being and the circumstances surrounding his disappearance have been in question since then.

In November 2010, the Levinson family received a video of Robert Levinson in captivity, which was the first proof of life since his disappearance. It suggested he was being held somewhere in southwest Asia.

A series of pictures arrived in April 2011; his wife, Christine, said she received them in an anonymous email.

“The FBI says the email came from Pakistan, but they don’t know who sent it because it’s very easy to hand somebody money there and have them send an email,” said Christine Levinson.

The Washington Field Office of the FBI, which has been investigating the case from the beginning, said in a statement, “over the past decade, the FBI and our partners in the United States government have worked tirelessly to bring Bob home, and we continue to pursue every lead collected through interviews, intelligence reporting and contact with foreign governments.”

Despite having no word about his father’s status since 2011, David Levinson said the family is convinced his father is alive. “I believe that he has figured out how to survive in this situation and he is just waiting and waiting and waiting for us to resolve this so he can come home. I one hundred percent believe he’s alive, as does the rest of my family, and everybody else in this country, including the media [and] including our government, should believe that as well.”

J.J. Green

JJ Green is WTOP's National Security Correspondent. He reports daily on security, intelligence, foreign policy, terrorism and cyber developments, and provides regular on-air and online analysis. He is also the host of two podcasts: Target USA and Colors: A Dialogue on Race in America.

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