By Pat Roush
Saturday, March 22, 2003 1:00 a.m.
After the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, things moved quickly for the “man from Boston” that I had hired to rescue my daughters from Saudi Arabia. Unable to go to the American military for help or solicit Western ex-pats, Ed Ciriello, a former CIA operative, had to find the right Arab contact to grab the kids and make it across the border, safely out of Saudi Arabia.
The girls were right in the middle of the Arabian Peninsula with a long ride to either the Persian Gulf or Red Sea. The country was armed with high tech surveillance systems that were bought from my own country which were now being used to keep my daughters tightly inside their cave in the Najd Desert of Saudi Arabia. That, plus the U.S. placed infrastructure and U.S. trained Saudis that worked in keeping this system “well oiled” made any free travel inside the kingdom almost impossible. There were road blocks and check points everywhere. How could Ed get the girls to freedom without getting his head chopped off or spending the rest of his life inside a filthy, insect infested, three by six Saudi jail cell?
Ed had savvy and plenty of guts but more that that he had an unexplainable intuitiveness that had kept him alive all these years under intense circumstances. I had the utmost faith in Ed, but this seemed like a “Mission Impossible” assignment that even Ed couldn’t solve.
While Iraq was destroying Kuwait, Ed was busy making contacts with a local drug smuggler in hopes of getting the girls out through either Jordan or Qatar. “Ali Baba” as Ed slyly referred to the leader of about six Arabs who knew the bad roads and borders well and were used to taking illegal “goods” in and out of Saudi Arabia, seemed to be the key to the mission. Ed sent me the following letter:
After what seems like an amazing and agonizing amount of time and effort, I have finally been accepted into the inner circle of “Ali Baba” and his 40 thieves. Actally a Saudi with about six guys, but they seem ready to do business. I’m still not 100 percent sure they can do it – lack of guts mostly – but at the moment we almost trust each other.
Up till now we have been doing the usual Arab waltz – coffee, talk and more coffee. Now we have made it to the semifinals. Their price for a straight-out kidnapping is 200,000 riyals ($60K). Half up front. The balance after we cross the border. Understand, after I tell them the “whole” truth about what they must do the price will go up again. But for now they accept what I have proposed for the amount quoted.
Time is important. This “war” threat is the perfect cover. If there was ever a good time to do this, now is that time. In fact, if they go to shooting, it might even improve our position!
Too bad the State Department will not track his Arab a– for us. If he ever took them out of the country, the rest would be much easier than what we have planned here. Well, there is not chance of their help – never was – so we stay with what we have.
Money in large quantities with no guarantee of any results is where we are. No one but me wants to do this just because it needs doing. Money makes the best motivator for some and especially for smuggling and cattle rustlers.
My mother and I quickly assembled our finances and sent the amount that Ed requested. Then we waited. U.S. troops were all over the region and we were hopeful that there would be enough chaos to afford Ed and Ali the necessary cover.
They planned and we prayed. D-Day was approaching.