WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, issued the following statements after the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved their bipartisan bill to bolster U.S. government resources to bring back Americans held hostage or unlawfully detained abroad. The Robert Levinson Hostage Recovery and Hostage-Taking Accountability Act fortifies existing programs to address hostage-taking and equips the U.S. government with new tools to perform rescues, punish captors, and provide critical information and support to hostages and their families.

The bill is named in honor of former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who is presumed to have died in Iranian custody this year. Lasting more than twelve years, Levinson’s unlawful detention by the Iranian regime is recognized as the longest-held hostage in American history.

“I am very proud to be able to deliver on my promise to the Levinson family on approving this important legislation in honor of Bob Levinson. Today, the United States is one step closer to holding the Iranian regime and other bad actors accountable for perpetrating unconscionable human rights abuses and inflicting gratuitous cruelties on individuals like Bob Levinson,” Menendez said. “As we continue to push this bill forward towards its enactment into law, we must remain guided by the Levinson family’s determination and persistence in their quest for justice. The United States must do everything possible to secure the resources necessary to safeguard American lives abroad and prevent others from enduring similar tragedies in the future.”

“Following the tragic news earlier this year regarding death former FBI Agent Bob Levinson, who was the longest held hostage in American history, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations pays tribute to his life by passing this important bipartisan bill to help ensure American hostages will be brought back home,” Rubio said. “This bipartisan effort will strengthen the tools within the Executive Branch to facilitate the return of American hostages held overseas.”

Joining Senator Menendez and Senator Rubio in cosponsoring the bill are Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.).

“The barbarity of the Iranian regime was graphically illustrated in the case of Robert Levinson,” Leahy said. “Countless appeals for his release were ignored, and in the end the Iranians achieved nothing by subjecting him to appalling cruelty all those years. When American citizens and nationals are arrested and imprisoned, our embassies should determine if there is reason to believe that they are being held as hostages or otherwise wrongly detained. This bill specifies criteria for making such determinations and would ensure that those Americans receive every available diplomatic or other assistance to protect their rights and obtain their release. There should be no higher priority for U.S. diplomacy than freeing American hostages.”

“We must do everything we can to prevent the unlawful detention and hostage-taking of American citizens,” Coons said. “This bipartisan bill honors the life of Bob Levinson, who was wrongfully detained in Iran for over a decade, by strengthening our ability to bring these individual Americans home and hold their captors accountable.”

“Any time an American citizen is held unjustly, it demands the attention and full weight of the United States government to secure their freedom,” Shaheen said. “This legislation reaffirms our country’s commitment to bring Americans home safely and bolsters diplomatic powers for the President and administration to use to compel their release. This legislation honors Robert Levinson, who died in Iranian custody after being held hostage for 13 years, and every American who is or has been wrongfully detained. I’m pleased by the bipartisan support from the committee to move this bill forward and I’ll continue to work across the aisle to see this legislation through Congress.”

A copy of the bill can be found HERE.

Statement from the Levinson Family, March 25, 2020

Today, with aching hearts, we are sharing devastating news about Robert Levinson, the head of our family.

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.  We don’t know when or how he died, only that it was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is impossible to describe our pain. Our family will spend the rest of our lives without the most amazing man we have ever known, a new reality that is inconceivable to us.  His grandchildren will never meet him. They will only know him through the stories we tell them.

If not for the cruel, heartless actions of the Iranian regime, Robert Levinson would be alive and home with us today. It has been 13 years waiting for answers.  Thirteen years since we last saw him or had any contact with him. How those responsible in Iran could do this to a human being, while repeatedly lying to the world all this time, is incomprehensible to us. They kidnapped a foreign citizen and denied him any basic human rights, and his blood is on their hands.

Bob Levinson should have spent his last moments surrounded by his family and all the love we feel for him. Instead, he died alone, in captivity thousands of miles away, in unbelievable suffering.  His body has not yet been returned to us for a proper burial.  We don’t even know when, or even if, his body would be returned to us. This is the very definition of cruelty.

Those who are responsible for what happened to Bob Levinson, including those in the U.S. government who for many years repeatedly left him behind, will ultimately receive justice for what they have done. We will spend the rest of our lives making sure of this, and the Iranian regime must know we will not be going away. We expect American officials, as well as officials around the world, to continue to press Iran to seek Bob’s return, and to ensure those Iranian officials involved are held accountable.

To you – the thousands of people who knew and loved Bob Levinson or who have supported our family during this terrible ordeal – we know you mourn with us.  We can never thank you enough for your love, and for always being there in ways big and small.  Because of COVID-19, we will be holding a memorial service in the future when it is safe to do so. We will let you know when and where.

We extend our deep appreciation to President Trump and the members of his Administration –  National Security Advisor Robert C. O’Brien, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell, C.I.A. Director Gina Haspel, and FBI Director Christopher Wray – and their staff, who have done all they could to make our family whole again. We are so grateful for their efforts.

Our family also wishes to thank Congressman Ted Deutch, Senator Bill Nelson, Senator Marco Rubio and Senator Bob Menendez, and their staff members, who fought for Bob Levinson in every possible way.

To the men and women of the FBI, active and retired, who did their best to bring our husband and father home – we know you, also, are mourning with us.  Finding Bob Levinson was a personal mission for hundreds of agents and others who worked on this case over the years.  We cannot even begin to describe our gratitude.  He will always be one of the FBI’s own.

Bob Levinson was a truly remarkable individual – the best husband, father, brother, grandfather and friend anyone could ever ask for. He was an American hero – a true patriot, and his compassion and kindness knew no bounds. We will miss his warmth, humor, and wisdom, but most of all, we will miss the deep and unconditional love he had for each one of us. He will never be forgotten – we will make sure of it.


Christine, Susan, Stephanie, Sarah, Daniel, David, Samantha, and Douglas, and the entire extended Levinson family

Family of Robert Levinson, held in Iran 13 years, calls prisoner exchange ‘bittersweet’

“We can’t help but be extremely disappointed that, despite all its efforts, the United States government was unable to secure his release,” the family said.
Read the Article Here.
By Phil McCausland

The family of Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent held for nearly 13 years in Iran, said on Saturday that they are happy about the release of American student Xiyue Wang in a prisoner exchange, but can’t help feeling “extremely disappointed” that their husband and father continues to be imprisoned.

The Levinsons said they send their best wishes to Wang’s wife and his young son: “This is a day they have long hoped for, but this news is bittersweet for our family.”

Levinson has been held hostage longer than any other American, the family’s statement noted.

“We can’t help but be extremely disappointed that, despite all its efforts, the United States government was unable to secure his release,” the statement said. “Iranian authorities continue to play a cruel game with our father’s life, and with our family. But the world knows the truth, and Iranian leadership must come clean. It is time for Iran to send Bob Levinson home, so he can live the rest of his life in peace.”

Wang, 38, was released and able to head home on Saturday after spending more than three years in an Iranian prison. The U.S. and Iran negotiated in Switzerland to exchange Wang for Iranian citizen Massoud Soleimani, who was being held in an Atlanta jail over accusations that he had violated U.S. sanctions.

Levinson, 71, was working with the CIA on an unauthorized intelligence-gathering mission when he disappeared in March 2007 on Kish Island, a resort area off Iran’s coast. He is now the longest-held American hostage in history, but his condition and whereabouts are largely unknown.

Iran acknowledged in a filing to the United Nations last month that it had an open case against Levinson.

Otherwise nothing has been known since family members released photos and video of him in 2011 that included a request for help and a warning that he was running out of medication to treat his diabetes.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted Saturday that the U.S. is committed to bringing home every American held by Iran and other countries.

Secretary Pompeo


Another American is coming home. Xiyue Wang, who has been held on false charges in Iran for over three years, has been released and is on his way back to the United States. Mr. Wang will soon be reunited with his wife and son, who have missed him dearly. (1/2)

Secretary Pompeo


We will not rest until we bring every American detained in Iran and around the world back home to their loved ones. We thank the Swiss government for facilitating the return of Mr. Wang, and are pleased the Iranian government has been constructive in this matter. (2/2)

Stephanie Levinson Curry, the daughter of the former FBI agent, told Fox News in an interview last month that she felt encouraged by the work that President Donald Trump had done to ensure his return, including an offer of a $25 million reward for information about the prisoner.

“Our family is not political, but we think that President Trump is demonstrating his leadership and showing his commitment to bringing hostages home,” Curry said.

Curry’s brother had sharper words for the Obama administration when it negotiated a complex prisoner exchange with Iran in 2016that brought four Americans home, but not Levinson.

“Don’t get me wrong. We’re very happy for these families. But we wish we were among them,” Daniel Levinson told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell at the time, noting his view that the Obama administration had failed his family.

“We’re not getting any answers,” he added. “We have been abandoned. It’s the worst feeling in the world.”

Obama administration officials at the time said they had not been able to determine Levinson’s whereabouts, but had repeatedly brought up his disappearance with Iranian officials.

Iran, in response, denied any knowledge of Levinson’s location in 2016 and offered to help search for him.

The former FBI agent isn’t the only American currently being held by Iran. Iranian-American father and son Siamak and Baquer Namazi and U.S. Navy veteran Michael White remain imprisoned there.

Babak Namazi, the son of Baquer Namazi and brother of Siamak Namazi, said he was also excited for Wang’s release but that his family was still waiting for answers.

“I am beyond devastated that a second President has left my ailing father Baquer Namazi and brother Siamak Namazi behind as American hostages in Iran in a second swap deal,” Babak Namazi said. “I hope, pray, and expect that this is not a one-time trade but the beginning of an expedited process that will bring my family home soon.”

Family of Missing Ex-FBI Agent Testifies in Case Against Iran

Read the Article Here.

Courthouse News Service

WASHINGTON (CN) – The seven children and wife of the longest-held American hostage in Iran closed out a two-day hearing in D.C. federal court Thursday with agonized testimony on the nightmare they fell into back in 2007 when former FBI agent Bob Levinson disappeared.

“I don’t understand why people don’t know his name,” said Stephanie Curry, Levinson’s daughter.

U.S. investigators have concluded that the Iranian government abducted Levinson, who would be 71, while he was on a rogue mission for the CIA. The lawsuit filed by his family seeks $150 million in compensatory and $1.35 billion in punitive damages from Iran.

Emotional testimony from his family unfolded in U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly’s courtroom while grandchildren that Levinson has never laid eyes on played with toys and puzzles in the hallway.

The family’s attorney, David McGee, said Kelly could issue a sound warning to Iran that U.S. citizens cannot be cut off from the world as Levinson has been for nearly 13 years.

“All you have to do is look at the cases that go through this courthouse,” McGee said. “They do it over and over and over again.”

In testimony that bared the emotional and physical trauma of their father’s capture — including anxiety, depression and attention-deficiency and eating disorders — Levinson’s seven children shared memories of a father with abounding love.

A photo of Curry walking down the aisle with her father in 2002 triggered guilt in the second-oldest daughter.

Choked by tears, she admitted, “I have a lot of guilt too because my sisters missed that opportunity.”

The captive’s voice entered the courtroom on a number of occasions through emails sent to his wife and children over the years, sprinkled with goofy nicknames like “Happy Face” and “Lumpy.”

In an email sent just weeks before he disappeared, Levinson wrote to his son David Levinson: “All the stuff that I do is nothing repeat nothing compared to all I do to make sure you grow up and prosper.”

David Levinson echoed testimony from his siblings that his father, while very invested in investigating international crime, never missed key events like basketball championships and National Honors Society inductions.

“I’m the fifth of seven children and I still feel like I’m the most important one to him,” he said.

A judge in the same court last month ordered Iran to pay Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian $179 million in damages for imprisoning him on false espionage charges. Held in Evin Prison, where Levinson is suspected to also be locked away, Rezaian’s captors deprived him of food and medication, threatening to harm his wife and cut off his arms and legs.

When news came Levinson was not freed along with Rezaian — held a year and a half and released in January 2016 as part of a prisoner swap — his family was devastated.

Curry told Judge Kelly that every night “without fail” she prays with her two children for their grandfather’s release.

“A hug, physical touch, he has had nothing for 13 years. How can you keep going after that?” she said.

The eldest daughter, Susan Boothe, remembered Levinson’s hand on her shoulder after a basketball game as her father said “you done good baby.”

Boothe said unlike her siblings, she has lost hope that their father will return home.

“We don’t pray for him to come home,” she said of her and her children. “We pray that he isn’t suffering, we pray that grandpa Bob isn’t suffering.”

In a rare showing of emotion from Kelly, the Trump-appointed judge said: “I have learned a lot of things the last two days. One thing I have learned is that I’m a terrible father.”

Despite the wrenching testimony over two days from Levinson’s children, his wife never shed a tear.

“I swore that my family would not fall apart,” Christine Levinson said. “And I fear that if I cry in front of my children, the dominos would fall. And they would not be able to be picked up.”

Two experts on Iran also took the stand, testifying that Levinson as a former FBI agent is no doubt a valuable bargaining chip for Iran, possibly to barter protection for its nuclear program.

Patrick Clawson, director of research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said Hezbollah representatives revealing the Iranian-backed Lebanese militia wielded power to facilitate Levinson’s release was unusual.

“This is very much the pattern we had seen in the 1980s,” Clawson said. “But it had really fallen out of use.”

Closing out the hearing, Kelly commended the Levinson family for their testimony.

Before promising to issue a speedy ruling, the judge told Christine Levinson, seated at the counsel table representing her husband, that “you have a lot to be proud of.”

Levinson Family Court Testimony Raises Pressure on Iran for American’s Release

Read the Article Here

VOA News on Iran

Bob Levinson disappeared in Iran five years ago
Robert Levinson disappeared, March 9, 2007, while on Iran’s Kish Island.

WASHINGTON – An American family suing Iran in a U.S. court for the 2007 disappearance of family patriarch Robert Levinson on an Iranian island has emerged from two days of tearful testimony more determined than ever to press Tehran for his release.

The testimony of the retired FBI agent’s wife and seven adult children at the Wednesday and Thursday sessions of Washington’s U.S. District Court “is one way to keep reminding the Iranians that we’re not going away,” said eldest son Dan Levinson in a Friday appearance on VOA Persian’s Late News program.

The seven children and wife of Robert Levinson, an American missing in Iran since 2007, appear outside a U.S. District Court in
The seven children and wife of Robert Levinson, an American missing in Iran since 2007, appear outside U.S. District Court in Washington, Dec. 4, 2019, as they sue Iran for damages for his disappearance. (Courtesy Levinson family)

“They know exactly where my father is,” he said of the Iranian government. “It’s been almost 13 years (since the disappearance) and we’re just suffering terribly. It’s time for them to send my father home. And this (court testimony) is one way to hold them accountable and to pressure them to get this resolved.”

Father disappears in 2007

Robert Levinson disappeared March 9, 2007, while visiting southern Iran’s Kish Island as a private investigator. He had retired from a 22-year career with the FBI nine years earlier. In 2013, several U.S. news outlets reported that Levinson had been part of a rogue CIA intelligence mission, a claim that U.S. authorities have not confirmed.

Dan Levinson, the eldest son of retired FBI agent Robert Levinson, who went missing in Iran in 2007, speaks to VOA Persian outsi
Dan Levinson, the eldest son of retired FBI agent Robert Levinson, who went missing in Iran in 2007, speaks to VOA Persian outside the U.S. District Court in Washington, Dec. 4, 2019.

His family long has accused Iran’s Islamist rulers of detaining Levinson as a hostage to be traded for concessions from the U.S., which those rulers have labeled an enemy for decades. However, Iranian officials have consistently denied knowledge of Levinson’s whereabouts in their public statements.

Family members have not received any proof of life from Levinson since his captors sent a video and photos of him looking gaunt and disheveled in 2010 and 2011 respectively.

The family’s hopes were lifted last month, when the U.N. Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances said Iran’s judiciary recently had notified the world body of an “open case” for Levinson in the nation’s Revolutionary Court system that handles national security cases. Iranian officials later tried to downplay the U.N. notification, saying it related to a “missing person” investigation into Levinson’s disappearance.

The Levinson family filed its ongoing lawsuit against Iran in the District Court of the District of Columbia in March 2017. Family members said this week they are seeking $150 million in compensation and $1.35 billion in punitive damages from Tehran, which did not have any representation at this week’s court sessions. Iran has not had diplomatic relations with Washington since Iranian Islamists hostile toward the U.S. seized power in the 1979 revolution.

David McGee, a lawyer for the family of Robert Levinson, speaks to VOA Persian in Washington, Dec. 4, 2019, about the family's l
David McGee, a lawyer for the family of Robert Levinson, speaks to VOA Persian in Washington, Dec. 4, 2019, about the family’s lawsuit against Iran, where the retired FBI agent went missing in 2007.

Change Iran tactic

Levinson family lawyer David McGee told VOA Persian that the vast majority of the $1.5 billion sought from Iran is intended to dissuade it from continuing its long-running practice of arbitrarily detaining Iranian dual nationals and others with ties to the West.

“That’s inappropriate behavior. We think they should stop,” he said.

In the two days of testimony, Levinson’s children spoke of how the long disappearance of their father has traumatized some of them with panic attacks, attention deficiency, eating disorders and nightmares of Levinson being beheaded. They also read from touching messages their father had written to them before his fateful trip to Iran and described how he had been a loving influence in their lives. The testimonies brought the seven siblings to tears.

“It’s been very hard, and at times a little bit cathartic after 13 years of not talking about it, to be able to tell our story and talk about how wonderful our father is,” said Sarah Moriarty, one of Levinson’s four daughters, in a VOA Persian interview after Thursday’s session.

“The testimony of these past few days has shown how close we are as a family,” said her brother David, speaking alongside Moriarty. “It also has shown the strength of our mother, who for 12½ years has fought every day to get my father home.”

 Christine Levinson (center) wife of Robert Levinson, and her children, Dan and Samantha Levinson, talk to reporters in New York, Jan. 18, 2016.
FILE – Christine Levinson, center, wife of Robert Levinson, and her children, Dan and Samantha Levinson, talk to reporters in New York, Jan. 18, 2016.

Levinson’s wife, Christine, was stoic throughout the week’s testimony.

Speaking to VOA Persian late Wednesday, she said she has worked to enable her children to go on with their lives.

“I tell them all that they need to make their father proud. I think that is what keeps everybody going,” she said.

Regarding the next steps in the lawsuit, McGee said he expects Judge Timothy Kelly to spend the “next month or so” writing an opinion about Iran’s liability for damages.

“Assuming that he finds a liability, he will appoint a special master (court official) to make a recommendation on the damages to the family. Then the judge will make a final decision.”

McGee said the judge will consider how the family has been harmed by Levinson’s disappearance in Iran.

“I have never seen a better case for emotional damage to human beings than what was presented in the last two days here. This is a wonderful family that has been grievously harmed by the actions of the Iranian government,” he said.

There was no immediate comment from Iran to the testimony.

Dan Levinson said he expects it to take months for the judge’s final ruling to be issued.

This article originated in VOA’s Persian Service.

Daughter of ex-FBI agent missing for a decade in Iran thanks Trump for ‘clear message’ to Tehran

By Charles Creitz | Fox News

The daughter of Robert Levinson — a retired FBI agent and private investigator who went missing from an Iranian island in 2007 — praised President Trump and the administration for their focus on the case.

Trump and National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien have been working tirelessly to find out what happened to the 58-year-old — now the longest-held hostage in U.S. history, Sarah Moriarty told “The Story” on Monday.

“We believe that President Trump, with this new $25 million reward and a tweet yesterday, has sent a clear message that this is a top priority for the U.S. administration, and we’re so thankful to him,” she said.

“Robert O’Brien has been amazing for our family — the entire administration has been working very hard; very tirelessly to bring him home.”

While in the country, he met with American fugitive Dawud Salahuddin, whom the CIA was hoping to recruit as an asset, a source told Fox News at the time. After the meeting, Levinson went missing from Kish Island.

Moriarty told Martha MacCallum the Iranian government made mention of “Revolutionary Court,” which she said is geared toward criminal-type cases as opposed to those for missing persons.

She called that development a “key element” of her father’s case, and called Iran’s behavior “unacceptable.”

“We also need Americans to recognize that this is unacceptable and that Iran must send him home,” she said, urging officials in Tehran to “come clean” about what has transpired over the last 12 years.

“My message to my dad is that we are working tirelessly every day and we are working hard to bring him home.”

Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the State Department would offer $20 million on top of a $5 million reward already posted for information leading to Levinson’s recovery and return.

“The Trump administration has made clear that the regime in Iran must release all missing and wrongfully detained Americans, including Robert Levinson, Xiyue Wang, Siamak Namazi, and others,” Pompeo said in a statement. “We will not rest until they are reunited with their families.”

Fox News’ Brie Stimson contributed to this report.