O'Reilly falsely asserted Holder "ordered" wall between CIA and FBI

››› ››› JEREMY HOLDEN

On his radio show, Bill O'Reilly advanced the falsehood that a 1995 memo written by then-Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick prohibited intelligence-sharing between the FBI and the CIA, thereby causing the intelligence failures that led to the 9-11 attacks, and asserted that Eric Holder, along with Janet Reno and Gorelick, "said that the CIA and the FBI couldn't talk to each other on investigative matters." In fact, the Gorelick memo had no impact on communications between the FBI and the CIA, the Department of Defense, or any other agencies.

During the January 13 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Bill O'Reilly advanced the falsehood that a 1995 memo written by then-Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick prohibited intelligence-sharing between the FBI and the CIA, thereby causing the intelligence failures that led to the September 11, 2001, attacks. Referring to Eric Holder, President-elect Barack Obama's choice to be attorney general, O'Reilly asserted, "[H]e's the guy that, in conjunction with Janet Reno and Jamie Gorelick, said that the CIA and the FBI couldn't talk to each other on investigative matters." Earlier, O'Reilly stated of Holder: "He was the guy that ordered, along with Janet Reno, his boss under [President] Clinton -- he was assistant attorney general [sic: deputy attorney general] and Reno was the attorney general -- for the CIA not to talk to the FBI, which allowed the 9-11 killers to get in and do what they did, because they wouldn't share information."

In fact, as Media Matters for America documented, the Gorelick memo merely clarified long-unwritten restrictions on the sharing of information between the FBI's intelligence arm and the Justice Department's criminal division, and had no impact on communications between the FBI and the CIA, the Department of Defense, or any other agencies. Former Attorney General John Ashcroft stated in his testimony before the 9-11 Commission that the Gorelick memo provided the "basic architecture" for the 1995 guidelines established by Reno, which formalized rules for intelligence sharing that were already in place. And as the 1995 guidelines clearly state, the Gorelick memo and the guidelines applied only to intelligence sharing "between the FBI and the Criminal Division" within the Justice Department, not between the Justice Department and any other agency such as the CIA:

SUBJECT: Procedures for Contacts Between the FBI and the Criminal Division Concerning Foreign Intelligence and Foreign Counterintelligence Investigations

The procedures contained herein, unless otherwise specified by the Attorney General, apply to foreign intelligence (FI) and foreign counterintelligence (FCI) investigations conducted by the FBI, including investigations related to espionage and foreign and international terrorism. The purpose of these procedures is to ensure that FI and FCI investigations are conducted lawfully, and that the Department's criminal and intelligence/counterintelligence functions are properly coordinated.

From the January 13 broadcast of Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly:

O'REILLY: But now on the national security front, we have almost the same thing going on. I mean, we have this guy, Eric Holder, who's going to be attorney general. And he'll get passed. But Eric Holder -- I got no confidence in this guy, at all -- zero. He was the guy that ordered, along with Janet Reno, his boss under [President] Clinton -- he was assistant attorney general [sic] and Reno was the attorney general -- for the CIA not to talk to the FBI, which allowed the 9-11 killers to get in and do what they did, because they wouldn't share information. That's Eric Holder. And now he's going be the attorney general. Well, now, maybe he learned his lesson. Yeah. OK. Maybe? This is a bad pick.

[...]

O'REILLY: But let's get to Holder. I think he's going to be confirmed. I don't think anybody can stop him. But he's the guy that, in conjunction with Janet Reno and Jamie Gorelick, said that the CIA and the FBI couldn't talk to each other on investigative matters. Therefore, the 9-11 killers slipped through and did their deed. Now that hasn't been well-publicized, but Holder was right in the middle of that.

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R-PA): Well, there is no doubt that had there been an exchange of information -- a big part of it came out of [Al Qaeda conspirator Zacarias] Moussaoui and Minneapolis, and we had the FBI agent who wrote a long, 13-page, single-spaced letter -- now had that been conveyed to the CIA, the hijackers might well have been stopped. Hopefully, that has been corrected.

O'REILLY: Are you going to make a big deal out of that when you talk to Holder?

SPECTER: Absolutely.

[...]

O'REILLY: So you're going to get a crack at him on Thursday?

SPECTER: Oh, absolutely.

O'REILLY: Yeah.

SPECTER: Absolutely. The hearing will start and the chairman has the first prerogative. I'm just sorry I'm not the chairman any more. I don't have the gavel. But it's --

O'REILLY: No, but you'll be able to get him the questions about the pardon and the most important thing: the separation that they imposed on the CIA and FBI.

SPECTER: We'll be talking about [Mark] Rich. We'll be talking about the failure of the Department of Justice to have independent counsel for Vice President [Al] Gore on the allegations of fundraising from the White House. On FALN, the terrorist group where Mr. Holder recommended commutation to a group of terrorists who'd killed people and robbed banks, and then you'll have the whole issue of national security.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, Intelligence
Person
Bill O'Reilly
Show/Publication
The Radio Factor
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.