The FBI has increased the reward to $5 million for the “safe return” of former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who disappeared in Iran while on a CIA mission eight years ago today. Tuesday will be his 67th birthday.
FBI Director James Comey announced the increase on the bureau’s website, saying it is “long past time for Bob to come home.”
Levinson’s family said in a statement to ABC News, “Every year on this date, we remind the world that Bob’s case is still not resolved and that this husband, father than grandfather is still not home where he belongs.”
“But we, his family, have been reminded every single day of the past eight years because of the enormous hole in our lives that will only be filled when Bob is back with us. We need to see him, hear his voice, and hold him,” the statement said.
Levinson, who served more than two decades with the FBI before retiring, was kidnapped from Kish Island off Iran’s southern coast on March 9, 2007. For years the U.S. government said Levinson was working at the time as a private investigator, but in December 2013 Levinson’s family acknowledged he was, in fact, working as a kind of freelance “spy” for a rogue CIA operation.
“The CIA sent Bob Levinson to Iran to do an investigation on its behalf,” family attorney David McGee said then.
McGee told ABC News at the time the CIA and the FBI betrayed Levinson as it tried to hide the fact that he had a long-term relationship with the CIA, spying on Iran’s nuclear program and on the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah in the rogue operation.
“[R]ather than acknowledge what they had done and try and save Bob’s life, they denied him,” McGee said.
The day Levinson was outed as spy for the CIA, then-White House Press Secretary Jay Carney declined to discuss the case, beyond saying Levinson was “not a U.S. government employee” when he was kidnapped. The CIA declined to comment on “any purported affiliation,” and only said, “The U.S. government remains committed to bringing him home safely to his family.”
Officials at the CIA and the White House National Security Council did not immediately respond to requests for comment for this report.
Levinson was last seen in so-called “proof of life” images in early 2013. He was wearing an orange jumpsuit, draped in chains and holding various signs, one of which said, “Help me.”
The Iranian government has denied holding Levinson, but American officials have repeatedly said they suspect that at the very least, Iranian government officials know where he is.
Levinson has been held in captivity longer than any other American, according to the FBI. In 2012 the FBI announced a $1 million reward for information on Levinson’s location.
“We urge the governments of Iran and the United States to work together to resolve this case and send Bob home, so he can live the rest of his life quietly, surrounded by the family that loves him,” the family statement today said.