TODAY   |  December 13, 2013

Report: Man who vanished in Iran worked for CIA

New information reveals that retired FBI agent Bob Levinson, who vanished in Iran in the spring of 2007, was doing work for the CIA at the time. NBC’s Pete Williams reports.

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>> that the longest held hostage in u.s. history that disappeared in iran seven years ago was, in fact, working for the cia . this was something the government always denied. pete williams is on the story this morning. pete, good morning. what can you tell us?

>> reporter: well, savannah this information does shed new light on what bob levinson , a former fbi agent was up to when he vanished in iran in the spring of 2007 . turns out he was doing contract work for the cia . since the day robert levinson went missing overseas nearly seven years ago after a meeting on iran 's kish island , the u.s. government maintained that he was there on his own.

>> on march 9th , 2007 , robert levinson went missing during a business trip .

>> reporter: but now the ap and the washington post revealed he was there during contract work for the cia . something officials familiar with levinson 's case now confirm. but the cia officials that dealt with him had no authority to approve what he was doing and they say ten agency employees have since been disciplined. the only traces of levinson surfaced years ago when family members released still photos and a photo they sent where he pleaded for health.

>> i am not in good health. i'm running out of diabetes medicine.

>> reporter: iranian officials denied knowing anything about him.

>> is he alive?

>> i don't know. how could we know that?

>> reporter: but with a new moderate president in iran they had hopes of finding levinson . they strongly urged the ap not to run the story about his work for the cia for concern about his wellbeing. it is hard to judge whether it would put him at risk but the importance of the mistakes justifies publication. the u.s. government has failed to make saving this good man's life the priority it should be. it's time for the u.s. government to step up and take care of one of its own. the family says some in the government have done their duty to help find him but too many have not. in late november robert levinson became the longest held hostage in u.s. history .

>> we have seen them talking to each other and potential deal over iran 's nuclear program. what do you know about any contact with the iranians on this issue.

>> over the years the fbi and other government officials made repeated trips to deal with the swisz acting and intermediaries and one of the complications is the u.s. was never able to establish for certain where he is and who is holding him.

>> pete william with the latest on this story. thank you very much.