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The video prompted Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to announce publicly in March that Levinson was alive and urged the Iranians to help find him. Though the legacy of the 1979 hostage standoff with Iran looms over all relations between the two countries, Clinton did not refer to Levinson as a hostage in March and she softened the U.S. rhetoric toward Tehran.

The video also helped initiate a series of discreet discussions between U.S. and Iranian officials, conversations that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in September were producing good results.

Not long after Clinton’s remarks, the Levinson family received a series of photos of Levinson dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit like the ones worn by detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In these photos, Levinson’s hair and beard were much longer and he looked thinner.

In each photo, he wore a different sign hung around his neck. One read, “Why you can not help me.”

Investigators determined that the video was routed through an Internet address in Pakistan, suggesting that Levinson might be held there. Also, Pashtun wedding music played faintly in the background, officials said. The Pashtun people live primarily in Pakistan and Afghanistan, just over Iran’s eastern border.

The photos, however, traced back to a different Internet address, this one in Afghanistan.

Authorities don’t know whether those clues mean Levinson was being held in Balochistan — a rugged, arid region that spans parts of Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan — or perhaps in the lawless tribal region along the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan. These areas are home to terrorists, militant groups and criminal organizations.

None of these groups has a clear motive for picking up Levinson. But an American hostage, particularly one who used to work for the U.S. government, would be considered a valuable commodity to any of them.

Over the past year, the hopefulness that initially followed the arrival of the video has faded. The meetings with the Iranians have not provided a breakthrough and U.S. officials said the government was no longer as optimistic about the future of those talks.

“All I want is for our family to be whole again,” Christine Levinson said in the video, in a message directed toward her husband. “We love you. We miss you every day. We will not abandon you.”

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Associated Press writer Matthew Lee contributed to this report.

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Online:

Open letter to Levinson from his wife: http://www.helpboblevinson.com/