Rep. Peter King on Why The New York Times Should Be Investigated

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," June 26, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: The top story tonight: another look at The New York Times situation. Joining us from Washington, Congressman Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, who's calling for an investigation into The New York Times.

I want to get real specific in this conversation: How did that article hurt the United States of America?

REP. PETER KING, R-N.Y.: Bill, this was a program about international financial transactions. Al Qaeda did not know we had a program of that extent. They knew that we were making some progress. They knew that we had fairly good knowledge of what was going on in the U.S.

They did not know that we had that level of international cooperation.

O'REILLY: How do you know that? How do you know they didn't know? Because that's the excuse. Oh, everybody knew about this.

KING: Well, if everyone knew about it, then there was no need to go public with it the way The New York Times did. They can't have it both ways. On the one hand, they're saying we had to go public because it was so secret. But now they're saying there's no harm in going public because everybody knew about it.

The fact is that from my intelligence people I have spoken with, Al Qaeda did not know. That's how we were able to get people like Hambali, who was the architect of the Bali massacre.

So they did not know the extent to which we were able to penetrate and to follow their transactions.

O'REILLY: All right, but it strains credulity a little bit because Al Qaeda knows we're hunting down their financiers. And this big Belgium concern — SWIFT — which The Times and The L.A. Times and The Wall Street Journal also exposed, this is one of the main conduits of money transfers worldwide.

So doesn't it a strain credulity that Al Qaeda would know that we're watching them?

KING: No. And there's no need to confirm. In other words, they may have suspected it. They may have thought it. They didn't know for certain. Why confirm for them?

And the fact is we were able to stop a number of their transactions. Not just the transactions. Actually capture one of their top leaders because we were able to follow the transaction through this program.

So in a time of war, listen, people always suspect the other side may know this or may know that. You don't want to confirm it for them. You don't want to make their job any easier. And if there is any doubt at all, resolve it in favor of saving American lives.

O'REILLY: Did you know about this financial tracking operation as head of the Homeland Security Committee?

KING: No, I didn't. This would come under the House Intelligence Committee. And my understanding is the chairman and ranking member of the Intelligence Committee knew it.

Several appropriations committee members in the House and Senate knew it, as did the...

O'REILLY: All right, so they were briefed.

KING: ...majority and minority leaders.

O'REILLY: Did they tell you that they were briefed? Did they say to you directly they were briefed?

KING: I haven't spoken to them on this, because it was — again, this story broke on Friday. We're just back today.

O'REILLY: Well, how do you know they knew it?

KING: Oh, from talking to people on the staffs who told me. Yeah, I have not spoken to them directly. But I've been told that a number of these people were told, just as they were told on the NSA surveillance back in December.

O'REILLY: All right.

KING: Bill, I don't think there was any obligation, though. Because there's no American law here that's being violated.

O'REILLY: Oh, I know, I know.

KING: Yes.

O'REILLY: I'm just trying to lay it out for the folks — [the facts] "who knew what."

KING: Sure.

O'REILLY: You mean, I mean look, everybody's got to make up their own mind on this. And I'm not trying to convince anybody the other way. I just want to get the best information I can get out on the table.

KING: For instance.

O'REILLY: And I'm going to do that with Congressman Ed Markey. He doesn't see it the way you do. He's coming up behind you.

But what would you do to [Executive Editor Bill] Keller and [publisher Arthur] Sulzberger, Jr., who are really driving this whole..

KING: Right.

O'REILLY: ..."expose everything" routine. What would you do to that?

KING: OK, let me tell you why I think they should be prosecuted, why the attorney general — and I realize this is a dramatic step.

But we're talking about American lives here. And this is one of those cases.

For instance, back in December, The Times could have at least had the rationale, well, there's some question of legality. There is absolutely no question here, that this isn't highly legal, that it's effective, that it's saving American lives, that it's working. There's absolutely no rationale in the world.

O'REILLY: All right. So you want Attorney General Gonzales to do what? Charge them with what?

KING: Charge them with violating the Espionage Act and also the comint. The Espionage Act in 1917. And the "comint" of 1950. [Editor's Note: "comint" is jargon for communications intelligence. In 1950, Congress passed a law making such disclosures by a news organization a crime] Both refer to the disclosure of confidential classified secret information. That's what was done here.

O'REILLY: How about the guys in The L.A. Times and The Wall Street Journal. Do you want them prosecuted, too?

KING: Perhaps. Again, the only reason I'm — I don't know all the facts about The L.A. Times and The Wall Street Journal. I know enough about The New York Times.

For instance, my understanding is that The Washington Post — The L.A. Times and The Wall Street Journal only went forward when they had heard The Times had decided to go.

O'REILLY: That's true. That's true.

KING: So that could be a mitigating factor.

Also, as far as I'm concerned, The Times are recidivist. They're serial offenders here.

And again, you know, this is so important to me. You know, Bill, you and I know how many people we lost in our congressional district on September 11. The thought that The New York Times could run the risk of stopping — of preventing a pie in our hands — from preventing another type of attack, to me this requires criminal sanctions, criminal penalties. That's why I'm calling on the attorney general to launch a full investigation and prosecution of The New York Times.

O'REILLY: Congressman, thanks very much. We appreciate the straight talk.

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