(JTA) — An American Jewish man who disappeared in Iran in 2007 had been working for the CIA in a rogue operation, an American newspaper reported.
Robert Levinson, a retired FBI agent, traveled to the Iranian island of Kish in March 2007 to investigate corruption. At the time, he was discussing the renewal of a Central Intelligence Agency contract he had held for several years, according to a report Friday by the Washington Post.
After he vanished, agency officials told Congress in closed hearings that Levinson did not go to Iran for the CIA. In November, the White House press office said Levinson was on a business trip and requested the Iranian government’s help in finding him.
But emails and other documents that surfaced months after his disappearance suggest he went to Iran at the direction of CIA analysts who had no authority to run operations overseas, the Post reported. Levinson’s family last heard from him when they received an undated photograph in 2011 in which he was seen in chains wearing an orange jumpsuit while holding up a sheet of paper that read: “4TH YEAR… You Cant or you don’t want…?”
The revelation has prompted a major internal investigation, officials told the Post, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The CIA leadership disciplined 10 employees in the matter, including three veteran analysts who were forced out of their jobs, the officials added.
The agency also changed the rules outlining how analysts conduct business with contractors, including academics and other subject-matter experts who don’t work at the CIA, making it harder for agency employees to have such relationships.
The CIA ultimately concluded that it was responsible for Levinson while he was in Iran and paid $2.5 million to his wife, Christine, former U.S. intelligence officials told the Post. The agency also paid the family an additional $120,000, the cost of renewing Levinson’s contract.
In a statement released Thursday, Levinson’s family said the U.S. government has failed to make saving his life a priority. “It is time for the U.S. government to step up and take care of one of its own,” a family member told the Post.