Skip to main content

Intel: Timeline of CIA contractor Robert Levinson missing for 13 years in Iran

The family of Robert Levinson, a CIA contractor who disappeared on Iran’s Kish Island in 2007, confirmed Thursday that the US government informed them that the former FBI agent had died at some point prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

The family of Robert Levinson, a CIA contractor who disappeared on Iran’s Kish Island in 2007, confirmed Thursday that the US government informed them that the former FBI agent had died at some point prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

The United States had long pressed Iran to release Levinson, believing that Tehran was at least aware of his whereabouts if not actively detaining him. Iran has repeatedly denied knowledge of Levinson’s whereabouts throughout the saga — a claim Iran repeated today.

2007:  Levinson travels to Iran’s Kish Island in the Persian Gulf while working as a contractor for the CIA.

2008:  The CIA reaches a $2.5 million settlement with Levinson’s family to avoid a lawsuit.

2010:  Levinson’s family receives a hostage video indicating that he’s alive. The video is not released until 2011.

2011:  Levinson’s family receives a series of photographs featuring the hostage, but do not release the photographs until 2013. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton indicates that there’s evidence Levinson is alive somewhere in southwest Asia.

2012:  The FBI offers a $1 million reward for Levinson’s safe return. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denies any knowledge of Levinson’s whereabouts.

2013:  President Barack Obama raises Levinson’s case with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who continues to maintain that Iran has no knowledge of his whereabouts.

2015:  The FBI increases the reward for Levinson’s safe return from $1 million to $5 million.

2016:  Obama vows to “deepen our coordination” with Tehran on Levinson after securing the release of four other US prisoners in a swap with Iran.

2017:  The Levinsons files a lawsuit against Iran in a US district court.

2019:  The State Department offers a $20 million reward for information leading to Levinson’s safe return. Days later, the United Nations announces that Iran acknowledged having an “open case” against Levinson. Iran later clarifies that the “open case” relates to his disappearance.

2020:  The Levinson family announces that the US government found that he died prior to the coronavirus pandemic. President Donald Trump acknowledges that “It’s not looking promising,” but goes on to say, “I won’t accept that he’s dead. They haven’t told us that he’s dead. But a lot of people are thinking that is the case.”

“If not for the cruel, heartless actions of the Iranian regime, Robert Levinson would be alive and home with us today,” his family said in a statement.

Know more:  Trump arranged an Iran prisoner swap in December that did not include Levinson, reports diplomatic correspondent Laura Rozen. And be sure to follow her coverage regarding the medical furlough Iran has given to another US prisoner, Navy veteran Michael White, on account of the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the country.

Join hundreds of Middle East professionals with Al-Monitor PRO.

Business and policy professionals use PRO to monitor the regional economy and improve their reports, memos and presentations. Try it for free and cancel anytime.


The Middle East's Best Newsletters

Join over 50,000 readers who access our journalists dedicated newsletters, covering the top political, security, business and tech issues across the region each week.
Delivered straight to your inbox.


What's included:
Our Expertise

Free newsletters available:

  • The Takeaway & Week in Review
  • Middle East Minute (AM)
  • Daily Briefing (PM)
  • Business & Tech Briefing
  • Security Briefing
  • Gulf Briefing
  • Israel Briefing
  • Palestine Briefing
  • Turkey Briefing
  • Iraq Briefing

Premium Membership

Join the Middle East's most notable experts for premium memos, trend reports, live video Q&A, and intimate in-person events, each detailing exclusive insights on business and geopolitical trends shaping the region.

$25.00 / month
billed annually

Become Member Start with 1-week free trial

We also offer team plans. Please send an email to and we'll onboard your team.

What's included:
Our Expertise AI-driven

Memos - premium analytical writing: actionable insights on markets and geopolitics.

Live Video Q&A - Hear from our top journalists and regional experts.

Special Events - Intimate in-person events with business & political VIPs.

Trend Reports - Deep dive analysis on market updates.

All premium Industry Newsletters - Monitor the Middle East's most important industries. Prioritize your target industries for weekly review:

  • Capital Markets & Private Equity
  • Venture Capital & Startups
  • Green Energy
  • Supply Chain
  • Sustainable Development
  • Leading Edge Technology
  • Oil & Gas
  • Real Estate & Construction
  • Banking

Start your PRO membership today.

Join the Middle East's top business and policy professionals to access exclusive PRO insights today.

Join Al-Monitor PRO Start with 1-week free trial