Politics & Policy

Desert Prison

Patricia Roush talks about her daughters, trapped in Saudi Arabia.

Patricia Roush is the mother of two girls taken as young children to Saudi Arabia by their Saudi father. At Any Price: How America Betrayed My Kidnapped Daughters for Saudi Oil is Roush’s chronicle of her struggle to get her daughters back. Her daughters, Aisha and Alia, have been in Saudi Arabia for the past 17 years and are now ages 24 and 21.

NRO: How many years has it been now since you last spoke to your daughters?

Patricia Roush: I was able to speak to my daughter, Aisha, in September 2001 — a few months after I found out that my oldest daughter, Alia, had been married off by her father. The embassy gave me the cell-phone number of Aisha’s father and he “allowed” me to speak to her briefly. She spoke in English and repeatedly told me that she loved me. Then she asked me to go to Riyadh and said, “Help me.” Her father abruptly took the phone away from her and never let me have any further contact with her. I relayed this conversation to the State Department and they told me that I was lying — that my daughter didn’t speak enough English to tell me she loved me. They would not allow me into the kingdom to meet this man who married Alia or to visit my daughters. I was not allowed to speak to Alia at that time because she was with the man that married her. I had no knowledge of her whereabouts and still do not know where my daughters are or any contact info about them.

#ad#NRO: Have you ever felt like that the State Department has been honest and fair with you?

Roush: The State Department has continually lied to me and sacrificed my daughters’ safety and freedom for their Saudi “clients” — as they repeatedly referred to the Saudi government — time after time for almost two decades. This betrayal and dishonesty took many forms: outright lies, sabotage of “done deals” that I had worked very hard on for the release of the girls — as remotely as 1986 just a few months after they were kidnapped when the Saudis were going to release them and as recently as Sept. 2002 when the State Department knew well in advance that my daughters were going to be taken out of Saudi Arabia by the Saudi government and forced to participate in a Stalinist show trial in London hotel room. This was all arranged by [Saudi spokesman] Adel Jubeir and directed by the Saudi flaks in Washington, at Qorvis Communication. Jubeir requested that State send someone from the American embassy in London to take down a statement as to where they wanted to live. It was later revealed during a hearing last year before the House Government Reform Committee that the order for the U.S. embassy in London to take that statement was sent by the office of the Secretary of State.

My daughters are political prisoners and are being told what to do and what to say by the Saudi government. The State Department and the U.S. embassy in KSA have also “created” documents, and situations that never happened. I can prove all of this by documents that were subpoenaed by the Government Reform Committee.

NRO: Has it gotten any better under the Bush administration — have you gotten any more cooperation? Since 9/11?

Roush: The George W. Bush administration has done everything in their power to repress this matter.

In June of 2001, Colin Powell was personally handed a letter by Senator Craig signed by 23 U.S. senators asking for the freedom of the girls. (A kiss-off letter from a Powell flak was sent to me in response.)

In the summer of 2002 I testified before the Government Reform Committee and was on almost every television network and all the cable stations, yet White House Press Secretary, Ari Fleischer denied ever hearing about me when questioned by a White House correspondent. Later in that same week, Fleischer referred to the matter as a “child-custody” dispute even though my daughters are women and in their twenties.

State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher referred to the matter as a “child-custody” matter and when asked about the London trip and the statement that my” daughters signed he replied, “This is normal procedure. It is natural.”

NRO: What happened with your 20/20 interview?

Roush: This is a long story and involved two episodes with Barbara Walters and 20/20. In 1995, just a few weeks before I was to make the one and only trip I was “allowed” to make to Saudi Arabia to see my girls, my attorney pitched the story to Barbara Walters and she liked it. I flew to NYC and was interviewed by Barbara Walters in a hotel suite at the Pierre Hotel off Central Park. Then I went to Saudi Arabia to see the girls. 20/20 gave me a High-8 camera to use and escorted me to and from the airport. Walters said the show would be the first to air during the coming fall season.

In the meantime, U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Ray Mabus was pushing all the major princes to allow the girls to leave. And he met with Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. Prince Bandar. Mabus told Bandar that Walters was going to run the segment in September 1995 and Bandar said he knew about that because he had met Barbara Walters at a party and she told him about it. Two weeks after Mabus told me about that, the segment was cancelled and the 20/20 producer, Victor Neufeld, was not even taking the calls of my attorney, who knew Walters personally.

Then later in 1997 I dealt with a producer from Turning Point on ABC — which was later cancelled. They had shot a lot of film about me in San Francisco, followed me to Washington to Capitol Hill and spent hours and hours with me. They flew me to New York for an interview session with ABC correspondent Tom Jerrell.

When Turning Point was cancelled, the material shifted over to the producer of 20/20, Nancy Kramer. I met her in New York and she then called me stating that she had scheduled an interview with Adel Jubeir at the Saudi embassy in Washington. As soon as that interview was over, the whole attitude of that producer changed about me. She was very favorable to Jubeir and told me, “It is all your fault, Pat.” Then she continued to tell me that the segment would air later in the 1997 fall season but it did not come up until December. They continually let me think that the segment was about me and my daughters right up until airtime.

I saw the promos the day before and it was not about me but another woman with an easy Lebanese “rescue” of her daughter whom she had full contact with and just walked her out of country. When that aired, they stuck about six minutes of me driving my car in San Francisco and edited the shots of me in between this Lebanese case to look as though I was off center. At the end of the 30-minute segment, Barbara Walters asked Tom Jerroll about the Roush case and he said it was a “private family matter” and the mother and father of the girls “just couldn’t agree on any responsible arrangement.” These were the exact words that Jubeir had used repeatedly. They revisited the case about six months later and summed it up that same way at the end of the show.

NRO: Do you believe, at this point, that you will ever be able to have a relationship with your daughters again?

Roush: Yes, of course. They are coming home to America. God has been telling me this all along. Through all these trials and tears I experienced a total spiritual transformation. I speak about this in detail in my book. I have grown strong through all the losses I have experienced and gained much wisdom and fortitude. That is the journey of life. To walk through our trials with grace, courage, and faith in the Most High. I never feel alone because I am not alone. My daughters and I are one. I carried them under my heart for almost a year before they were born and will always be one spirit with them. Even after they were gone for ten years, when I saw them in that hotel room in Riyadh in 1995, it was as though we were never separated. I touched them and smelled their hair and dried their tears. Love transcends all. The Saudis and the State Department cannot conquer or control the human spirit.

NRO: How do you keep your hopes up?

Roush: I pray. I keep myself focused on my goals of working for truth, justice and what is right and good. I remember the miracles and messages that God has given me and I think about the love the girls and I share. I am also edified by the wonderful people that I am trying to help free and their families. I cannot let them down. They are depending on me to help their loved ones get back home. I have been anointed to do this. It is not an easy task but it was given to me as part of my life’s work. Once God gives you an assignment, you cannot turn back. I have watched this over and over again in my life — working on this issue and as a nurse at the bedside of the sick and dying.

NRO: How would you advise a woman marrying a Saudi man?

Roush: I would advise her to run away from the man immediately. Do not even entertain a thought about it. Get away fast. As former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia told me once, “Pat, if anyone is thinking about marrying a Saudi, they ought to come talk to you first.”

NRO: From all your lobbying — what percentage of the Beltway gets Saudi Arabia, understands the threat to U.S. citizens, inside and outside the kingdom?

Roush: Very few, including the presidents we have had and their advisers. That is the problem with our Middle East policies. They are a disaster because we do not understand the Arab mind, Islam, and, of course, with the Saudis, this culture of corruption.

NRO: Powell’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia — did you get any indication that your daughters were an agenda item?

Roush: Definitely not. If Powell were smart, he would have brought the girls and their kids home with him. I guess we will just have to work a little harder, till he gets the message.

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