Bolton blasts Obama's 'massive failure': Libyan attack is what when you let your guard down on terrorism

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," September 19, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: An attack on an American consulate on September 11, four Americans, including our ambassador murdered. Did the Obama administration really think it was all because of a low-budget YouTube video?

Former U.N. ambassador John Bolton joins us. Your thoughts, sir, on the fact that at least until today, the -- they have said it's not al Qaeda. They didn't say whether it was or wasn't, but they said it was this video.

JOHN BOLTON, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR/FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: Well, the administration could have said from the beginning, We don't know all the facts, and therefore, we're not ruling out any potential explanation. But that's not what they did. They came down in the midst of great uncertainty and said it was spontaneous. It was not terrorism, it was caused by this video.

Now, they've staked out their ground and they're going to stand or fall on it as the facts come out. The reason they took that position was that it was convenient to their U.S. domestic political agenda and their very flawed world view. The war on terror is over. The White House has declared it's over. And therefore, it cannot be a terrorist group in Libya that killed our ambassador.

It cannot be that there's hatred for the United States since Barack Obama has been elected president. Therefore, the riots must be caused by the video.

So the flawed world view, the flawed policy, and the importance of their domestic political agenda all explain what their position was.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, it also, to some degree, lets our guard down. I mean, if the war on terror is declared...

BOLTON: Their guard has been down for three-and-a-half years! You know, these guys in Libya didn't get the memo! The war on terror is over! If you believe you're operating in a benign environment, you're not going to have adequate intelligence because you don't think you need it.

Our embassy in Iceland doesn't have intelligence on radical Islam, and apparently, we didn't in either Egypt or Libya.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, in reading this secret document from the Department of Defense, I mean, there's nothing in reading this that makes me feel secure about this guy. I mean, I would have at least followed him or I would have done something -- I mean -- I mean -- I mean, an ally of -- of bin Laden, and a close associate of bin Laden -- there's some suggestion that he was getting some money from the -- from the one who financed 9/11 because his name was on the -- on the financer's laptop.

He's got -- I mean, it says he's a high risk. Even the Libyans think he's a high risk. I mean, if we're going to transfer him to Libya, if they're going to release him, I would think we would at least keep our eye on him!

BOLTON: Let me make a bipartisan point here. This man was released in 2007, under the Bush administration. On September the 10th, drone attacks killed the number two al Qaeda leader in Yemen, also released in the Bush administration in 2007.

Why? Because Secretary of Defense Gates bought the argument that Gitmo was a recruiting tool for al Qaeda and needed to be shut down. Responsible -- otherwise responsible Republicans in the House and the Senate said it. The Democrats all said it. It was part of the Democratic campaign, we were going to close Gitmo.

So the Bush administration, collapsing in its last two years, let these people out. Obama came into office pledging that he would close Gitmo within the first year of his administration.

Look, if we're defensive about defending ourselves, we're toast. And this -- these examples, the al Qaeda in Yemen who went back to terrorism, this fellow in Libya, if this turns out right, it shows exactly what happens you let your guard down against terrorism.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I mean, I don't know who's left, who's detained still in Gitmo. But I mean, there were the case of the Uyghurs who were there and they were released and two went to Bermuda. I don't know where the rest of them -- I mean, there were some people who got, you know, dragged into this dragnet that, you know, seemed to me that, you know, was not irresponsible to release.

But when you see this, when you see a guy who is still -- there -- the assessment still is that he's dangerous and he's still committed to get us and you release him, I mean, what -- I mean, that certainly doesn't suggest to me, like, that he's a safe guy to let go!

BOLTON: Well, he should never have been released. And it was only because of the political pressure, I think, in the last years of the Bush administration that allowed this to happen. But there was no pressure on President Obama. This is his declared policy.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, why -- why do they say this YouTube video? Why were they so hung up on this YouTube video? In fact, Secretary -- U.N. -- U.N. Ambassador Rice was here on "Fox News Sunday." She said it was the YouTube!

BOLTON: Because...

VAN SUSTEREN: I mean -- I mean, who's suspected it was a YouTube?

BOLTON: It's critical to their view of the world that there is no terrorist threat, that this is purely spontaneous.

VAN SUSTEREN: And so look the other way? I mean, my -- I mean, it's, like -- we have four people dead! I don't...

BOLTON: I'm past the point of rational argument on this. I'm down to begging our fellow citizens, lift up your eyes from the immediate economic circumstances. Lift up your eyes from the niff-naff about the campaign. We're picking a commander-in-chief for the next four years. This is a heavy responsibility.

VAN SUSTEREN: I don't -- I don't think people realize how dangerous some of these areas -- when we go to Pakistan as journalists, we're told in a very nice hotel, stay away from the windows because someone may shoot you in the windows. I mean, so we do stay away from the windows. I mean, some of these areas of the country are really dangerous. So you know, I'm not sure I understand why they weren't heavily guarded.

BOLTON: Well, they should have been. And I think there are more facts to come out here. I think the administration needs to do its own review. The State Department now says it's going to do it.

I think this idea we're not going to talk about these attacks because there's an FBI investigation is shirking responsibility. It's another political coverup. I think people need to know what exactly happened because there was a massive failure here. You can't have four dead Americans and not attribute it to failure.

VAN SUSTEREN: Ambassador, thank you, sir.

BOLTON: Thank you.