Gates disappointed by lack of information on missing FBI agent

Gates disappointed by lack of information on missing FBI agent
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Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates says its a "disappointment" that the Obama administration was not able to get more information on Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent missing in Iran. 

“I have no idea what was going on in the background, what discussions there may have been with the Iranians. But from the outside looking in, the failure to get clarity on either proof of life, proof of death or some indication of his status, I think, was a disappointment," he said on MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell Reports on Tuesday.

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The Obama administration was able to secure the release of five Americans detained in Iran, but Levinson's whereabouts are still unknown. Officials have vowed to keep pressing Iran for information on Levinson, who disappeared from an Iranian island almost nine years ago.  

Officials say they believe he is being held outside of Iran, but can't confirm whether he is still alive. Levinson was last seen in a proof-of-life video in 2010, but officials say they don't have an updated assessment since then. 

Levinson's family has blasted the administration's handling of his case, saying they feel "abandoned."

"We're not getting any answers," Levinson's son Daniel said on MSNBC last Tuesday. "We have been abandoned. It's the worst feeling in the world."

Gates, who served as Defense secretary to Presidents George W. Bush and Obama said the optics of the administration securing the release of five other detained Americans could have been better. 

On the same day that Iran released three of the Americans, the U.S. Treasury wired $1.7 billion to Iran to settle a legal dispute involving a purchase of U.S. arms by Iran's last monarch that were never delivered following the 1979 Iranian revolution.

"I think you do have to look at these things from the standpoint of appearances," he said. "And whether or not it was linked, it sure appears that way to everyone. And I think that was a mistake."  

"It's one thing to exchange prisoners, if you will. It's another to throw a big wad of cash into the deal or have it on the table at the same time that the deal is being made." 

Since he left the administration in 2011, the former CIA director has been critical of the administration, in his memoir "Duty" as well as public appearances. He is out with a new book, titled "A Passion for Leadership."