The U.S. and U.K. collaborated to snatch Khadija al-Saadi's family in Hong Kong and deliver them into the custody of a murderous dictator.
BY CONOR FRIEDERSDORF
AUG 7 2014
A rendition victim is now speaking out to highlight this aspect of the controversy. Today, she's a 23-year-old college student working toward a degree in the humanities. When her family was kidnapped she was a frightened 12-year-old girl.
Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi was in power at the time. For years, he'd been hunting opponents of his brutal regime, including the father of Khadija al-Saadi, the 12-year-old. Her family fled to the United Kingdom and later to China (her father was present at times and away from the family at other times–he describes his two stints in Afghanistan in this interview). Around this time, Tony Blair's government and the Bush administration were both trying to cut deals with the dictator, hoping to make him an ally in the war on terrorism. And Dick Cheney was still insisting that America had to operate "on the dark side."
That's how the CIA and MI6, its British equivalent, happened to participate in this particular rendition. The family, including our 12-year-old protagonist and her two brothers, age 11 and 9, were kidnapped and forced onto a plane in Hong Kong.
The parents were separated from their kids, she recalled in an essay brought toGawker by an international human-rights group, Reprieve, that helps document renditions:
The guards took us to see our mother once on the 16-hour flight. She was crying, and told us that we were being taken to Gaddafi's Libya. Shortly before the plane landed, a guard told me to say goodbye to my father, at the front of the plane. I forced myself ahead and saw him with a needle in his arm.
I remember guards laughing at me. Then I fainted.
We were taken off the plane and bundled into cars. Hoods were pulled over my parents' heads. Libyans forced my mother, sister and I into one car, my brothers and father another. The convoy drove to a secret prison outside Tripoli, where I was certain we were all going to be executed. All I knew about Libya was that Colonel Gaddafi wanted to hurt my father, and that our family had always been moving from country to country to avoid being taken to him. Now we had been kidnapped, flown to Libya, and his people had us at their mercy.
Her account is consistent with documents found by Human Rights Watch after the fall of Libya's regime.
The Bush administration transferred at least seven detainees into Qaddafi's control, knowing full well that he was a murderer, a tyrant, and a sponsor of terrorism. The U.K. took the lead in al-Saadi's case, but CIA agents were complicit in her treatment. If you'd helped kidnap a 12-year-old girl and delivered her to the henchmen of a Libyan dictator, what would you do to prevent your shameful, embarrass deed from being made public? If given a black pen and the opportunity to ink over the official record, would you?
These are the stakes as the Senate report on CIA practices continues to be suppressed, with Obama's full knowledge.
She argues that publishing an unredacted explanation of what happened to her and her family—or more colloquially, the truth—is the way to prevent such abuses in the future.
For more on her story, see her essay at Gawker, the documents discovered by Human Rights Watch, and the long list of press reports collected at Reprieve's website.