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Robert Levinson Fast Facts

CNN Editorial Research

(CNN) — Here’s a look at the life of Robert Levinson, who went missing in Iran in 2007.


Birth date: March 10, 1948

Birth place: Flushing, New York

Birth name: Robert Alan Levinson

Father: Name unavailable publicly

Mother: Name unavailable publicly

Marriage: Christine (Gorman) Levinson

Children: Douglas, Samantha, David, Daniel, Sarah, Stephanie and Susan

Education: City College of New York, B.A., 1970

Other Facts

During his career at the FBI, Levinson specialized in investigating organized crime in Russia.

His family said Levinson suffered from diabetes and high blood pressure.


1970s – Levinson is hired by the FBI after six years with the Drug Enforcement Agency.

1998 – Levinson retires from the FBI.

1998-2007 – Levinson works as a private investigator.

2006 – Levinson is hired as a contractor by Tim Sampson, head of the Illicit Finance Group within the Office of Transnational Issues at the CIA, to write reports for the agency. The contract is for approximately $85,000. Three CIA employees, including Sampson, later lose their jobs for overstepping their authority as analysts and withholding information about Levinson after he disappeared.

March 8-9, 2007 – According to State Department officials, Levinson travels to Kish Island in Iran and checks into a hotel. Reportedly, Levinson is in the Middle East to investigate cigarette smuggling on behalf of a client. During the visit, he meets with American fugitive Dawud Salahuddin, who is the last person to acknowledge seeing him on March 9.

June 1, 2007 – US President George W. Bush says he is “disturbed” by Iran’s refusal to provide any information on Levinson. “I call on Iran’s leaders to tell us what they know about his whereabouts.”

December 2007 – Levinson’s wife, Christine Levinson, meets with government officials in Iran, but does not learn anything about her husband’s disappearance.

2008 – The CIA pays the Levinson family more than $2 million to head off a lawsuit, according to family attorney David McGee.

March 3, 2011 – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says that evidence is growing that Levinson is alive and being held somewhere in southwest Asia.

December 2011 – The Levinson family publicly releases a “proof of life” video they received in November 2010. In the video, Levinson says, “I have been treated well, but I need the help of the United States government to answer the requests of the group that has held me for three-and-a-half years. And please help me get home. Thirty-three years of service to the United States deserves something. Please help me.”

March 6, 2012 – The FBI offers a $1 million reward for information leading to his safe return.

September 2012 – Christine Levinson attempts to meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during the UN General Assembly in New York. He does not meet with her but tells CNN, “They told me (Levinson) was in Iran, and of course the question came up in my mind, what was an American intelligence officer doing in Iran…an individual is lost, how are we supposed to find him among 7 billion people spread across the globe? What we can do is assist, help and cooperate, which we have been doing, and we are doing… as a humanitarian gesture and action.”

January 2013 – The Levinson family releases a series of photographs they received in April 2011. In the photos, a bearded, shackled Levinson, wearing an orange jumpsuit, holds signs written in broken English.

September 27, 2013 – US President Barack Obama speaks by phone with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. One of the topics discussed is Levinson.

December 12, 2013 – The Associated Press and The Washington Post report that Levinson was working for the CIA when he disappeared in 2007, possibly investigating corruption among Iranian officials. The AP says it first learned of Levinson’s CIA ties in 2010 but delayed publishing the information at the government’s request. The next day the New York Times reports it has known of Levinson’s CIA work since 2007 but also delayed publishing the information to avoid jeopardizing his safety.

December 13, 2013 – White House Spokesman Jay Carney says Levinson “was not a US government employee when he went missing in Iran.”

December 2013 – Salahuddin, the last person to acknowledge seeing Levinson, tells the Christian Science Monitor that both he and Levinson were detained by Iranian police on March 9, 2007.

January 21, 2014 – In an interview with CNN, Levinson’s family discloses that they have known for some time that he was working for the CIA. They accuse the US government of failing to do enough to find Levinson.

March 9, 2015 – The FBI increases the reward for information on Levinson to $5 million.

February 11, 2016 – The Senate passes a resolution recognizing that Levinson is the longest held US civilian in US history and urges Iran to “act on its promises to assist in the case of Robert Levinson.”

March 21, 2017 – Levinson’s family files a lawsuit against Iran with the US District Court in Washington, DC. The complaint states that the family is filing suit under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act “for injuries suffered by each of them as a result of Iran’s unlawful acts of hostage taking, torture and other torts.”

November 4, 2019 – The Department of State Rewards for Justice Program announces a reward of up to $20 million for information leading to the safe return of Levinson, in addition to the FBI’s previously announced reward of $5 million.

March 9, 2020 – On the 13th anniversary of Levinson’s abduction, the FBI renews its “repeated calls to Iran to uphold its prior commitments to cooperate and to share information which could lead to Bob’s return.”

March 25, 2020 – The family of Levinson announces that they believe he is dead. “We recently received information from U.S. officials that has led both them and us to conclude that our wonderful husband and father died while in Iranian custody,” they said in a statement.

October 1, 2020 – A US court orders the government of Iran to pay more than $1.4 billion to Levinson’s family for compensatory and punitive damages.

December 14, 2020 – Senior US government officials say they have identified and sanctioned two senior Iranian intelligence officials who were involved in the abduction and “probable death” of Levinson.

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