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Transcript: Ken Starr on the Legacy of FBI Director Louis Freeh

This partial transcript from The O'Reilly Factor, May 24, 2001 was provided by the Federal Document Clearing House. Click here to order the complete transcript.

O'REILLY: In the "Unresolved Problem" segment tonight, the legacy of FBI Director Louis Freeh.

He has been harshly criticized for the Timothy McVeigh screwup and for failing to inform the American people about vital issues, such as campaign finance reform violations and Chinese espionage.

Joining us now from Washington is a Freeh supporter, former independent counsel Ken Starr.

You wrote a piece in "The Wall Street Journal" that said that Mr. Freeh is an effective leader, moral courage, great ability, a model for an FBI guy, and I -- I don't have any problem with that, but do you judge as an American now, not as a Washington insider, but as an American, do you know what happened with the Chinese espionage Wen Ho Lee case?

KEN STARR, FORMER INDEPENDENT COUNSEL: Well, I know that the bureau worked very hard on that case and, in fact, ended up with a guilty plea to a very serious felony by Wen Ho Lee.

But, you know, Bill, you can go ahead and say, "Hey, look, lousy job here. Poor job there." When you look at the totality, that's the way I look at it. I look at the totality of what the bureau does, and they have a very great job, and I think they do a great job and need to be complimented.

(CROSSTALK)

O'REILLY: But we have to be discerning, Judge. In the Wen Ho Lee case, do you know what happened there? Do you know how many secrets the Chinese got, how they got in?

(CROSSTALK)

O'REILLY: I don't either. OK? We're, both of us are in positions where we have a lot of information crossing our desk. The people that watch this program tonight, they don't know either. That is wrong, Judge. That is wrong.

And Director Freeh has an obligation to tell us what happened in that case, what happened in campaign finance, and what happened in other major investigations. He will not tell us. That is wrong.

STARR: Bill, with all due respect, that really is -- what you are complaining about is ultimately an obligation really of the United States Congress and oversight. It's not the job of the director of the FBI, with all due respect, to go out and hold a lot of press conferences and the like. That really has not been his style. I applaud him for that.

O'REILLY: Why?

STARR: I think that frankly what the job requires -- and there are going to be some difficulties and problems along the way -- is a person who basically has -- you are saying, "Tell us more."

O'REILLY: Yeah.

STARR: OK. Fair enough, Bill. Complain about telling us more. I say what I want the director of the FBI to be is someone who is completely honest and completely trustworthy.

O'REILLY: All right, there is no question he is that in my mind. He's an honest man.

STARR: Good.

O'REILLY: But I'm telling you, we've had the most powerful senators in the country on this program. They do not know what happened in the Wen Ho Lee case. They do not know what happened in the campaign finance case. And they say we can't get the information from the FBI. That is flat-out wrong, Judge. It is wrong.

STARR: Bill, Bill, I have to disagree with you to this extent. I'm not qualified to talk about the specifics. I'm just not on Wen Ho Lee. But with respect to campaign finance, I did follow that. That was not national security information.

And what we had there was the director of the FBI put in a very difficult position. He made an honest judgment. I'm sure it was an honest judgment. He made his recommendation to the attorney general of the United States. She didn't accept that recommendation.

You can criticize the judge. I wouldn't, Judge Freeh, for not resigning under those circumstances. I applaud him for staying on.

(CROSSTALK)

O'REILLY: That's not my point, Judge. I think he did the right thing there, according to Labella and the other guys. My point is that now it's over. We need to know what happened. He will not tell us what happened.

Janet Reno won't tell us what happened. No one will tell us. That is not the way this republic was designed to operate, Judge. It's wrong. And guys like you need to speak out about it. The American public is still in the dark over major issues that they should not be in the dark over.

STARR: But the problem is there really is an issue -- I mean, this is a basic policy squabble, Bill, that you're having with the way the Justice Department conducts itself and the like.

(CROSSTALK)

STARR: Hold on. You may say it's all over. But it may not be all over.

O'REILLY: It is all over. According to the Justice Department, those investigations are closed. And they can tell the American people, but they won't.

You see my point, I'm sure. You don't have to agree. But I'm telling you, it's not fair to keep the American people, who pay your salary, Louis Freeh's salary, in the dark when these things are over. Tell us what happened so it doesn't happen again. I'll give you the last word.

STARR: Well, I am delighted that that is the only complaint that you have, Bill, against the FBI because he has been a terrific director of the FBI under very difficult times. Let's applaud him. Say, "Give us more information," but let's applaud him for protecting the FBI during a very difficult time from politicization of...

(CROSSTALK)

O'REILLY: I believe Mr. Freeh is a patriot. I think he owes us a detailed explanation. If he writes a book, I'll read it. And we always appreciate your time, Judge. Thanks very much.

STARR: Good to be here, Bill.

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