WASHINGTON – The government is seeking information from Iran about a former FBI agent reported missing while on a business trip to the Islamic republic several weeks ago, officials said Monday.
FBI spokesman Rich Kolko said the agent retired nearly a decade ago, and appeared to be in Iran on private business. He said the missing man was last seen in Iran in early March, and was not working for the FBI as a contractor.
"At this time, there are no indications that this matter should be viewed other than as a missing person case," Kolko said.
Kolko also said the former agent had worked on traditional criminal issues, such as organized crime cases — drawing a distinction between international terrorism or intelligence work that could have taken him to Iran.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the department had sent a letter to the Iranians through diplomatic intermediaries, asking if authorities there had any information about the man.
"It's an American private citizen who is in Iran on private business about whom we are pursuing welfare and whereabouts (information)," he told reporters. "We have been monitoring this situation for a couple of weeks now."
Washington and Tehran do not have diplomatic relations and U.S. interests in the country are represented by Switzerland, which serves as the "protecting power" for the United States in Iran.
Citing privacy concerns, McCormack declined to give details about the name, age or occupation of the missing man, believed to have been last heard from around March 11 while in a coastal area of southern Iran near Kish Island, a Persian Gulf resort area.
But McCormack stressed that the United States saw no connection between the missing man and the current crisis between Iran and Britain over 15 British sailors and marines seized last month by Iranian forces.
"We don't see any linkage whatsoever between this case and any other ongoing cases that may have been in the news recently," he said.
McCormack did not say why it had taken three weeks to get in touch with Iran about the case but noted that the State Department had been in constant contact with the man's family and his employers since he was reported missing.
A senior State Department official said the man is not of Iranian descent and that "welfare and whereabouts" requests for U.S. citizens reported missing in Iran average about two to three per year.