Donald Rumsfeld and Rudy Giuliani on Bin Laden's Death

Donald Rumsfeld and Rudy Giuliani on Bin Laden's Death

By Piers Morgan Tonight - May 9, 2011

PIERS MORGAN, HOST: Good evening. Justice done. That's what Pakistan's prime minister says about the death of Osama bin Laden. He insists that allegation his country looked the other way while the al Qaeda leader was living right under their noses are, quote, "absurd."

We'll study that. We're also learning that the raid that killed Osama bin Laden the biggest victory for the war on terror so far almost didn't happen. President Obama was told it was just a 50-50 chance of killing the al Qaeda chief. He decided to go ahead anyway with the mission with spectacular results.

Joining me now is Donald Rumsfeld, former secretary of defense for President George W. Bush, and the author of "Known and Unknown: A Memoir." The proceeds of which from the book go to veterans organizations.

Secretary Rumsfeld, absolutely fascinating week. Tell me this. When you saw the video of Osama bin Laden in his lair in that compound, did you think it was a more damaging image than the one of him dead would have been if it had been released?

DONALD RUMSFELD, FORMER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR PRES. G.W. BUSH: Well, that's a good question. It certainly gave one a sense of the kind of life he was living. A hunted man, knowing that forces all across the world are seeking him out and hoping to end his leadership of al Qaeda one way or another, he has to spend most of his time hiding.

And so it was -- I think it did give people a sense that the United States and the coalition of over 90 countries are going to go after terrorist leaders, and that anyone who aspires to succeed him as the leader of al Qaeda probably will not be looking towards a long life.

MORGAN: I mean he cut a very shambolic, almost pathetic figure watching himself on this small television screen in this dingy little room. If I was a member of al Qaeda, I'd be pretty disappointed that this was my great leader, wouldn't you?

RUMSFELD: I agree. And I think the contrast between the videos that he prepared when his beard was dyed and making him look younger, and in a more formal setting without the squalor around him probably is the image he wanted to present to his troops.

MORGAN: One question that I thought would be particularly relevant to you. We see this big treasure trove of information that is coming out of this compound. Given that it's obviously so valuable, and we're already seeing material coming out which is clearly valuable, would it have been better under that circumstance to have taken bin Laden alive and to have tried to get key information out of him now that we know he was clearly still the figurehead of al Qaeda both in a conventional figurehead sense, but also an operational sense?

RUMSFELD: Well, I don't think the SEAL team, the special operators, had much choice. When you go into a compound like that at night, you don't know what to expect. He could have had weapons. He -- other people in the compound could have had weapons.

They could have had suicide belts. They could have had triggers that they could pull to kill people. So it seems to me that it's really not terribly useful to speculate as to whether or not they might have been able to take him alive.

I don't know what their specific orders were, but I would say one other thing about the intel, Piers. It seems to me that it's -- if I were in the Pentagon, I' be concerned about the White House talking so much about the intelligence take.

The goal is to get the intelligence and to look at it, figure out what you can use, and then use it as rapidly as possible. Instead, the White House made a number of comments about it, talking about how valuable it was. And even some of the specifics of what's there, which I think no one in the Pentagon would have done.

They would recognize that our lives can be lost by too much discussion about things like that.

MORGAN: I mean, do you believe there's been a bit of a rush to publish here possibly because of their decision not to release the picture of a dead bin Laden to sate public appetite? They have decided to release, perhaps in your view, too much intelligence, and should now desist from releasing any more? Would you like to see them stop now and say no more about this?

RUMSFELD: Well, it was pretty clear the White House -- most of all of this information came out of the White House. Practically none of it came out of the Department of Defense. And it seems to me that the very fact that they had to correct 10 or 15 different statements that were made out of the White House, which proved to be inaccurate, is an indication that they rushed out with a lot of things.

And they would have been better off turning it over to the Department of Defense and letting them manage what was said about it in a way that could create the greatest advantage for our country.

MORGAN: I mean, you were a big champion and remain so of the freedom of information.


MORGAN: Isn't there a contradiction between being a champion of that and not releasing things like the dead photograph? In the end isn't it likely to come out one day anyway? And shouldn't you just release this stuff?

RUMSFELD: Well, I was one of the sponsors of the Freedom of Information Act, and I do believe in as transparency to the extent it's possible. I've not seen the photographs. And if I saw them, I might have an opinion.

I did see the photographs on Qusay and Uday Hussein and we did release them. We made a conscious judgment that it would be best if the Iraqi people had a chance to be absolutely certain that these people were dead, gone, and were not going to reoccupy their leadership positions in a -- in a vicious Saddam Hussein regime.

However, I've got a lot of respect for Secretary Gates. And he has opposed releasing them from what I can tell in the press. And there may very well be a good reason why they should not be released. I just don't know what those reasons might be. And I would personally tilt towards release.

MORGAN: Tell me this about enhanced interrogation, because you have said quite clearly this week that in your view, the CIA work in relation to this kind of interrogation clearly helped lead to the killing of bin Laden.

Can I pick you up on that? Because the only real evidence, and it seems weird evidence to me, is that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times. And all he did was say he didn't know the courier. And that appears to be the only link between waterboarding and bin Laden's killing.

RUMSFELD: I think it's hard, Piers, to draw specific links all the way through it. This has been a process of some nine years with a big focus by the FBI and the Central Intelligence Agency and elements of the Department of Defense. And what happens is scraps of information come together. And it eventually creates a mosaic that presents a picture different than any of the scraps of information.

Now I wasn't involved with enhanced interrogation program that the CIA was operating. They did in fact use techniques on three people as I understand it. And three directors of the Central Intelligence of the United States of America all said that they believed -- and this is George Tenet, who was appointed by Bill Clinton, Porter Goss, and then later General Mike Hayden.

All three said that the take from the three individuals who had been waterboarded constituted a major fraction of all the information we knew about al Qaeda. And then after that, the current director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Leon Panetta, specifically went on television and said that some of the information that came from enhanced interrogations in fact contributed to locating bin Laden.

Now I can't argue with the four of them. And I don't have personal knowledge of the linkages. But I do respect each of those individuals, George Tenet and Mike Hayden and Porter Goss, and certainly Leon Panetta who stood up and told the world that there was such a link. And I take them at their word.

MORGAN: Would you keep Guantanamo Bay open indefinitely? And would you in light of the successful discovery and killing of bin Laden, albeit belatedly, would you encourage them to do more of this enhanced interrogation given that it appears to have been successful?

RUMSFELD: Well, first of all, no one was waterboarded at Guantanamo Bay. Zero. There's a big myth out there that the military people in the Department of Defense waterboarded people for interrogation purposes. And it's false. It never happened. The only waterboarding that was done was done by the CIA.

Second, would you keep Guantanamo open, and the answer is yes. As long as you have people who are not prisoners of war, but -- unlawful combatants, people who need to be kept off the streets because they're going to go out and kill more innocent men, women, and children, Americans and others, then you need a place to put them.

I described Guantanamo Bay as the least worst place. I say that because no one wants to be jailer. No one wants to have to keep these people. But if somebody has to do it, you need some place to do it. And presidents of both parties have used Guantanamo as a holding place for people that needed to be held for one reason or another.

I think it should be kept open. My impression is it's one of the best-run prison systems in the world. It has been looked at, looked at, looked at. The press has been down there. Congressmen have been down there. Foreign people have been down there. The unlawful combatants' lawyers have all been down there.

They're get good medical care. They get decent food. They get various types of recreational activity. And jail is a terrible place. But I don't know of a better answer to it. And I wish I did. MORGAN: Just before we go to a break, and just to pick you up on that, I mean the argument against Guantanamo, of course, is that there are some people there who are quite likely to be completely innocent who are being held for years on end as if they've been imprisoned and convicted of an offense.

That surely flies in the face of doing the right thing, as President Obama has said so clearly since bin Laden was killed.

RUMSFELD: Well, I don't think so, Piers. What you just said about Guantanamo is true of every prison in the world, that there are some people in there who are innocent. And they find out years later they were innocent. And it's a terrible thing.

The people down there make every effort in the world to see that the cases are reviewed regularly, that in fact the best information available, they have lawyers who can make their case for them. And we've released a lot of people. I say we. I mean the government has released hundreds and hundreds of people and found some of them go back out on the battlefield. So mistakes get made both ways, as with any prison.

MORGAN: We're going to take a short break now, Mr. Secretary. When we come back, I want to talk to you specifically about Pakistan and their involvement in bin Laden's hiding place.



RUMSFELD: The arrangements with Pakistan are that we will assist them to the extent they wish in improving their capabilities. And they have been aggressive in attempting to root out terrorists in Taliban and al Qaeda in their country.


MORGAN: Back with me now is former defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, author of "Known and Unknown, A Memoir." The proceeds from the book go to veterans organizations.

Mr. Secretary, let's talk about Pakistan. Were you as surprised as I was to discover where bin Laden had been hiding all these years?

RUMSFELD: No. The assumption all along had been that he was probably in Pakistan some place. The speculation previously tended to focus up in the federally administered tribal area. But, you know, people could be on the United States FBI most wanted list for years.

It is very hard to find a single human being, particularly when they have the kind of organizational support system and money that al Qaeda has. If you're in Washington, D.C. or New York, and you go oh, say, five miles from the Pentagon up the Potomac River, and you look at these great big estate there with gates blocking the driveways and big walls, we don't know what's going on in there. The -- the case is trying to be made that there is no way someone could be hiding in plain sight. And yet we know that that happens not infrequently. It does happen. And it's possible.

MORGAN: Well, the first off question I would ask is you've got the most famous and recognizable terrorist in the world, the most notorious man alive. And he is within literally a stone's throw of a very large Pakistani military base packed full of their military and their intelligence.

Now either they are lying about knowing where he was, or they're the most stupid intelligence military in the world, aren't they?

RUMSFELD: Well, those are questions that ought to be asked. Those are tough questions, and they ought to be pursued. On the other hand, how can the United States of America have someone on the FBI's most wanted list for years and not find him?

How could the CIA have a spy, Aldrich Ames, inside their building for years and everyone looking for spies, and there he was right in front of them.

So I think that we ought to hold out and go for facts. And I think it is possible for someone to be located in close proximity and not be found.

Now it's also possible that somebody knew. However, I think if Osama bin Laden did not want people to know where he was, because if one other person knows, and even if someone in the Pakistani government knew, it would be dangerous to him. So if I were he, I would not have let anybody know that did not absolutely have to know where I was. And I think that may very well be what he did.

Nonetheless, I write in my book about the relationship with Pakistan. And it's an enormously important one, and it's complex. And we ought not to rush to judgment about it. But we ought to try to improve it and strengthen it.

MORGAN: I mean if we -- if we sense we're not getting the right answers to these tough questions, then surely the fact that America in 2010 gave $4.5 billion to Pakistan, one of the largest amounts given to any foreign country, surely we should be threatening to reduce or remove that until we get these answers, because they might be harboring all sorts of other wanted terrorists from al Qaeda as far as we're concerned.

We don't know, do we?

RUMSFELD: Well, I do know that they have turned over -- they have captured and turned over a number of terrorists to the United States. They've captured a number more and detained them. They've done a pretty darn good job in their cities. They have done a poor job in the Federally Administered Tribal Area, which they really don't control. It's an ungoverned part of -- of Pakistan.

Now I -- you say we should really, you know, talk tough and cut off the money or something, people say. It seems to me that we've done that before when they exploded a nuclear weapon. We severed relations in many respects. Military to military context stopped.

I think that that's not the approach. I think that they've got interests that are similar to ours in some respects. And we certainly ought to work with them and improve the relationship. We get enormous benefit from overflight rights.

I mean Afghanistan is a land-locked country. We can overfly. We have bases in their country. We've been able to -- there is no way we could have operated in there as successfully as we have in recent years without their cooperation.

Now, is it perfect? No. Does it need to be improved? You bet. But I think getting tough and saying we're going to cut relations again doesn't help them and doesn't help us particularly. I think there ought to be an investigation of what went on, and then there ought to be a serious effort to fix the things that are wrong. And certainly some things are wrong.

MORGAN: I mean the objective of the war in Afghanistan was to get bin Laden, who was the architect of 9/11, and to dismantle his organization. Should we really continue to be there with troops anymore? Isn't that objective now achieved certainly in relation to cutting the head of his organization?

RUMSFELD: Well, we've had very good success in capturing or killing a large number of senior al Qaeda over the years. And each time you do, someone else takes his place. And my guess is that what will take place next, nobody knows. That's a known unknown.

But what we do know is that the likelihood is that somebody will take his place, and that it will take a good long time for us to figure out how we can reduce the number of recruits that go into terrorist organizations, how we can reduce the funding that goes into these organizations, and how we can find ways to arrange ourselves in the world so that there are not a dedicated well-financed large number of people going out, blowing up the World Trade Center and attacking the Pentagon and the like. And other places around the world.

MORGAN: And finally, Mr. Secretary, on a personal level, it's been a listening 10 years for you. You were there on 9/11. You were there when decisions were taken to take America to war in Iraq and then Afghanistan. And always there was this ticking sense of frustration that you couldn't get Osama bin Laden.

When you heard the news last Sunday night -- and I don't know how you heard the news, maybe you can tell me -- that he was dead, did you punch the air?

RUMSFELD: I received a phone call from a member of my staff who had been alerted by someone in the press. And it was a feeling of elation. This was a person who had killed so many thousands of people, who was dedicated to destroying the United States, who had a fatwa indicating that it was the responsibility of al Qaeda to kill Americans and ruin their property and damage them in every way possible.

And he was gone. And that was a good thing. I think that it doesn't mean the task is finished because he will have a successor to be sure. But it was a -- it was a good thing. And I also in my book wrote about special operators. And I thought of those brave young men and the hard-working intelligence people who in a very joint way working with the agency and the Department of Defense executed this operation with such great skill.

And they're really very important people for our country. We spent a lot of time strengthening our special operations forces because we knew we were facing asymmetric threats. Not big armies, Navies, and air forces, but terrorists and that type of thing. And our special operators are exactly the kinds of capability we need. And fortunately we have built them up to the point where they're the best in the world without question.

MORGAN: Mr. Secretary, it's been a pleasure talking to you. Your book again is "Known and Unknown: A Memoir." All proceeds going to veterans organizations.

Thank you very much.

RUMSFELD: Thank you.

MORGAN: Coming up next, are America's cities safe from terror attack now that bin Laden is gone? I'll ask America's mayor, Rudy Giuliani.


MORGAN: In the wake of 9/11, Rudy Giuliani became known as America's mayor. So my question for him now is, are we safer with bin Laden dead?

Rudy Giuliani joins me now.

Rudy, I guess it's the key question. One of the fascinating things since I last spoke to you is this discovery of the treasure trove from the bin Laden compound, which suggests that yes, he was still running al Qaeda. Yes, he was very active in the plotting that was going on. We saw a plot potentially to derail trains on the anniversary of 9/11 in September this year.

When you saw what we discovered there, do you believe that his death has made America safer or not?

RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: Well, I think there is no question, Piers, that in the long-term it makes America safer. Taking him out is a big step, although it doesn't destroy al Qaeda, it's a serious blow. And if we can follow it up now with a few more, we can really do permanent damage to them.

My first -- my first reaction was that it probably in the short- term makes things somewhat riskier for us because there'll be an attempt to retaliate. It may ignite individual terrorists to take their own action. But I think that's balanced somewhat by the intelligence that we received.

I don't know how important or how valuable it is. It sounds like it's very valuable. But if it is, it should allow us even better opportunities to interrupt these plots. And frankly, over the last nine years, we and our allies have been pretty successful in preventing most of these plots.

We haven't gotten all of them, but we've gotten most of them. So now with this additional information, it should mean that we're in a somewhat better position from the point of view of intelligence.

MORGAN: Did it surprise you that he was such a shambolic character? I asked Donald Rumsfeld this. It was an extraordinary video that came out, this sort of pathetic old man with his gray-white beard, trembling, watch his little small television set, his own videos. Hardly the caricature that he had been painstakingly showing the rest of the world.

GIULIANI: Well, yeah, you can see this was a person who was in large part an actor. He actually dyed his beard so he would look better on television. He seemed to be critiquing himself and interrupting himself when he wasn't doing it correctly.

And I think this is probably been the story of bin Laden from the very beginning. He understood the media. He understood how to use the media. And that was very important to him. And it had an impact while he was alive on a lot of people.

I mean, he was the founder -- one of the founders of al Qaeda. He was the emotional leader of al Qaeda, the spiritual leader. And that was very carefully orchestrated by his media presentations.

MORGAN: On Friday, you had a very emotional day, when President Obama came to Ground Zero. It must have brought back a loft memories for you, Rudy. How was the day for you?

GIULIANI: It was a very intense, very emotional day. It was a beautiful day in many ways, because it wasn't just about the fact that he was brought to justice and bin Laden is now gone. But it was a chance to recognize all of these firefighters and police officers.

I particularly enjoyed having lunch with the firefighters with President Obama. They were -- they were very natural and very normal with him. And he was with them. And I had this sense that they had respect for him because he made a courageous decision. And after all, these men practice courage and bravery every day.

So they can understand when somebody has to make a risky decision. And there was a weight lifted from their shoulders. It's hard to describe, Piers, how people feel about something like this, whether it's justice, revenge, a combination of both of those things. But the reality is that seeing the principle architect of the attack that took the lives of so many of their friends and brothers and close relatives lifted some of the burden from them.

MORGAN: I want to play you a brief clip of President Obama's interview on CBS "60 Minutes" in which he talked about the incredible pressure of the moment that these SEALS went in to get bin Laden.


OBAMA: There were big chunks of time in which all we were doing was just waiting. And it was the longest 40 minutes of my life, with the possible exception of when Sasha got Meningitis when she was three months old, and I was waiting for the doctor to tell me she was all right.

It was a very tense situation.


MORGAN: I mean, the most tense 40 minutes of his life, President Obama, an amazing admission. But you can understand why he would feel that way. It turned out to be a spectacular success. In terms of the politics here, Rudy, obviously you're on the other side of the fence. But you obviously have already publicly admired what he did. And by doing what he did, Obama removed a key weapon against him by the Republicans that he is weak in foreign policy, didn't he?

GIULIANI: Well, he certainly helped himself, and rightly so. When a president makes a correct decision, particularly one like that, he deserves all the credit for it. After all, he would have been the person that got all the blame if anything went wrong. I told him that when I first saw him.

I told him I really admired his decision because he knew that any mistake there and he was going to be the one that was responsible for it. And sure, I think this makes him politically stronger.

But who knows? The election is over a year away. A lot of other things are going to happen between now and then. The economy is a big factor in any of our elections. Foreign policy is -- when we're going through something like this and we're all focused on it.

But by and large, American elections get decided on the economy. And I think that's going to be the question for President Obama: what kind of shape is the economy in next year.

MORGAN: We're clearly into the election race, even if it's not official yet. Newt Gingrich has Tweeted today, a sign of the times, that he will announce on Wednesday he is running for president. What is your reaction to that? And when are we going to hear what you're going to be doing, Rudy?

GIULIANI: I don't know when you are going to hear about me, because I haven't really decided or focused on it yet. I'm glad that Newt has joined the race. I admire Newt Gingrich very much. I think he is going to add a tremendous amount of intellectual heft to this debate.

He is one of the smartest people in America. He comes up with, you know, two ideas every minute. Most of them good. I don't agree with all of them. But he's got a real understanding of American history. He's got a real understanding of the American economy. So I think this is going to add some attention to the Republican race, and it's going the add a real -- a really substantial figure who can really express his philosophy very, very well.

MORGAN: You're not on Twitter, are you, Rudy?

GIULIANI: No, no I'm not. I'm not on Twitter. I think I would get --

MORGAN: Since you can't announce what you're doing on Twitter, I hope that you'll be announcing what you're going to do on my show.

GIULIANI: I just may do that. When I figure out what I'm doing, I will then figure out how to announce it.

MORGAN: Rudy Giuliani, thank you very much.


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