Nightly News | December 09, 2011
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: It was nearly five years ago that an American who was once an agent for the FBI vanished in Iran . Well, today an emotional video surfaced, released by his family here in the US and apparently sent by his captors. That as our chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell reports tonight, it now raises a lot of new questions.
Mr. ROBERT LEVINSON: Please help me.
ANDREA MITCHELL reporting: It is the first public glimpse of retired FBI man Robert Levinson since he went missing in Iran almost five years ago. Before he was smiling, healthy, a father and grandfather. After years of captivity, he appears gaunt as he makes a heartbreaking cry for help.
Mr. LEVINSON: For my beautiful, my loving, my loyal wife Christine and my children and my grandson. And also for the United States government . I am not in very good health. I am running very quickly out of diabetes medicine.
MITCHELL: The family received the tape a year ago but put it on their website only today, fearing the investigation had gone cold and wanting to appeal directly to the kidnappers.
Mr. DAVID LEVINSON (Robert Levinson's Son): I am sending this message because we need to know what you want our family to do.
MITCHELL: When he vanished, Levinson was on an island off the coast of Iran , his family says working as a private investigator on a cigarette smuggling case. The tape offers tantalizing but conflicting clues. Pashtun wedding music can be heard in the background indicating he could be in Afghanistan , not Iran . But the tape was delivered through a Pakistani Internet server. Was that just to confuse the FBI ? Last year I asked Iran 's resident Ahmadinejad about Levinson .
MITCHELL: Is he alive?
President MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD: I should ask this question. I don't know. We don't know. How can we know that?
MITCHELL: A year later, tensions with Iran are rising.
Mr. ROGER CRESSEY (NBC News Terrorism Analyst): The fact that we've not heard anything from the Iranian government makes one conclude that they probably do not have him in captivity.
Ms. CHRISTINE LEVINSON (Robert Levinson's Wife): My hope is to get him home this holiday season so we don't miss any more family events or celebrations.
MITCHELL: Christine Levinson is certain her husband is still alive, clinging desperately to hope and a hostage tape now one year old. Andrea Mitchell , NBC News, Washington.