(Press release from the Senator’s office)
WASHINGTON, D.C. – A U.S. lawmaker is offering to travel to Iran and meet with top Iranian officials over the fate of a missing American. Such a trip would be the first for a member of Congress in at least three decades.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) made the offer through Tehran’s ambassador to the United Nations in a telephone call with him on Sunday.
Nelson told Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee that he would be willing to go to Iran in the case of Bob Levinson, the retired FBI agent and Florida resident, who disappeared on Kish Island off the coast of Iran in March 2007.
The senator told the ambassador that he would go if it would help lead to Levinson’s safe return home.
In response, the ambassador told Nelson that he would pass his comments along to the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
“I am willing to go to Iran if in any way that it would secure his release,” Nelson said today in a speech on the Senate floor. “If the Iranian authorities took him, somebody in the government of Iran knows of his whereabouts.”
This week, the last man to allegedly see Levinson before he disappeared said he believes it was Iranian security officials who took him.
Several major news organizations disclosed late last week that Levinson had ties to the CIA. His family last received proof that he was alive in 2011.
Levinson’s wife, Christine, traveled to Kish Island in Dec. 2007 to retrace Bob’s steps and met with officials from Iran who pledged to help.
Nelson first got involved in the case when Levinson’s family contacted his office and asked for his help.
The senator is well-known for his advocacy in individual cases.
SENATOR OFFERS TO GO TO IRAN FOR CIA CONTRACTOR
By DONNA CASSATA
Published: Dec. 17, 2013 4:55 PM EST
WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. Bill Nelson said Tuesday he is willing to travel to Iran if it would help find missing CIA contractor Robert Levinson who disappeared while on a secret intelligence mission to Iran.
In a speech on the Senate floor, Nelson said he has spoken in recent days to Mohammad Khazaee, the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations, and pleaded on humanitarian grounds for details on Levinson, who disappeared in Iran in 2007.
An Associated Press investigation published last week found that Levinson was working for the CIA — investigating the Iranian government. The U.S. long has publicly described Levinson as a private citizen who traveled to an Iranian island on private business.
Nelson, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he has offered to the ambassador “if it would in any way help that I am willing to go to Iran, if in any way that it would secure his release. If the Iranian authorities took him, somebody in the government of Iran knows of his whereabouts.”
Nelson underscored that the recent nuclear deal between Tehran and Western nations are at a critical stage with the possibility of a breakthrough in a few months. The Florida Democrat said that Iran can show its goodwill by producing Levinson.
The U.S. has not had “proof of life” in years — Levinson’s family last received photos and video of him in late 2010 and early 2011 — and is not sure who is holding him.
U.S. officials have raised the Levinson case with Iran repeatedly over the years. But until the AP investigation was published, it was not widely known that Levinson was hoping to gather information in his role as an independent contract investigator who expected to be compensated by a group of analysts at the CIA.
After he vanished, the CIA at first told lawmakers he had previously done contract work for the agency, but he had no current relationship with the agency and there was no connection to Iran. However, in October 2007, Levinson’s lawyer discovered emails in which Levinson told a CIA friend that he was working to develop a source with access to the Iranian government. The emails were turned over to the Senate Intelligence Committee, which touched off an internal CIA investigation.
Three veteran analysts were forced out of the CIA and seven others were disciplined as a result of a breach of agency rules.