Then, U.S. operatives in Afghanistan traced the hostage photos to a cellphone used to transmit them, officials said. They even tracked down the owner, but concluded he had nothing to do with sending them.
Such abrupt dead ends were indicative of a professional intelligence operation, the U.S. concluded. Whoever sent the photos and videos had made no mistakes. Mobsters and terrorists are seldom so careful.
Iran denies any knowledge of Levinson's whereabouts and says it's doing all it can.
This past June, Iran elected Hassan Rouhani as president. He has struck a more moderate tone than his predecessor, sparking hope for warmer relations between Iran and the West. But Rouhani's statements on Levinson were consistent with Ahmadinejad's.
"He is an American who has disappeared," Rouhani told CNN in September. "We have no news of him. We do not know where he is."
Back home in Florida, Christine Levinson works to keep her husband's name in the news and pushes the Obama administration to do more. Last year, the FBI offered a reward of $1 million for information leading to the return of her husband. But the money hasn't worked.
In their big, tight-knit family, Bob Levinson has missed many birthdays, weddings, anniversaries and grandchildren.
Levinson was always the breadwinner, the politically savvy investigator who understood national security. Now it is his wife who has traveled to Iran seeking information on her husband, who has meetings on Capitol Hill or with White House officials.
They are kind and reassuring. But nothing changes.
Others held in Iran have returned home. Not her husband.
"There isn't any pressure on Iran to resolve this," she said in January, frustrated with what she said was a lack of attention by Washington. "It's been much too long."
Follow Apuzzo at http://twitter.com/mattapuzzo
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