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Hearing before the committee on Foreign Relations

HEARING BEFORE THE COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN RELATIONS, UNITED STATES SENATE (June 26, 2003)

 

Responses of Hon. Maura Harty, Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, to Additional Questions for the Record Submitted by Senator Blanche L. Lincoln.

Question 1. As you understand it, what is the current position of the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia regarding the request made by Secretary of State Colin Powell in October, 2002 that Heidi Al-Omary be allowed to return to her rightful home in the United States?

Please articulate any response or responses received from the Saudi government regarding the request.
Answer. The Saudis have created an interministerial commission to work with us towards solutions to the problem of abducted and illegally retained children, including Heidi Al-Omary, and we continue to push at every level for action. The Office of Children's Issues and our Embassy in Riyadh worked closely with the interministerial commission to establish parameters that enabled Heidi's mother, Margaret McClain, and her two adult children to obtain a family visit visa to Saudi Arabia to see Heidi. In May, Ms. McClain spent five days with Heidi in Saudi Arabia. While we welcome the Saudi government's cooperative efforts in facilitating Ms. McClain's access to Heidi, we nonetheless continue to remind the Saudi government that our ultimate goal is Heidi's return to the United States.

Question 2. Has the State Department received any communications from the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that would indicate authorities in Saudi Arabia intend to comply with the request from the U.S. government that Heidi be returned to the United States?

Answer. We have yet to receive an official response to our requests that the government of Saudi Arabia assist in returning Heidi to the U.S. However, Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal has assured the Department of his personal commitment to resolving these cases. We will continue to seek a favorable response to individual cases, such as Heidi's.

Question 3. Please articulate in English the message that was transmitted to the government of Saudi Arabia regarding the formal request that Saudi Arabia surrender custody or Heidi Al-Omary. In what manner and from whom has this message been communicated? Please attach a copy of any written communications regarding this matter.

Answer. Each time a Department principal has traveled to Saudi Arabia to press for the return of all abducted or illegally retained American citizen children in the Kingdom, we have provided the Saudis a Diplomatic Note which includes summaries of each case, including that of Heidi Al-Omary. In addition, Department of State principals, including Secretary Powell, Assistant Secretary Maura Harty, and Ambassador Robert Jordan, have verbally sought Heidi's return in their meetings with Saudi officials.

Question 4. What steps has the State Department taken since Secretary Harty took office to ensure that Heidi Al-Omary is returned to her rightful home in the immediate future? Please list any follow-up communications relating to efforts by the State Department to return Heidi to the United States.

Answer. In January and again in April, Assistant Secretary Harty traveled to Saudi Arabia to raise the issue of international parental child abduction, including the case of Heidi Al-Omary, with Saudi government officials. Since those trips, and the establishment of the Saudi interministerial commission in January, we have seen ten Americans returned to the United States from Saudi Arabia.

Department officials have been speaking with and meeting regularly with Saudi Embassy officials to press for the return to the U.S. of the abducted children, including Heidi. Since the beginning of the year, Saudi Embassy officials have met with Department representatives frequently about these cases, and we intend to meet with these officials on a regular basis until all the cases are resolved.

Question 5.
Please list the names and titles of Saudi government officials with whom Secretary Harty has met in Saudi Arabia in aneffort to recover Heidi Al-Omary and other abducted American children from Saudi Arabia. Please articulate the results, if any, of those communications regarding the case of Heidi Al-Omary?

Answer. During her visit to Saudi Arabia in January 2003, A/S Harty raised the issue of international parental child abduction and wrongful retention with officials from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Interior. On her trip to Saudi Arabia in April 2003, A/S Harty raised the cases of abducted American citizen children, including Heidi Al-Omary, with high Saudi government officials including Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal; Deputy Foreign Minister and Chairman of the Interministerial Commission Ibrahim Al-Khurashi; Assistant Minister of Interior Mohammed bin Naif; Governor of the Eastern Province Mohammad bin Fahd; and Director General of Makkah Region Dr. Abdulaziz H. Al-Sowayegh.
A/S Harty highlighted the U.S. and Saudi Arabia's shared commitment to addressing the problem of international parental child abduction in her meeting with Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal. She also requested his assistance in resolving cases of American women who wish to depart Saudi Arabia.
In her meeting with Deputy Foreign Minister Al-Khurashi, A/S Harty expressed the USG's thanks for the efforts put forth by the Interministerial Commission in conjunction with the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh on cases, including Heidi Al-Omary, who have been abducted to, or wrongfully retained in, Saudi Arabia, as well as on behalf of American women who wish to depart Saudi Arabia despite the objection of their male guardian. She emphasized, however, that greater cooperation is required and that access in any given case is no substitute for the return of a child--our ultimate goal. A/S Harty requested Governor Mohammad bin Fahd's assistance in ensuring the success of the visit by Margaret McClain to Heidi.

Question 6. Does the Executive Branch have the authority, without additional Congressional authorization, to impose sanctions on Saudi Arabia for failing to comply with official requests to return abducted children like Heidi Al-Omary? If not, are there other reasons upon which sanctions against Saudi Arabia can be imposed under current law?

Answer. The Department of State never stops pressing for return to the United States of American children abducted or wrongfully retained abroad, in whatever country the abduction or retention occurs. These cases are not limited to Saudi Arabia.

In furthering our foreign policy goals, economic sanctions are just one of many foreign policy tools that might be available to the Administration, depending on the circumstances. For example, under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), the President may impose various economic sanctions against foreign entities or individuals. The authorities provided to the President by the IEEPA, however, may be exercised only if the President declares a national emergency with respect to an unusual and extraordinary threat, which has its source in whole or substantial part outside the United States, to the national security, foreign policy or economy of the United States.

Question 7. What punitive actions do you think are appropriate against Saudi Arabia when it refuses to comply with U.S. requests to return abducted children? At what point after a request has been made and not responded to do you believe punitive measures should be pursued or at least actively considered?

Answer. The Department of State will never stop pressing, within the parameters of current law and practice, for our goals in resolving cases of international parental child abduction and wrongful retention. Our goals are and will continue to be nothing less than the return of children abducted abroad or access for left behind parents to their children in foreign countries. Our preference is to achieve these goals through progressive negotiation and diplomatic mediation rather than through punitive measures.

Question 8. Under the current policy in Saudi Arabia (as you understand it), are you confident that adult female U.S. citizens who were abducted in violation of a custody order issued by a court in the United States will have a meaningful opportunity to leave the Kingdom upon reaching the age of majority (age 18 or older) without the permission of a male relative?

Answer. The Government of Saudi Arabia made a commitment in September 2002 that all adult American women would be free to travel out of Saudi Arabia. We understand this commitment to apply to all adult American women, including adult U.S. citizens abducted as children in violation of a custody order. In every case we have raised with the Foreign Minister since his government made this commitment, Saudi authorities have granted permission for the American citizen woman to depart. Until Sarah Saga departed Saudi Arabia, none of the women who have been granted such permission had chosen to leave.

Question 9. Under the current policy in Saudi Arabia (as you understand it), do you believe that the children of female U.S. citizens who were abducted in violation of a custody order issued by a court in the United States would be provided an opportunity to leave the Kingdom with their U.S. citizen mother (without the permission of a male relative) when said mother attains the age of majority (age 18 or older) and expresses a desire to leave?

Answer. The commitment of the Saudi Government to permit U.S. citizen women to leave the Kingdom has not extended to the children of these women. In Saudi Arabia, any child who is residing with his or her Saudi-citizen father requires that father's permission in order to obtain an exit visa to leave the country. This often puts women who wish to leave Saudi Arabia in the difficult position of deciding whether to leave alone, to remain in Saudi Arabia with their children, or to negotiate the father's agreement to permit the children to travel to the United States either permanently or for periodic visits.

Question 12. Under current U.S. policy, would a minor child who was born in Saudi Arabia to a female U.S. citizen (who was abducted in violation of a custody order issued by a court in the United States) be given help and assistance by U.S. diplomatic personnel to leave the
Kingdom if the mother requested assistance? Is this true if the mother was not able to transfer U.S. citizenship to her children under U.S. law?

Answer. Embassy and consulate staff lend all support possible to get a child of a U.S. citizen back to the U.S., regardless of that child's citizenship status. The commitment of the Saudi Government to permit U.S. citizen women to leave the Kingdom has not extended to the children of those women. According to our understanding of Saudi law, any child who is residing in Saudi Arabia with his or her Saudi-citizen father requires that father's permission in order to leave the country. This often puts women who wish to leave Saudi Arabia in the difficult position of deciding whether to leave alone, to remain in Saudi Arabia with their children, or to negotiate for the father's consent to the children's travel outside the country. Finally, children in this situation, who are not American citizens can become U.S. citizens through the following process, and we would make a point to help move that process along should the mother be allowed to leave Saudi Arabia.

Since the passage of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, which the Department supported, a child who does not acquire U.S. citizenship at birth is generally eligible to obtain U.S. citizenship while under age 18 by either:

(1) residing the U.S. in the legal and physical custody of a U.S. citizen parent pursuant to a lawful admission for permanent residence, or
(2) for children residing outside of the U.S. in the physical and legal custody of a U.S. citizen parent, by coming to the United States temporarily, for the specific purpose of being naturalized as a U.S. citizen provided the U.S. citizen parent has filed an application with the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services of the Department of Homeland Security and that application has been approved. To qualify under this provision, either the U.S. citizen parent or his/her U.S. citizen parent (i.e., the child's grandparent) must have been physically present in the United States or its outlying possessions for a period or periods totaling not less than five years, at least two of which were after the age of fourteen, and the child must be admitted lawfully and be maintaining such lawful status.

Certain cases may present added complexity. We will be glad to review individual cases to determine if and how a child born abroad to an American parent who does not obtain U.S. citizenship at birth might do so at a later time.

Question 13.
As you understand it, what is the position of the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia regarding the ability of adult female U.S. citizens who wish to leave Saudi Arabia if they initially traveled to Saudi Arabia voluntarily?

Answer. The Government of Saudi Arabia made a commitment in September 2002 that all adult American women would be free to travel out of Saudi Arabia. We understand this commitment to apply to all adult American women, including those who initially traveled to Saudi
Arabia
voluntarily. See question 8.

Question 14.
What is the U.S. policy regarding adult U.S. citizens who wish to leave Saudi Arabia if they initially traveled to Saudi Arabia voluntarily? In this circumstance, would a U.S. citizen receive assistance from U.S. diplomatic personnel to exit the Kingdom if they requested it? What kind of assistance would a U.S. citizen in this situation typically receive? Would assistance be limited to cases where the U.S. citizen was in potential danger?

Answer. U.S. diplomatic personnel will assist all adult U.S. citizens who wish to depart Saudi Arabia in every way necessary to facilitate their departure. This includes interceding on their behalf with the Saudi government for issuance of exit permission, where required under Saudi law, contacting family in the U.S., granting of repatriation loans when needed, alerting social services in the U.S. to assist in their resettlement here, and necessary protection for U.S. citizens in danger.

Question 15. Since June 2002 has any U.S. official demanded that any U.S. citizen being held in Saudi Arabia be allowed to return to the U.S.? If so, please specify all such demands, including to whom they were made, who they related to, by whom they were made, and when they were made.

Answer.
Privacy Act concerns limit our ability to describe in detail the subjects of all demands for return. However, in October 2002, Assistant Secretary Burns raised the importance of cooperating to resolve abduction and wrongful retention cases with Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal. Also in October, the U.S. Consul General in Riyadh met with the Consular Affairs Section Chief at the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs to urge that two American Citizen children being wrongfully retained in Riyadh be promptly returned to the U.S. The Embassy submitted a diplomatic note to the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs requesting the Saudi government repatriate all American citizen children abducted to or wrongfully retained in Saudi Arabia in violation of a U.S. court order. Secretary Powell wrote to Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal in November 2002 to express his wish to see the resolution of abduction cases in Saudi Arabia. In January and in April 2003, A/S Harty traveled to Saudi Arabia and raised the issue of international child abduction with Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal and with high-level officials from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Interior. Secretary Powell raised the issue of American children abducted to Saudi Arabia when he met with Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal on May 12, 2003.

Question 16. Since countries like Saudi Arabia consider girls adults for purposes of marriage at age twelve, has the State Department asked the Saudi government to consider girls as adults at age twelve for purposes of receiving exit visas without the permission of a husband or a father?

Answer. The Department of State has not asked the government of Saudi Arabia to consider girls as adults at age twelve for the purpose of receiving exit visas. We are not aware of any cases where U.S. citizens or children of U.S. citizens in Saudi Arabia have married at age twelve.

Question 17. Would additional resources from Congress enhance the ability of the State Department to successfully recover abducted U.S. citizens from other countries? If so, please specify what resources or authority would be helpful.

Answer. We would never tell Congress that we don't need more resources. Additional staffing would allow us to be more proactive and responsive in handling individual cases, as case officers could dedicate more time to each parent. It would also allow us greater ability to accommodate in-service training and staff development without creating staffing gaps. Continued Congressional support and interest on specific abduction cases as well as the general issue of international parental child abduction is also extremely helpful. Members of Congress have personally raised cases with foreign leaders, and emphasized the significance that Congress and the American public place on the issue. Fifteen years after enactment of the International Child Abduction Remedies Act, we, along with other USG agencies, are interested in reviewing that legislation to identify ways it can be made even more effective. We will certainly share our thoughts and ideas on this matter with interested Members of Congress.

Question 18. Based on my observations, personnel changes in the Office of Children's Issues are stressful and disruptive for left-behind parents. Do you have any suggestions on how to minimize this problem?

Answer. The Office of Children's Issues has grown fairly rapidly during the last five years, largely in response to a growing caseload and the increasing importance of international parental child abduction in U.S foreign policy. We have often had to move fast to meet the workload and drawn from a limited pool of personnel and temporary staff resources. We have also lost staff unexpectedly, when individual officers had to leave for reasons beyond their control.

We very much regret the problems these unavoidable transitions have caused for left-behind parents and, we are happy to report, that we have been able to stabilize our personnel picture. We have recently brought on board several new long-term employees. While there will of course be personnel changes in the future, we are now better able to manage those more smoothly, with much less disruption for left-behind parents.

Question 19. How many active cases involving parental child abduction and/or wrongful retention is the Office of Children's Issues currently handling?

Answer. As of early August, the Office of Children's Issues was handling approximately 900 cases involving children who were abducted or wrongfully retained. In addition, the Office was handling approximately 150 access cases, some of which involve children abducted or wrongfully retained but whose left-behind parent is seeking access, rather than return. Statistics on the number of children abducted or wrongfully retained abroad, as well as those returned, based on records maintained by the Office of Children's Issues, are provided below.

------------------------------------------------------------------------
Children Abducted/
Year Unlawfully Retained Children Returned
------------------------------------------------------------------------
2000 510 146
2001 557 280
2002 455 190
2003 1 169 102
------------------------------------------------------------------------
1 January-early August 2003.


Question 20. How many active cases involving U.S. citizen children who have been abducted to Saudi Arabia are being handled by the Office of Children's Issues? For these cases, how many involve, abducted female U.S. citizens?

Answer. As of August, 13, 2003, the Office Of Children's Issues is handling 10 cases of abduction to and wrongful retention of children in Saudi Arabia, of which 7 involve female children.

Question 21. How many active cases involving adult U.S. citizens who were abducted to Saudi Arabia as children are currently being actively handled by the Office of Children's issues or other office in the State Department?

Answer. We are, as of August 13, 2003, monitoring two cases, involving three women, of now-adult U.S. citizens who were abducted to Saudi Arabia as children. These citizens have been advised of their claims to U.S. citizenship and of their right to seek exit permission from the Saudi Government. One of these individuals was granted an exit visa by the Saudi government and the Department issued her a U.S. passport. She has decided not to depart Saudi Arabia at this time.

Question 22. Approximately how many active child abduction and wrongful retention cases does each caseworker handle in the Office of Children's Issues?

Answer. Each caseworker presently handles an average of sixty active abduction and wrongful retention cases.

Question 23. Secretary Harty, do you support adding additional staff to the Office of Children's Issues?

Answer. There is no doubt that increased staffing in the Office of Children's Issues would allow us to be more proactive and responsive to parents, since officers would have more time to dedicate to each case. It would also allow us to provide more opportunities for in-service training and professional development that would, ultimately, make officers more effective in their jobs.

It is important to note that the Office of Children's Issues has grown significantly since it was established in 1994. From a small staff of four employees, it now has a staff of 28, including twelve abduction case officers who dedicate their time and energy to assisting left-behind parents. In addition, we are working to establish a prevention unit that will allow us to focus resources on this important function, which is now handled by abduction case officers. Having added new staff, our focus is now on staff development and training, as well as on establishing Standard Operating Procedures that will enhance each officer's ability to serve parents and children.

Question 24. When and under what circumstances does the State Department consider a case involving an abducted U.S. citizen closed or inactive? Does the status of a case change when the abductee attains the age of majority or a custody order expires? If cases are generally considered closed or inactive after an abducted child attains the age of, 18 or 21, does the same rule apply to female abductees in Saudi Arabia?

Answer. Child Abduction cases are closed in the Office of Children's Issues when the child turns 18 or when the Left Behind Parent requests the office to close the case. Cases are also closed if a child is returned to the United States, though in cases where the parent believes there is potential for re-abduction, the case is kept as an active prevention case. The State Department's interest in active cases does not end on a child's 18th birthday. Necessary efforts to ensure the well being of a now-adult American citizen are undertaken by the Office of American Citizen Services in the Bureau of Consular Affairs until that adult informs us that he or she does not require assistance.

Question 25. Secretary Harty, you have stated that U.S. citizens have been recovered from Saudi Arabia since you took office. Please describe each case. Also, can you please describe what actions the State Department undertook to facilitate the release of these U.S. citizens including any negotiations with foreign governments, actions such as issuing passports, or threatening action against a foreign government that is not acting in accordance with appropriate laws?

Answer. Since the beginning of the year and as of July 7, 2003, ten children have been returned from Saudi Arabia, closing two abduction and two access cases in the Office of Children's Issues. Due to Privacy Act considerations, we are unable to provide names or other specific information about these cases.

In March 2003, a six year old child who had been abducted to Saudi Arabia in February 2002, was returned to the U.S. The Left Behind Parent had no contact with the child since her abduction. Embassy Riyadh located the child in February 2003 when the Taking Parent appeared at the embassy requesting a routine notarial service. The embassy took physical possession of the Taking Parent's U.S. passport and informed her that a federal warrant had been issued for her arrest. The Taking Parent arranged with the FBI and U.S. Attorney's offices to return the child voluntarily.

Two teenage American citizens departed Saudi Arabia for their home in Phoenix, Arizona on Saturday, April 5, 2003, accompanied by a consular officer from Embassy Riyidh. The boys were abducted to Saudi Arabia by their non-custodial Saudi father on July 26, 2002. After learning that the boys were being neglected and that they risked being abused by their father, Saudi government officials issued exit visas for the boys without consulting the father. USG officials worked closely with the Saudi Ministry of Interior to resolve this case. The Saudi government's cooperation with the USG in this case provided useful precedent to help resolve remaining active abduction cases.

In June 2003, an AmCit mother returned with her two teenage children who had been held by their father in Jeddah since the mother left the Kingdom in 1998. The children were put into boarding school in Durban, South Africa in 2001. In May, the American Consulate General in Durban substantiated physical abuse of one of the children by the father. The Consulate in Durban provided a letter for South African immigration to assist the children to depart on their American passports since they had entered the country on their Saudi passports.

A Left Behind Parent notified the Office of Children's Issues on July 7, 2003 that her American citizen teenage sons had arrived in the U.S. on July 6, 2003. Until 2002, the mother had not seen either one of her sons since 1994 when their father refused to allow them to leave Saudi after a two-week vacation. The older boy was allowed to spend last summer with his mother, but she had not seen her younger son until now. The father had refused all Embassy requests for consular access to the boys, and the Saudi government repeatedly refused the mother's requests for a family visit visa. She was finally granted a visa late last month, after repeated requests to the Saudi government by the Office of Children's Issues and U.S. Embassy Riyadh. She was in the process of making travel plans when she learned that the boys had used money she sent to them to buy plane tickets to the U.S. Over the past year, the mother had kept in surreptitious contact with her older son, and the boys had renewed their U.S. passports with the assistance of Embassy Riyadh. The Left Behind Parent reported to the Office of Children's Issues that she believes the USG's constant demands for access led her husband to allow the boys to leave the Kingdom.

A Taking Parent and his three children, all dual-national U.S.-Saudi citizens, sought protection and assistance in returning to the United States from Embassy Riyadh. The embassy worked with Saudi authorities to have exit visas placed in the children's and the father's U.S. passports. The children were reunited with the Left Behind Parent in the U.S. on July 18, 2003. The Left Behind Parent lived in Saudi until 1998 when the Taking Parent's brother forced her to leave and the Taking Parent divorced her. The Taking Parent's brother confiscated all travel documents for the Taking Parent and the children. Consular access to the children had been denied since 1999.

Question 26. In September 2002, Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi Foreign Minister, wrote to Secretary Powell and suggested that in four cases, U.S. citizens had abducted children out of Saudi Arabia in violation of Saudi law. It is now clear that in at least two of the referenced cases, the referenced children live in Saudi Arabia, and are not able to leave to the United States. Prince Saud also falsely accused the U.S. military of assisting Miriam Hernandez Davis in ``abducting'' her daughter Dria from Saudi Arabia. Has Prince Saud or any other Saudi official provided any correction or clarification to the September 17, 2002 letter? Has the State Department requested any clarification on this letter?

Answer. We have not received a clarification or correction of the September 17, 2002 letter from Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, nor have we requested such clarification.

Question 27. Has the Saudi government demanded that any of its citizens who have kidnapped Americans return the kidnapping victims to the U.S.?

Answer. To the best of our knowledge, the government of Saudi Arabia has never ordered a parent to return American citizen children abducted to or wrongfully retained in the Kingdom, except in the case of clear neglect or abuse. The government has, however, pressured Saudi families to find a way to resolve cases of wrongful retention or abuse. In cases involving sexual or physical child abuse, the Saudi government has pressured Saudi fathers to allow mothers to depart the Kingdom with their children. In April, responding to the USG's insistent requests for intervention in the case of two abducted American citizen children, the Saudi government granted them exit visas to return to their mother in Arizona. The boys had been victims of abuse and neglect at the hands of their Saudi father.

Question 28. In 1990, the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh ejected Monica Stowers and her children out of the Embassy when they came seeking refuge from her abusive husband. Since that time Monica and her children have spent years living under difficult conditions in Saudi Arabia. However, last year Ambassador Jordan pledged that no American seeking refuge in the Embassy would be ever be thrown out again. Recently, the State Department began urging Americans in Saudi Arabia to consider leaving the country because conditions in the Kingdom are not considered safe for Americans.

Therefore, assume hypothetically that there is an American woman who is living in Saudi Arabia with her American children, and that she and her children are being abused by their Saudi husband, and that the woman wishes to leave Saudi Arabia with her children, but her Saudi husband will not give his consent to do so. Could the American woman bring her children to the Embassy and receive refuge in the Embassy until she was to leave, Saudi Arabia? Can you guarantee that an American woman in these circumstances would not be removed from the Embassy like Monica Stowers?

Answer. Not only can we guarantee that a woman and her children in such circumstances would receive appropriate protection, we can demonstrate that American citizens facing similar situations are now receiving needed protection in our Embassies and Consulates. Through mid-July of 2003, 5 American women, 1 American man and 10 children, mostly fleeing abusive family situations, have sought protection at the U.S. Embassy and consulates in Saudi Arabia. Several more are in contact with the Embassy or Consulate and know that refuge is an option, if needed. In a separate case a man and three children have also sought protection. While at the Embassy, the Americans are provided food at no cost to themselves, essential items and services, such as laundry, and whatever entertainment and comforts are available, such as DVD facilities. It is made clear that they are welcome to stay at the Embassy or compound as long as necessary to ensure their safety or until their repatriation to the United States.

Question 29. Secretary Harty, under what circumstances have you interacted with parents of abducted children? Please explain.

Answer. Shortly after I became Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs, I wrote to all of the left-behind parents in our active case files. In that letter, I confirmed the importance of resolving parental child abduction cases as a U.S. foreign policy interest, and invited the parents to meet with me. On February 24, 2003, I met with sixty-four left-behind parents at a Town Hall meeting in Washington, DC. I met with left-behind parents again in Chicago on July 28, 2003. I plan a similar meeting later this year on the west coast. In addition to those meetings, I have met with a number of individual parents to discuss their cases. My travel to the Middle East since becoming Assistant Secretary of State afforded me the opportunity to meet with abducted and retained children and report back to their left-behind parents. In one case, I had the privilege of actually meeting with a left-behind mother who had come to the Middle East to try to recover her children (she succeeded). Finally, even when events direct my attention elsewhere, the Office of Children's Issues keeps me fully briefed to the status of the many active cases, and gets me involved whenever necessary.

Question 30. Please indicate the dates Sara Saga resided with her children at the U.S. consulate in Jeddah. During her stay did the State Department provide Ms. Saga and her two children with food, liquids and other essential items? Did the State Department request payment for items provided to Ms. Saga and her children from Ms. Saga or anyone else? If so please explain. Also, please attach any documents or communications (including emails) from the State Department requesting payment.

Answer. Sara Saga and her two children occupied the modest quarters of the Consulate's staff apartment from June 16 to 23, 2003. Ms. Saga and her children were provided with all essential items, including laundry service as well as nonessential items that were available to make her stay more comfortable, e.g. DVD player and DVDs, books, access to internet, and some children's toys. At the time of Ms. Saga's arrival, a funding mechanism was not in place to provide essentials to Americans without financial means who seek refuge on the Consulate compound. Others who have sought refuge on the Consulate compound prior to Ms. Saga arrived with either sufficient funds to cover any essential items or family members in the U.S. opened an Overseas Citizens Services (OCS) Trust with the State Department. This, is standard procedure when an American is in need of financial assistance and family members are able and willing to help. In the case of Ms. Saga, the consulate requested that her mother open an OCS Trust, and she agreed. Ms. Saga used OCS Trust funds for the first three days of her stay. Within days, a funding mechanism was provided by the Department, Sara was reimbursed for her expenses, and subsequent expenses were paid by the Department. Documents regarding payment requests are enclosed.

Question 31. After Sara Saga requested assistance from U.S. officials at the consulate in Jeddah, please list the highest ranking State Department official who communicated the U.S. government's position to Saudi officials regarding Ms. Saga's request for assistance in leaving the Kingdom with her children. Please articulate the message the U.S. government delivered and to whom in the Saudi government it was delivered?

Answer. Margaret Scobey, Charge d'Affaires, a.i., met with His Royal Highness, Prince Saud Al Faisal, Minister of Foreign Affairs, on June 18, 2003. Ms. Scobey urged that the government of Saudi Arabia approve the departure of Ms. Saga and her two children, pointing out that Ms. Saga had been abducted to Saudi Arabia as a small child and that she desired to be reunited, with her children, with her own mother. The Foreign Minister approved Ms. Saga's departure immediately, keeping his commitment that any adult American citizen woman may leave the Kingdom freely. He maintained that the children (who were born and have lived their entire lives in Saudi Arabia, and are citizens of that country) could depart if they did so legally, which would require either a court order or the agreement of their father. Although Ms. Saga could have departed Saudi Arabia without his permission, her husband did agree that she could enter and depart the Kingdom at her own initiative for the five-year validity of her Saudi passport. Ms. Saga departed Saudi Arabia on June 24, 2003.

Question 32. According to press reports, Ms. Saga, while in theU.S. consulate, met with officials from the Saudi Foreign Ministry.What were the names of these men and what were their official positions within the Saudi government? What were the names of the officials from the U.S. consulate in Jeddah., who accompanied these Saudi officials into Ms. Saga's room at the consulate? Who, specifically, was involved in the decision to allow the Saudi officials into the consulate to meet with Ms. Saga?

Answer. On June 19 at the Consulate, Sara Saga met with Abdulaziz H. Al-Sowayegh, Director Genera,l of the Makkah Region, Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Bander Jameel, Chief of Protocol of the Makkah Region, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Majed M. Al-Harazy, Special Assistant to the Director General of the Makkah Region, Ministry of Foreign Affairs. From the U.S. Consulate, in attendance were Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, Consul General; Laurie Darlow, Security Officer; and Loren Mealey, Chief of American Citizen Services.

Ms. Saga, also a Saudi citizen, was requested by officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to have a brief meeting with officials prior to her departure from the Kingdom, so that they could hear from her directly as to her wishes. Rather than take Ms. Saga off the Consulate grounds for the meeting, the Charge in Riyadh asked the Consul General to ask the Saudi officials to meet with Ms. Saga on Consulate grounds. They agreed, and Sara was agreeable to the meeting. Although the meeting was arranged on short notice, Sara knew well in advance that the visit was going to take place that day. The meeting was in her room because that was where she and the children were at the time. U.S. Consulate officials, three women, were there to ensure that she was not intimidated or coerced and so she would not feel her children might be taken from her forcefully. Consulate officials stressed to Sara that it was her choice whether to meet with the foreign ministry officials at all and that she could stay on the compound.

Question 33. Did any State Department or other U.S. government employee read or review the document that various press accounts report that Ms. Saga signed regarding her parental rights? If so, please name all such individuals. If so, did those U.S. officials provide any advice to Ms. Saga or recommend that she seek counsel before signing a document that could possibly be construed as a legally binding document?

Answer. At the conclusion of the meeting described above, the Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs presented Ms. Saga with a document. He asked her to sign it so that the Ministry had a record of her understanding of the implications of her decision to depart the Kingdom. The Consul General asked to review the document. The Consul General (``CG'') read the document to Ms. Saga slowly, stressing that she did not have to sign it. Ms. Saga was then given the document to read. The CG asked if she understood the document's contents. Ms. Saga said that she understood it, and that she was willing to sign it. The CG offered that she could make any additions or deletions that she felt did not accurately describe the meeting. Ms. Saga responded that she had no changes to make, and signed the document.

CG and an American Citizen's Services (ACS) Officer suggested to Ms. Saga and her family members present at the Consulate (an aunt and uncle who Ms. Saga invited to see her on the Consulate grounds and who were supportive of Ms. Saga's desire to travel to the U.S.) that she may wish to consult with an attorney. A list of local attorneys was provided to Ms. Saga. Ms. Saga did not retain an attorney or ask the Consulate staff to contact an attorney for her.

Ms. Saga later told the ACS Officer that her uncle advised her to seek a written agreement with her husband directly. At Ms. Saga's request, her husband wrote out and signed in front of an official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs a document stating his agreement to Ms. Saga's future access to the children whenever she is in the Kingdom.

Question 34. According to reports, Ms. Saga signed a document that forfeited many of her parental rights to her children. Does the State Department feel that the agreement was valid? Also, does the State Department feel that it was proper to allow Saudi officials to meet with her and encourage her to sign the agreement?

Answer.
The Department of State does not know what legal effect, if any, the document described above may have in Saudi Arabia or anywhere else. Our Consulate personnel, who are not lawyers, did their best to inform Ms. Saga that she did not have to sign that document and that she could add or delete anything in it. Ms. Saga chose to sign it. In later consultations with post, the Department drafted a second document for Ms. Saga to sign that clarified that she had not intended to relinquish her rights to her children. U.S. Consulate personnel delivered this document to the MFA.
We do believe that arranging a meeting between Ms. Saga and Saudi officials was proper. Ms. Saga and her children are Saudi citizens, and we recognize that the Saudi government believed it had an obligation to ensure that Ms. Saga was not being coerced into leaving Saudi Arabia and to attend to the interests of her children. Our consulate personnel did not pressure or encourage Ms. Saga to sign anything that she did not wish to sign and did their best to arrange a setting for the meeting that was comfortable and non-threatening.

Question 35. Please indicate the dates another U.S. citizen resided with her children at the U.S. consulate in Jeddah during the same time period. During her stay at the consulate, did the State Department provide her and her children with food, liquids, and other essential items? Did the State Department request payment for items provided to her and her children from her or anyone else? If so, please explain.
Also attach any documents (including emails) from the State Department requesting payment.

Answer. An American citizen woman and her three Saudi-American children sought refuge at the Consulate from June 2 through June 17. As is the procedure in cases of Americans in need of financial assistance, an OCS Trust fund with the State Department was established by the parents of the American woman to cover the cost of meals. Procedures are now in place so that Americans granted refuge will normally not have to pay for basic necessities. Documents regarding payment are enclosed.

Question 36. After this American citizen requested assistance from U.S. officials at the consulate, who communicated the U.S. government's position to Saudi officials regarding her request for assistance in the leaving the Kingdom with her children? Please articulate the message the U.S. government delivered and to whom in the Saudi government it was delivered.

Answer. In Jeddah, Consul General Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley called on Abdulaziz H. Al-Sowayegh, Director General of the Makkah Region, Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In Riyadh, Charge Margaret Scobey called on the Assistant Minister of the Interior, Muhammad bin Nayif.
Also present was the Deputy Minister of the Interior, Dr. Ahmad Al-Salim.

Question 37. Does the United States government request payment from a foreign government or anyone else for food and other items provided to Saudi Arabian nationals being detained by the United States at Guantanamo Bay Cuba? Please explain.

Answer. No foreign governments are permitted to pay for food or other items provided to their nationals detained by the United States at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Question 38. In late April or early May 2003, State Department personnel informed Margaret McClain that the Saudi Embassy spokesperson, Adel Al-Jubeir, volunteered to pay for her two adult children and her to travel to Saudi Arabia to meet with Heidi. Do you know who initiated Al-Jubeir's offer? Did the State Department suggest that Al-Jubeir make such an offer?

Answer. At Ms. McClain's request, the Office of Children's Issues queried the Saudi Embassy about the possibility of Saudi funding for Ms. McClain and her adult children to travel to Saudi Arabia. It is our understanding from the Saudi Embassy in Washington that no Saudi government fund exists to pay for such travel; nonetheless, the Department is aware that the Saudi Embassy will attempt to find a private sponsor or benefactor for persons who request such funding and demonstrate financial need.

Question 39. Secretary Harty, please explain why you decided to meet personally with Mr. Al-Omary prior to Ms. McClain's recent trip to the Kingdom instead of communicating directly with high level Saudi government officials to ensure Ms. McClain would have access to her daughter during her most recent visit?

Answer. I feel that every chance for dialogue that might result in an abducted child's maintaining a relationship with a Left Behind Parent is worth pursuing. In each meeting we have had with Mr. Al-Omary, he has gradually developed a less adversarial role with us. It has been our feeling that if Mr. Al-Omary felt that his side of the story was being listened to, even if disagreed with, the chances for progress in this case would increase. I met with Mr. Al-Omary in order to attempt to convince him that allowing Ms. McClain to have a meaningful visit with Heidi was in the best interest of the child. The Office of Children's Issues and our embassy in Riyadh also worked closely with the Saudi interministerial commission to ensure Ms. McClain's visit.

Question 40. Are you concerned that meeting personally with a child abductor you could unnecessarily elevate his stature with Saudi government officials? If not, please explain.

Answer.
Every chance for dialogue that might result in an abducted child's maintaining a relationship with a Left Behind Parent and which may lead to our ultimate goal, the return of that child to the United States, is worth pursuing.

Question 41.
Why did Ms. McClain have to personally negotiate the terms of her visit with Heidi upon her arrival in Saudi Arabia? In the future, will you insist that the terms of visitation between left-behind parents and child abductors for which arrest warrants have been issued be negotiated between government officials if the left-behind parent makes that request?

Answer. It was the Department's understanding prior to Mrs. McClain's departure for Saudi Arabia that the Saudi interministerial commission had negotiated the visit parameters with Mr. Al-Omary, and that Mr. Al-Omary had agreed to allow Mrs. McClain to see Heidi. However, Mr. Al-Omary apparently at the last minute insisted on a meeting at the office of the governor of the Eastern Province on the day of Mrs. McClain's arrival as a condition of allowing the visits to Heidi. Present at the meeting were Mr. Al-Omary, Mrs. McClain and her adult children, USG officials from the Embassy in Riyadh and the Consulate in Dhahran, as well as Saudi government officials.

Question 42. Did U.S. diplomatic personnel agree to allow the meeting with Ms. McClain, Mr. Al-Omary and Saudi officials to discuss the terms of visitation between Ms. McClain and Heidi to be videotaped? Who proposed that this meeting be videotaped?

Answer. The Deputy Chief of Mission to Saudi Arabia, Margaret Scobey, objected strongly when Mr. Al-Omary stated that he wished to record the meeting at the governor's office, and the camera was removed. USG officials had no prior knowledge of the video camera in the conference room.

Question 43. In April and June of 2003, Ms. McClain pres

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