Is the Abu Ghraib Ruling Dangerous?

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," September 29, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: Continuing now with our lead story, a victory for the ACLU (search). Federal Judge Alvin Hellerstein (search) says the government must release more Abu Ghraib (search) abuse photos. With us now Norm Siegel, former director for the New York Civil Liberties Union (search).

All right, now look, I got - you have - we both read the decision here. And I'm very, very troubled by this, because I believe that people will die. Americans will die because of Hellerstein's decision.

Now I understand he lives in theoretical world. But the reason that we have national security and the reason that we have classified documents is to prevent the deaths of people.

Now the left made a big deal out of Valerie Plame (search). You remember that? With Karl Rove (search) and allegedly leaking her name, remember the story?

Because the left said gee, poor Valerie might be in danger. Now we know that these soldiers are in danger if these pictures get out there. We know that, that it's going to incite violence. Yet Hellerstein says the publication of the photographs is essential to the purposes of FOIA because they initiate debate.

How much more debate do we have to have over Abu Ghraib? We've already had almost a year of debate. We've already seen countless photos. Why do we need more?

NORMAN SIEGEL, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Well, first of all, the photos, he's redacting all identity of anyone in the pictures.

Second, and you mentioned FOIA, what you forgot to talk about is the rule of law. In this country, we have the Freedom of Information Act, which specifically says that we want an open and honest government. We want an informed citizenry, so we could have accountability.

The government brought in the argument at a late point. The ACLU said to the judge don't take their argument. He took it, he analyzed it. He came down in different way than you wanted him to come down.

This is a good judge, a smart judge, someone who's very balanced. In this decision, 50 pages, the government didn't lose everything. You're picking on one point which is very important, but this decision is balanced. This decision and this judge makes me proud to be an American and proud to be a lawyer.

O'REILLY: All right. Do you agree with me that any more pictures released from this, showing abuse of Muslims, will lead to violence against Americans? Do you agree with that statement?

SIEGEL: I don't know for sure.

O'REILLY: You don't know for sure.

SIEGEL: I know that...

O'REILLY: You saw the 15 dead after the "Newsweek" stuff, right?

SIEGEL: I understand, but what I love about America is that we are prepared to practice what we preach.

O'REILLY: All right, but to show the theoretical...

SIEGEL: We are prepared to show our negatives. No, it's not theoretical.

O'REILLY: Yes, it is. This is all theoretical. Suppression of information is the surest way to cause the significance to grow and persist.

SIEGEL: That's principle. It's not theoretical.

O'REILLY: No, it's theoretical, because we all - we aren't suppressing anything. We know the story.


O'REILLY: The story's been out. There's no suppression. This is just more stuff.

SIEGEL: It's under the law. Hellerstein says that we can't be blackmailed. When General Myers says the worst fears, and you say that it will lead to deaths, no one wants deaths. Hellerstein says that's not sufficient for me to ignore my obligation to enforce the law.

O'REILLY: So Hellerstein says that if soldiers die, and American civilians, too, because this kind of insightful, emotional violence could take any kind of turn. It's more important to do a theoretical argument about transparency and accountability, which we've already had.

See, look, if this were a new story, if this were a story nobody knew about, if this were a story that led to the indictment of a colonel, I would say you have to do it. There's nothing new here. This is just piling on.

SIEGEL: Now what could be new is that further discussion of how this happened, why it happened...

O'REILLY: Oh, come on.

SIEGEL: ...and who should be held accountable.

O'REILLY: How many more discussions do you have? It's horrible. You indict. You just heard our military analysts say they should go higher.

SIEGEL: Yes, but they haven't. They're low level at this point.

O'REILLY: But there's no evidence in these pictures.

SIEGEL: Look, the pictures tell the story better than anything else.

O'REILLY: The story's been told.

SIEGEL: Well, I don't think enough Americans understand what happened there.

O'REILLY: Come on. 50 front-page stories on the New York Times (search)?

SIEGEL: The point is that understand the Freedom of Information (search) law, I think that Hellerstein — and you're going to be surprised when the appeal occurs — I believe that the appeals courts will uphold Hellerstein.

O'REILLY: No way.

SIEGEL: His decision is...

O'REILLY: The Supreme Court is never, never...

SIEGEL: I'm talking about the Second Circuit. I didn't say this is about...

O'REILLY: I don't care. It's going to the Supreme Court unless the government's too cowardly to take it there. And they may be. They're not looking for their guys, as I told you.

I mean, this government, the Bush administration's got big problem now. They got a big problem.

SIEGEL: Well, when we talk about freedom, and Bush talks about freedom, this is what freedom's about.

O'REILLY: This isn't...

SIEGEL: America is prepared to show even its negative side.

O'REILLY: This is abuse of freedom.

SIEGEL: It is not an abuse of freedom.

O'REILLY: This never would have happened in World War II. Impossible. Wouldn't have happened because Franklin Delano Roosevelt made sure it wouldn't happen, because he looked out for his guys.

SIEGEL: No, it's not that. In 60 years since World War II, we've developed greater respect for rights of people.

O'REILLY: Oh, I see. So we wouldn't have any freedom during World War II.

SIEGEL: No we had...

O'REILLY: Now we have that.

SIEGEL: We have plenty of freedom. Don't put words in my mouth.

O'REILLY: So Roosevelt was a fascist for protecting this guy?

SIEGEL: Of course not. I love FDR.

O'REILLY: Well, he protected his guys.

SIEGEL: It's not just protecting his guys. It's about upholding the law.

O'REILLY: Well, this thing the Supreme Court will never, and I just want to see them appeal it to there.

SIEGEL: Well, when they appeal and we win, I'll come back. And you'll eat those words.

O'REILLY: And you're invited any time, Mr. Siegel. Thank you for coming.

SIEGEL: Always a pleasure, Bill.

O'REILLY: And just for your information, we contacted a bunch of politicians for reaction. And as usual, most of them are too afraid to say anything. We got no comments from everyone, including Hillary Clinton (search), Bill Frist (search), Ted Kennedy (search), John McCain (search). Nobody wants to get involved. Where is the leadership in this country?

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