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Transcript: O'Reilly Interviews Al-Arian in September 2001

This is a partial transcript from The O'Reilly Factor, September 26, 2001.

BILL O'REILLY, HOST: Now for the top story tonight. What is going on at the University of South Florida, a state-funded institution? Suspected terrorist Ramadan Abdullah Shallah actually taught classes there. He is now one of the leaders of the Palestinian Islamic jihad.

And the man who brought Shallah to the United States joins us now from Tampa. Dr. Sami Al-Arian is an associate professor of computer engineering at the University of South Florida.

All right. What say you, Professor? This guy is now a big shot in the Islamic jihad, they're taking credit for all kinds of terrorist activity, and you know him pretty well. Got an explanation here?

SAMI AL-ARIAN, PH.D., UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA PROFESSOR: Well, I mean, when he came here, he came as a volunteer. He was working in an intellectual think tank, and he taught at the university, and then he left. He said that his father was sick and he was going back to the occupied territories, and then six months later, we were shocked like everyone else in the world in which he became the leader of the jihad movement.

O'REILLY: You were shocked! You were -- you couldn't understand it. He never told you that his views -- political views were that extreme. You were just taken by surprise?

AL-ARIAN: Everyone was. Everyone who knew him here at the University of South Florida, everyone who knew him personally was extremely surprised.

O'REILLY: All right. You knew a man named Tariq Hamdi, correct? You know Tariq?

AL-ARIAN: Mr. Hamdi. Yeah.

O'REILLY: Yeah. You know him. Were you surprised that he set up an interview with ABC News with Usama bin Laden? Does that surprise you?

AL-ARIAN: I didn't know about that. I mean, Mr. Tariq Hamdi left us about eight, nine years ago. He became a journalist, and I'm not sure what kind of connections he has with whatever journalists are...

O'REILLY: OK. Were you surprised that he was implicated in the embassy bombings in Africa?

AL-ARIAN: Well, I understand he was never implicated.

O'REILLY: Yes, he was.

AL-ARIAN: My understanding is that the FBI has talked to him, they give him security clearance, and if the FBI gives someone security clearance, he must not be implicated.

O'REILLY: No. Right now, he's on the list of suspected terrorists. Did you know that?

AL-ARIAN: No. I'm not aware of that.

O'REILLY: All right. Does that surprise you?

AL-ARIAN: It -- I'll be -- I'll be shocked because this -- this guy has an American citizenship, he was given security clearance by the FBI. I can't imagine that he is...

O'REILLY: OK, but he is. So there's another shocker. So that's three.

In -- in 1988, you did a little speaking engagement in Cleveland, and you were quoted as saying, "Jihad is our path. Victory to Islam. Death to Israel. Revolution. Revolution until victory. Rolling to Jerusalem." Did you say that?

AL-ARIAN: Let me just put it into context. When resident Bush talked about crusade, we understand what he meant here. The Muslim world thought he is going to carry a cross and go invade the Muslim world and turn them into Christians. We have to understand the context. When you say "Death to Israel," you mean death to occupation, death to apartheid, death to oppression, death to...

O'REILLY: But not death to any human being?

AL-ARIAN: No, absolutely not. Absolutely not.

O'REILLY: No.

AL-ARIAN: Absolutely not.

O'REILLY: All right. So now what we have here is you saying death to Israel. You're bringing a guy over here who gets paid by the good citizens of Florida and then goes back and becomes one of the lieutenants or generals of the Islamic jihad, but you don't know nothing about it. Another guy sets up an interview with Osama bin Laden for ABC, and you don know anything about that.

You know, Doctor, it looks to me like there's something wrong down there at the University of South Florida. Am I getting -- am I getting the wrong impression here?

AL-ARIAN: You're getting completely wrong impression because you can pick and choose and interpret it, you know, different ways.

The fact of the matter is we have been involved in intellectual-type activity. We brought dozens of people. All of them are intellectual type.  You're going to get the apple -- a bad apple or two, but that -- if you focus on them, you get one conclusion.

The fact of the matter is that we've been investigated by the FBI for many years...

O'REILLY: Correct.

AL-ARIAN: ...and there has been no wrongdoing whatsoever even suggested.

O'REILLY: Well, I don't know about that. Your -- your brother-in-law is going to be deported right now. I mean, it looks like he's going to get kicked out of the country, correct?

AL-ARIAN: It has nothing to do with this. His deportation...

O'REILLY: It doesn't have anything to do with it? Your brother-in-law is going to get kicked out of the country and it doesn't have anything to do with it?

AL-ARIAN: No. Absolutely not.

O'REILLY: Does that come as a shock to you that he's going to get kicked out of the country?

AL-ARIAN: It was absolutely. As a Palestinian refugee, he lost his visa. He -- his status was not adjusted. It has nothing to do with all that. His deportation had to do with the denial of asylum. It has nothing to do with any of the stuff we're talking about.

O'REILLY: Yeah. Well, Doctor, you know, with all due respect -- I appreciate you coming on the program, but if I was the CIA, I'd follow you wherever you went. I'd follow you 24 hours...

AL-ARIAN: Well, you don't know me. You don't know me. You do not...

O'REILLY: That doesn't matter. With all of this circumstantial evidence...

AL-ARIAN: If you don't know me, you can't judge me by...

O'REILLY: I'm not judging you.

AL-ARIAN: ... simply...

O'REILLY: I'm just saying...

AL-ARIAN: That's exactly what you're saying.

O'REILLY: I'm saying I'd be your shadow, Doctor.

AL-ARIAN: We've been -- we've been looked at, and a judge -- a judge has said that we are not a threat to national security.

O'REILLY: All right.

AL-ARIAN: Even the government itself said we're not.

O'REILLY: OK. All right, Doctor. I'd still shadow you. I'd go to Denny's with you, and I'd go everywhere you went. We appreciate you coming on.

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