Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld tells Newsmax the information that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden was obtained through “normal interrogation approaches” and says the notion that terrorist suspects were waterboarded at Guantanamo Bay is a “myth.”
Rumsfeld also claims that elements of Pakistani intelligence could have been complicit in hiding the terrorist mastermind, asserts that his killing exonerates George W. Bush’s approach to fighting terrorism, and warns that terrorists will likely try to avenge bin Laden’s death with new attacks against America or its allies.
Rumsfeld was Secretary of Defense under Gerald Ford from 1975 to 1977, then under George W. Bush from 2001 to 2006, and as a member of the Bush administration was one of the chief architects of America’s response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
His new book, “Known and Unknown: A Memoir,” was released in February.
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV, Rumsfeld was asked how important was the killing of bin Laden after all these years.
“It is important,” he responds.
“He had become the face of terrorism, radical Islamists in the world, and I think the fact that the coalition of countries shared intelligence and worked the problem seriously for a number of years and were successful, ought to be a signal to other terrorists that while manhunts are difficult, they’re not impossible. The world’s a better place with him gone.
“It’s a good signal that the United States, thanks to George W. Bush’s administration, put in place some structures that put pressure on terrorists and led to this event. And thanks to the Obama administration for continuing those approaches and procedures, we’ve now been successful.”
Asked if harsh interrogation techniques at Guantanamo Bay played a role in obtaining intelligence on bin Laden’s whereabouts, Rumsfeld declares: “First of all, no one was waterboarded at Guantanamo Bay. That’s a myth that’s been perpetrated around the country by critics.
“The United States Department of Defense did not do waterboarding for interrogation purposes to anyone. It is true that some information that came from normal interrogation approaches at Guantanamo did lead to information that was beneficial in this instance. But it was not harsh treatment and it was not waterboarding.”
Rumsfeld reiterated that the killing of bin Laden exonerates the Bush administration’s response to 9/11.
“It certainly points up the fact that the structures that President Bush put into place - military commissions, Guantanamo Bay, the Patriot Act, indefinite detention, and humane treatment, but intensive interrogation to be sure - all contributed to the success we’ve had in the global war on terror.
“The fact that we’ve not had another attack on America for close to a decade, I don’t think anyone would have been bold enough to predict that 10 years ago.
“And certainly the killing of bin Laden is a testimony to our intelligence community. We’ve always had the ability to capture or kill Osama. What we didn’t have was the intelligence that was needed.”
Asked if Pakistan played a role in hiding bin Laden, Rumsfeld tells Newsmax: “I think it’s a fair question to ask the extent to which, probably not the Pakistani government but possibly some people connected to the Pakistani intelligence services, may or may not have had information about his location.”
In light of the fact that Pakistan has received billions of dollars in U.S. aid, what does the possible hiding of bin Laden say about the trustworthiness of Pakistan, Rumsfeld was asked.
“We don’t know yet. What we do know is it’s a Muslim country, they have nuclear weapons, they have been enormously helpful to us, particularly under the Musharraf regime, in allowing us access into Afghanistan and being with us from a military standpoint.
“We always knew there were people in Pakistan who have supported the Taliban and al-Qaida. That’s true in a number of countries. But the assistance we’ve provided to Pakistan has in my view been well spent.”
Rumsfeld says he doesn’t think the killing of bin Laden “will have any bearing at all” on destabilizing the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.
He adds: “We do know that al-Qaida has sought out chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, and we do know they’ve alleged that in the event that Osama bin Laden is killed or captured, they would undertake some additional terrorist attacks on America and on our friends and allies around the world.”
Referring to new CIA Director Leon Panetta’s warning that terrorists’ attempts to avenge bin Laden’s death are inevitable, Rumsfeld says: “I think it’s likely they will try.”