Joel Mowbray

  The first witness before the committee was actually a fellow Senator, Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), who testified about the plight of her constituent, Margaret McClain.  Margaret’s daughter, Heidi, was kidnapped by her Saudi father in August 1997—with the apparent help of the Saudi embassy.  With Heidi, who turns eleven on July 10, almost of marrying age—some kidnapped American girls have been married off in the Kingdom at age twelve—Margaret is desperate.  Her visit to see her daughter—which didn’t happen until July 2002, after nearly five years had passed—was disastrous.  Margaret’s scheduled five-day visit with Heidi was reduced to three hours—at a McDonald’s.  Her second visit this year went somewhat better, but Heidi’s prospects of reaching freedom don’t seem to have improved.

  After Sen. Lincoln finished, assistant secretary of state for Consular Affairs Maura Harty, whose agency is responsible for handling abduction cases, testified that her office was doing all that it could to help the children.  But even though the Saudis received mild criticism from her, the House of Saud has never been pressured by Harty to return the kidnapped American kids.

  Although State might not be taking the Saudi royal family to task, Senators Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) certainly are.  Holding a hearing one floor above the session on child abductions, Kyl and Schumer explored the tangled web of Saudi funding for Islamic terrorism.  For the Saudis, it was devastating.  Despite protests from Saudi-defenders at State and “unnamed” administration officials that the Saudis are helping in the War on Terror, a high-ranking FBI official plainly disagreed.

  In testimony that could only be considered damaging for the House of Saud, the FBI’s assistant director for Counterterrorism called Saudi Arabia the “epicenter” of terror funding.  When asked if that included al Qaeda, he said, “Yes.”

  No amount of money can conceal an increasingly—glaringly—obvious reality: the Saudis are not our friends.  They not only fund groups who aim to kill us, but they directly imprison Americans, preventing them from leaving the Kingdom.  The sooner Americans see past the Saudi spin machine, the sooner the Saudi jig will be up.

  Hopefully for ten-year-old Heidi, five-year-old Ibrahim, three-year-old Hanin—and all the other American children trapped in the desert prison—the truth will set them free.

Joel Mowbray

Joel Mowbray, who got his start with, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.

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