State Department Refuses to Call Robert Levinson a Hostage


On the nine-year anniversary of the disappearance of former FBI agent Robert Levinson in Iran Wednesday, the State Department would not call Levinson a hostage.

The White House, FBI, and State Department all released statements commemorating the disappearance, but only the FBI described Levinson as “longest-held hostage in American history.”

When asked about the difference in language, State Department spokesman John Kirby avoided answering.

“When you look at the FBI statement, we would certainly agree with the FBI that he has been gone too long,” Kirby said. “He needs to be returned to his family. He needs to be able to come home, and that’s a consistent message that we’ve had with the Iranians and with the family.”

He then said that there were many missing details surrounding the case and guaranteed that the U.S. has “pressed” Iran for more information.

“What we know is that he disappeared, and he disappeared in 2007 from Kish Island. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot more that we do know,” Kirby said. “That’s what we’re trying to learn, and it’s why we’re going to continue to hold Iran to its promise to provide more information about his whereabouts.”

Kirby was not optimistic about the prospects of Iranian cooperation. When asked whether the Iranians have “actually done anything” after pledging to help find Levinson, Kirby admitted that they could “do more.”

“I think it’s again fair to say that we think that there is certainly more assistance, more information we’d like to see coming from the Iranian side,” he said, and added that he could not think of any concrete information that the Iranians have given.

“I don’t have any specific information that I can tell you was provided,” Kirby said.

The Levinson family said in January that they did not hear from the Obama administration after Iran released three Americans in a prisoner exchange.

“I’m very disappointed and feel extremely betrayed by them. They have done nothing to get in touch with me, other than after I asked them to,” Christine Levinson, Robert’s wife, said.

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