The family of an American who vanished in Iran nearly seven years ago is urging the U.S. government to, quote, "step up and take care of one of its own."

Robert Levinson (Twitter)

An Associated Press investigation reveals that Bob Levinson was on an unauthorized spy operation for the CIA when he disappeared.

That's contrary to the U.S. government's longtime description of him as a private citizen who was traveling on private business.

In a new statement from Levinson's family, they call him a courageous man who dedicated himself to and risked his life for the United States. They said the U.S. government has failed to make saving him the priority it should be.

Kerry tight-lipped on missing American in Iran

Secretary of State John Kerry says the United States will continue to seek the release of an American citizen missing in Iran.

But at a news conference in Tel Aviv, he sidestepped questions about an Associated Press report saying the missing American, Robert Levinson, had been working in Iran for the CIA on an unapproved intelligence-gathering mission when he vanished nearly seven years ago.

Kerry says, quote, "I don't have any comment whatsoever on the condition with respect to employment or any other issue." He says, "We have raised the issue of his whereabouts on a continuing basis."

The AP reported the CIA paid Levinson's family $2.5 million to head off a revealing lawsuit. It said three veteran analysts were forced out of the agency and seven others were disciplined.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved)