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Puzzled Matt Lauer to O'Reilly: 'You Think There's Been Less Transparency' Under Obama?

In an interview with Bill O'Reilly on Tuesday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer seemed perplexed by the Fox News host asserting that "the Obama administration doesn't tell us anything" about numerous government scandals: "So you think there's been less transparency under this administrations than there has been under past administrations?" [Listen to the audio]

O'Reilly responded: "I don't know. I mean maybe, but I can't find out anything. Can you? I don't know what happened in Benghazi, I don't know what happened in the IRS, I don't know what happened with James Rosen....they won't tell us anything."

Lauer continued to be skeptical: "Do you think those are just unrelated stories that can't be tied together or do you think, as some critics say, this is a second term in full reverse because of abuses of power?"

O'Reilly replied: "All I know is it's chaos, it's scandal du jour. What day is it? Tuesday, now we have Hillary Clinton running around with some Belgium ambassador not doing what he should do. Every day it's something else."

The exchange began with the NSA snooping controversy and Lauer running defense for the administration:

And the government says it's essential to our national security. If the government were to come out and say, "You know what? We're also listening in on phone calls between people, but we've got proof that it's thwarted terrorist attacks." How would you feel about that?...A new Washington Post/Pew poll says – they asked Americans about their reaction to the latest leaks and showed a mixed reaction. 52% of Americans agree that the government should not monitor everyone's e-mail and online activity, but the poll also found that 62% of Americans think the federal government should investigate possible terrorist threats, even if that means intruding on privacy. So clearly people understand that security doesn't come without a price.

In an interview with counterterrorism expert Michael Sheehan on the May 14, 2008 edition of Today, Lauer fretted: "You say we've got to use more undercover agents, informants, wiretapping, e-mail surveillance, the works. That sound you just heard, Michael, is the far left grabbing for their remote controls, because they say, you're going to do this, you're going to trample civil liberties."

Here is a transcript of the June 11 exchange between Lauer and O'Reilly:

7:07AM ET

MATT LAUER: Bill O'Reilly is the host of The O'Reilly Factor on Fox News and the author of the new book, Kennedy's Last Days. Bill, good to see you, good morning.

BILL O'REILLY: Thank you.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: NSA Leak Fallout; O'Reilly on Revelations, Search for Snowden]

LAUER: Let's pick up where Andrea just left off. Edward Snowden, is this guy a criminal who deserves to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law or is he a whistle-blower who deserves the protection of the law?

O'REILLY: Well, you've got to arrest him. He violated U.S. law, and he may have done a good thing, but a jury's going to have to decide. You just can't-

LAUER: Wait, you arrest him because he may have violated the law, but may have done a good thing. Give me the grey area there.

O'REILLY: There's no grey area. He violated – you can violate the law sometimes and do a good thing, but you have to come and convince the jury why you did what you did and why it was mobile.

LAUER: He says it's important for people to know about this program so they can debate it. James Clapper, the chief of intelligence, says no, he's done severe damage to our national intelligence.

O'REILLY: I don't know. I mean, how can I possibly know? I haven't seen the evidence. We don't even know what the government is doing yet. I mean, we know what he says, this guy Snowden, but we don't know if it's true. So we have to see if the government is seizing everybody's e-mail. Now, if the government's doing that, then the government's breaking the law, so then this guy becomes a hero. But if the government's not doing it and the guy is lying, then he's a criminal.

LAUER: From what we've heard so far, we know the government is collecting data, they're mining data on the phone calls that we may make every day, origin, destination, things like that.

O'REILLY: Yeah, destination and time, right.

LAUER: And the government says it's essential to our national security. If the government were to come out and say, "You know what? We're also listening in on phone calls...

O'REILLY: Against the Fourth Amendment.

LAUER: ...between people, but we've got proof that it's thwarted terrorist attacks." How would you feel about that?

O'REILLY: Unconstitutional. It's unconstitutional. You have to get a specific warrant for a specific phone call or e-mail. You just can't say, "Oh, we're protecting everybody so we're going to throw the Constitution out the window." That's the key issue. Is the government violating the Constitution of the United States?

LAUER: A new Washington Post/Pew poll says – they asked Americans about their reaction to the latest leaks and showed a mixed reaction. 52% of Americans agree that the government should not monitor everyone's e-mail and online activity, but the poll also found that 62% of Americans think the federal government should investigate possible terrorist threats, even if that means intruding on privacy. So clearly people understand that security doesn't come without a price.

O'REILLY: Everybody understands that, but you have to have definition and the definition is our Constitution. You can't just be seizing mass e-mail, throwing it in Utah and say, "We'll sort it out later." And that's the allegation. Now is it true? We don't know. And why don't we know? Because unfortunately the Obama administration doesn't tell us anything. So we don't know what they're doing. If they are seizing mass e-mail under FISA warrants, that's unconstitutional.  

LAUER: So you think there's been less transparency under this administrations than there has been under past administrations?

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Second-Term Struggles; O'Reilly on Obama Administration Scandals]

O'REILLY: I don't know. I mean maybe, but I can't find out anything. Can you? I don't know what happened in Benghazi, I don't know what happened in the IRS, I don't know what happened with James Rosen. I don't know what happened with this one. I don't know what happened, they won't tell us anything.

LAUER: Do you think those are just unrelated stories that can't be tied together or do you think, as some critics say, this is a second term in full reverse because of abuses of power?

O'REILLY: All I know is it's chaos, it's scandal du jour. What day is it? Tuesday, now we have Hillary Clinton running around with some Belgium ambassador not doing what he should do. Every day it's something else.

(...)