'Factor' Investigation: Disturbing Charges That General Electric Is Doing Business With Iran

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This is a rush transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," January 10, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: Now for the top story tonight, reaction to [charges General Electric is doing business with Iran]. Joining us from New Orleans is Christopher Holton, the vice president of the Center for Security Policy. Here in the studio is Debra Burlingame, co-founder of 9/11 Families for a Safe and Strong America. Ms. Burlingame's brother perished on 9/11. So what say you, madam?

DEBRA BURLINGAME, 9/11 FAMILY MEMBER: Well, I'd say that GE has a problem. And it's a problem that I'm glad you're airing here for the country to know.

They say that they're only fulfilling old contracts. That's lawyer talk for yes, we're still doing business in Iran. They're trying to say that they're not going to take up any new contracts, but lawyers know how to finesse that. The fact of the matter is they are defying U.S. sanctions by going around with a loophole, doing business with their foreign subsidiaries in countries like Syria and Iran.

O'REILLY: I think the American government knows this though. And you know, the State Department has not condemned them, the Bush administration has not condemned them. Other companies do it as well.

BURLINGAME: Well, there are some 35 companies that are doing it. And the SEC Office of Global Security Risk did inquire of GE in 2006, basically saying what are you doing, what's your involvement, what's the extent of your contracts? GE responded, I can summarize it for you by saying none of your business; we're complying with law; and our focus is ensuring shareholder value. That's a euphemism for we're looking after GE's profits. And on the street, that would be called blood money.

O'REILLY: What do you say, Mr. Holton?

CHRISTOPHER HOLTON, CENTER FOR SECURITY POLICY: Well, I can't say it any better than Debra Burlingame just said it. She's exactly right. The fact is companies like General Electric and others are providing corporate life support for our enemies in the war on terrorism when they do business with Iran. It would not have been acceptable in the 1940s to build a hydroelectric plant in Nazi Germany. And it's not acceptable today to be building a hydroelectric plant in Iran. Iran's killing U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

O'REILLY: Now there were contracts, of course, canceled in World War II after Pearl Harbor, because the United States companies were doing business with the Third Reich in Germany, with Italy. I don't know whether they were doing business in Japan or not because of the relationship with them. So you can cancel contracts and anybody should know that any time you want to cancel them, just to say you're fulfilling existing contracts.

But the bin Laden business is also very disturbing, because Hockenberry, if you believe what he says is true, and he did write this for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which is not — he did it in an academic setting. He basically says, look, even after 9/11, even after Usama bin Laden attacked the United States, General Electric wasn't going to probe his operation vis-a-vis his family. And we know now that one of his brothers was involved in Al Qaeda and on and on. That to me is very, very disturbing.

HOLTON: Well, it's disturbing to me, it absolutely is. And it should be disturbing to all Americans as far as I'm concerned.

O'REILLY: Now Ms. Burlingame, Syria also involved, you know, also on the list of the State Department. They do help terrorists in Syria. GE does a lot of business with them as well. So I don't know, man. It's just looking pretty bad here.

BURLINGAME: Well, what really disturbs me about Syria is that we know that 90 percent of the foreign fighters who have come through the Syrian border, who have showed up in Iraq to detonate suicide bombs, IEDs, killing and maiming our troops, they're coming — they fly into Damascus and come through the western border. Our troops call it the ratline. And GE is helping the ratline by, as Chris said, by giving life support to this country.

O'REILLY: Do you see it that way, Mr. Holton? Do you think GE's actually helping the Syrian government? Or is it just a private thing?

HOLTON: They're doing business. They disclosed this themselves. They're doing business with the Syrian government and the Iranian government. GE says that they're doing business with those governments.

O'REILLY: Now when you see the skirmish that they had this week in the Persian Gulf with the boats, little Iranian boats threatening the big American warships — which I think Iran wanted the warships to fire on the little boats — you know, it just ratchets it up in an area that I think most Americans are going to be uncomfortable with. I'm going to give you the last word, Debra, you know, because this is an emotional issue for you. You lost your brother and thousands of other Americans lost people on 9/11.

BURLINGAME: I'd like the American people to understand that what GE is doing is within the letter of the law, but is most definitely violating the spirit of the law. We are trying desperately to avoid another war. These sanctions are to help give our diplomats and our country something to bargain with at the…


BURLINGAME: ...in diplomatic talks. We're trying to turn these countries into international pariahs. And when you give them goods and services, you're working against us.

O'REILLY: OK. Mr. Immelt is invited on this program if he would like to reply.

Debra, thank you. Mr. Holton, we appreciate it.

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