Former 9/11 Commission Slade Gorton on 'Able Danger' Debate

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," August 22, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: Our top story tonight, former 9/11 Commissioner Jamie Gorelick has declined to appear on this program, but joining us now from Seattle is former Senator Slade Gorton, who worked with Jamie Gorelick on the 9/11 Commission.

So where am I going wrong here, senator?

SEN. SLADE GORTON, 9/11 COMMISSION: Well, in the first place, you're not going to have something that had anything to do with 9/11 unless there was some intelligence to share. And it's becoming more and more evident that there wasn't any intelligence to share.

O'REILLY: So you don't believe Shaffer?

GORTON: Shaffer?

O'REILLY: You think Shaffer's lying?

GORTON: Shaffer originally said that he told our staff in Afghanistan about Mohammed Atta. He didn't. There were four people there. None of them heard it.

Since then, he has agreed that he did not do this.

O'REILLY: All right, well, wait, wait, wait.

GORTON: Now he says.

O'REILLY: Wait, wait.

GORTON: Now he says that he first learned about it from someone else.

O'REILLY: But senator, look.

GORTON: the Defense agencies after 9/11. If he learned it after 9/11, how could he have wanted to turn it over to prosecutors in the year 2000?

O'REILLY: Senator, you just heard a sound bite from Colonel Shaffer that was recorded on Friday, three days ago, OK? He flat-out says — and I don't know whether he's telling the truth or not. I don't know. How do I know? I wasn't there. But he flat-out says that his crew, Able Danger, brought information to the U.S. government that Mohammed Atta (search) was in the United States legally — he came in on a visa, all right — was a threat and was told to shut up, stuff it. Intelligence can't go over to the FBI so they could surveille him.


O'REILLY: That's what the colonel's saying. And you're saying he's a liar?

GORTON: What we know on the 9/11 Commission is that he told us nothing about Mohammed Atta or anyone else in Afghanistan, but he did tell us about Able Danger (search).

We followed up on Able Danger. We got records about Able Danger from the Department of Defense. It had nothing about Mohammed Atta in it.

O'REILLY: OK. And I believe you. I believe you.

GORTON: Since this has come out, the Defense Department...

O'REILLY: ...they issued a statement saying they didn't know anything.

GORTON: ...has said they have something.

O'REILLY: Absolutely.

GORTON: It has nothing. And as of today, it tells us that the civilian female, whom Colonel Shaffer has as a source, does not corroborate what he has to say.

O'REILLY: OK. And that's all true.

GORTON: There was nothing to share.

O'REILLY: The Defense Department said — OK. And I believe you. I don't know if I believe the Defense Department or not. —That's a bureaucracy. But I believe you. You're an honorable man. You're saying you didn't know. And I believe you.

But, what I know to be true is that there was a tremendous amount of confusion, from 1995 onward after this crazy act that Janet Reno for some reason in her office made everybody aware of, that Intelligence sources overseas were not to brief criminal investigators like the FBI. —We know they have an intelligence arm, the criminal investigators. —If they got something, it was a violation of people's rights.


O'REILLY: Now you know that as well as I do.

GORTON: No, you have slightly misstated it, but the misstatement is a very important one.

They were not to go to U.S. attorneys who were prosecuting cases. There was no limitation on any intelligence agency sharing anything with any other intelligence agency at all. And so if...

O'REILLY: So you think that subtlety was known by all of the investigators?

GORTON: Subtlety? It isn't a remote subtlety.

O'REILLY: I think it was a culture established by Attorney General Reno.


O'REILLY: ...that don't get involved.


O'REILLY: The overseas people doesn't get involved.

GORTON: There was a policy established by Congress and by judges that you couldn't use intelligence information gotten through one kind of -- you know, of subpoena or wiretap in criminal prosecutions. It had nothing to do with sharing among agencies. And as you've rightly said, when it was finally taken down, you know, not by Ashcroft who just -- who went along completely with what Jamie Gorelick said, but by The Patriot Act.

O'REILLY: Right.

GORTON: ...the court still tried to interfere with it until an appeals court finally ended that wall.


GORTON: And today, we aren't getting the kind of cooperation we ought to have.

O'REILLY: I think you and I agree on 90 percent of this issue, but there's one thing we disagree on. And if you think about it overnight, I think you might see my point of view here.

I'll put forth where I think you're making your mistake. And then I'll give you the last word.

There was a culture created when Janet Reno was attorney general. And we know this. She refused to investigate the Chinese contributions to our political campaigns. The Riyadi family, she refused to get involved with any kind of overseas Intelligence, vis-a-vis people on U.S. soil. She flat-out wouldn't do it.

Jamie Gorelick (search) was one of her top deputies who bought into this entirely. The message was sent if you have stuff overseas, Intelligence overseas, don't bother us with it. And I believe that firmly. Senator, I'll give you the last word, Sir.

GORTON: We agree on a number of things. I'm no defender of Janet Reno as an attorney general.

But what I'm telling you is that "the wall" was created by laws sponsored by the Church committee back in the 1970's. And they went all the way through until after 9/11 was over. And that nothing Jamie Gorelick wrote had the slightest impact on the Department of Defense or its willingness or ability to share intelligence information with other intelligence agencies.

O'REILLY: All right. We'll let the audience decide, senator. Always a pleasure. If you see Ms. Gorelick, tell her she's welcome any time on this program. Thank you.

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