The White House has denied that former FBI agent Robert Levinson was working for the CIA when he went missing in Iran six years ago, following reports by the Washington Post and Associated Press that claimed he was in Iran to gather intelligence.
"Bob Levinson was not a US government employee when he went missing in Iran," said White House spokesman Jay Carney, in a statement that did not appear to rule out the possibility, wrote AFP.
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"I am not going to comment further on what he may or may not have been doing in Iran," Carney added of Levinson's disappearance, which occurred near the tourist site of Kish Island in Iran.
Levinson made headlines this week when both the Associated Press and the Washington Post indicated that the 65-year-old was drawing pay from the CIA when he vanished, sent on a "rogue mission."
Iran has yet to officially confirm that it has custody of Levinson, writes CBS News, although former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seemed to acknowledge the matter in an interview last year.
Levinson's family has requested that the US government do more to secure his release, according to a family statement that was sent to CBS News.
"There are those in the U.S. government who have done their duty in their efforts to find Bob, but there are those who have not," the family wrote.
"It is time for the U.S. government to step up and take care of one of its own. After nearly seven years, our family should not be struggling to get through each day without this wonderful, caring, man that we love so much."
The State Department said that John Kerry has discussed Levinson's dilemma with Iranian counterpart Mohammad Zavad Zarif during the Geneva nuclar talks, while Carney noted that Barack Obama brought up the matter with current Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in their September phone call.