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Sister: Clinton was needed for amnesty

/ Source: The Associated Press

During a phone call to her family in July from her captivity, now-freed journalist Laura Ling said that North Korean officials would be willing to grant amnesty to the journalists if Bill Clinton took part in the process.

“The phones were closely monitored, and things were very obviously being communicated through her,” Lisa Ling, Laura Ling’s sister and fellow journalist, told Meredith Vieira of TODAY on Friday. “She very clearly stated it had to be President Clinton.”

The women were granted just four phone calls to the United States. It was during her last call in July, Lisa Ling told Vieira, that Laura Ling communicated the message about the former president. Lisa Ling said the families jumped into action and called former Vice President Al Gore, Ling and Lee’s boss at Current TV, who helped arrange Clinton’s trip to North Korea.

Lisa Ling had told CNN Thursday that her sister and Lee briefly touched North Korean soil before they were captured and detained for months in that communist country.

Sister still weak and exhausted
Lisa Ling said her sister is still weak, exhausted and emotional.

“Even getting sentences out is challenging, because she’s not used to talking as much,” Lisa Ling said Friday in a telephone interview with Vieira on TODAY. “So we’re just taking things very, very easy with her.”

Details about the capture and 140-day confinement of Laura Ling, 32, and Euna Lee, 36, are beginning to emerge, but Lisa Ling said she wants her sister to be able to tell her own story.

Lee and Ling, reporters for former Vice President Al Gore's San Francisco-based Current TV, were working on a story about the trafficking of women when they were arrested in March. They were sentenced to 12 years of hard labor after being convicted of illegally entering North Korea.

Laura Ling told her family she was treated humanely, but meals were meager and her phone calls were monitored, Lisa Ling said.

Both journalists were pardoned following meetings between Clinton and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, and they returned home Aug. 5. The confined women didn’t know those negotiations were going on though, Lisa Ling said.

The freed women arrived at Burbank's Bob Hope Airport at dawn Wednesday for a jubilant reunion with family and friends.

More on: Laura Ling | Euna Lee