Sen. Nelson urged AP to withhold Levinson story

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) said he urged The Associated Press not to print a story that reveals a missing American in Iran actually worked for the CIA. 

“I urged the editor of AP not to run the story,” Nelson said Friday morning, according to the Washington Post. The AP had apparently held onto the story about U.S. citizen Robert Levinson for several years.

Nelson personally asked the AP’s executive editor, Kathleen Carroll, to withhold publication, the Post said.

“My only response that I can give is this is classified information. I can’t talk about it," Nelson said. "That’s all I can tell you. Just stay tuned."

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The AP reported Thursday that Levinson, missing in Iran since March 2007, had actually been funneling intelligence to the CIA.

Nelson had taken an interest in the case because Levinson is from Florida. The senior Florida senator was a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee at the time of Levinson's disappearance, and was informed of the secret operation. That congressional panel controls the CIA’s budget.

The White House also said Thursday it wished the AP had not run the story. 

"We regret that the AP would choose to run a story that does nothing to further the cause of bringing him home. The investigation into Mr. Levinson’s disappearance continues, and we all remain committed to finding him and bringing him home safely to his family,” said Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the National Security Council.

Since Levinson's disappearance, Obama administration officials have repeatedly said that he was a private citizen in Iran on a business trip.

An investigation by the AP’s reporters, however, reveals Levinson was a contractor for the CIA, and was dispatched to Iran to spy on its government for the United States.

Levinson vanished after a meeting with a source on Iran’s Kish Island. U.S. officials have suspected Iranian authorities took him into custody, but AP’s sources suggest he may have wound up in Pakistan or Afghanistan.

The last time Levinson was suspected to be alive was in 2011, but there has since been no correspondence or documentation. 

The AP agreed to hold the story three times over the last several years, but decided nearly seven years was already too long.