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Rumsfeld: Waterboarding Played Major Role in Al Qaeda Intel

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," May 3, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: The White House is still debating whether to release a photograph of Usama bin Laden's bodying following the raid. But CIA Director Leon Panetta hinted an interview that a picture of the body will ultimately be released.

Now officials are debating the issue because the most identifiable image of bin Laden is also the most gruesome. And despite Panetta's claim, he did say the White House will make the final decision about the release of the picture.

Now meanwhile, we are piecing together the key details of the raid that lead to Usama bin Laden's death at this Pakistani compound. Even the White House seemed confused about how the operation unfolded, in particular about whether Usama was armed, whether he used one of his wives as a human shield and whether she emerged from the fire fight dead or alive.

But we know now that a team of 24 Navy SEALs repelled into the compound on the president's orders, bin Laden some of his family members and two other families were living inside this mansion at this time. Now reports say that bin Laden and his family occupied the second and third floors. Now, the SEALs entered on the ground floor where they shot and killed two of bin Laden's couriers before moving up to the second floor. There they found Usama and one of his wives. His wife reportedly tried to attack one of the SEAL and was shot in the leg. Next, the SEALs shot and killed bin Laden who according to the latest report was not armed.

Now, the entire raid last approximately 38 minutes after which the team exited the compound by helicopter with bin Laden's body.

But now questions are surfacing about the intelligence that led to Usama's capture and just how much of it was gathered through enhanced interrogations that got during the Bush administration.

Joining me now with analysis, the author of "Known and Unknown," former Secretary of Defense, the one and only Donald Rumsfeld is back.

Sir, welcome back to the program, good to see you.

DONALD RUMSFELD, AUTHOR, "KNOWN AND UNKNOWN": Thank you, Sean.

HANNITY: All right. A couple of things. Let's start with the photographs. Panetta saying -- because they got photographs, they got images, they got photographs prior to dumping his body in the sea. My attitude is, why not release all of these pictures and let the public see, let the public decide. Your thoughts?

RUMSFELD: Well, I'm really without conviction on the subject. I suspect that I'd have to see the photographs to know what my opinion was. But I tilt towards releasing them, as you do.

HANNITY: Well, I really can't come up with a justifiable reason why we wouldn't. I mean, Uday and Qusay, that was released, Saddam Hussein's hanging, that was made public. And if you look on Google on the internet, you could see, if you want pictures of former President Kennedy with half his skull missing.

RUMSFELD: Well, those were not released. Those were taken, as I recall the Kennedy photos. In real-time, if I'm not mistaken.

HANNITY: Right.

RUMSFELD: In this case, the concern on the part of the Department of Defense, I would think, would be, would the photographs contribute to enraging people in the world and causing recruiting to go up for al Qaeda or causing fundraising to go up for al Qaeda; to see that particular person, the face of al Qaeda terror in a mutilated form.

So, I think that that is undoubtedly what is on their minds. I can't imagine that there would be anything in the photograph that would reveal anything relating to military techniques or sources and methods. So, I think the only possible consideration would be the latter. And I think that's a tough judgment call.

HANNITY: Why would it be a tough judgment call when the report is that we shot him in the head? You know, for example, there was a 40 minute service we are told aboard our aircraft carrier, 40 minutes. And the burial at sea was supposedly to follow Islamic custom. And his body was cleaned, and he was covered with a shroud and there's a 40 minute service. And frankly, the more I think about it, the more inappropriate I think this is, because, you know, the people that died on 9/11, they didn't have a funeral. In many cases we didn't recover their remains.

RUMSFELD: That is quite true. I think however that at least for myself, I think they made exactly the right decision to dispose of the remains at sea and not bring them back to land and create a site where he could be considered a martyr of some sort.

HANNITY: Do you think this fear is somewhat irrational and a little bit misguided that we might incite or enrage, if we release the photo, we might incite, we might enrage if he wasn't given a proper funeral, et cetera, following Islamic custom? Because it seems to me that we are overly concerned about an enemy that's never going to like us any way.

RUMSFELD: Well, you're quite right in terms of al Qaeda. They are not going to like us. They are going to keep doing what they are doing and do it viciously as they have in the past. I think the concern that undoubtedly people in the government are weighing is not what will al Qaeda think, but what will other people think of that faith. And I think they probably are not improperly making judgments that suggest that they would like to avoid causing additional concerns and causing additional people to feel that al Qaeda was mistreated in some way.

I am delighted that he was killed. I am delighted they disposed of his remains at sea. And I think that the questions -- these are side questions on the photos and on the procedures at sea, I'm not really familiar with what they've done, and I haven't seen the photos.

HANNITY: Well, there are many doubters in the Muslim world. The Taliban has said there is no proof of bin Laden's death. There is an explosion of conspiracy theories. Seems to me that --

RUMSFELD: I've heard that.

HANNITY: -- that they kind of have to do this.

Let me ask you this. I think it is pretty clear now that discovering who this courier was, through strong interrogation techniques, that were employed during the Bush administration, without which this day would never have occurred. So, can't we -- it seems to me we need to reignite this debate about enhancement interrogation techniques in this country. Is that a good idea?

RUMSFELD: I think it's certainly is a reasonable idea. Is it correct that the CIA Director Panetta today indicated that one of the individuals who provided important information had in fact been waterboarded?

HANNITY: Yes. Yes. Yes.

RUMSFELD: Is that correct?

HANNITY: Yes.

RUMSFELD: Well, that's my understanding. And I think that anyone who suggests that the enhanced techniques, let's be blunt, waterboarding, did not produce an enormous amount of valuable intelligence, just isn't facing the truth. The facts are, General Mike Hayden came in, he had no connection with waterboarding anybody. He looked at all the evidence and concluded that a major fraction of the intelligence in our country on al Qaeda came from individuals, the three, only three people who were waterboarded.

HANNITY: Yes. Well, there were only three people.

RUMSFELD: Right.

HANNITY: And that led to the information of the nickname of the courier. And this by way -- we've had this for years and this was being pursued during the Bush years. The courier's name was found, he was eventually identified, and through eavesdropping, we were able to locate him and then locate bin Laden.

But that brings up the issue of black sites, enhanced interrogation, rendition, all the things we've discussed, we would not have had this success. And these are the very policies, I praised the president yesterday, I think it was a gutsy move that he decided to go in and get him, so we could have identification. But if he had his way and Democrats had its way, we wouldn't have had this intelligence, sir.

RUMSFELD: You are exactly right. I also agree that he made the right decision. And rather than using cruise missiles or drones to attack the facility, I think using the SEAL teams and going in there and actually getting him physically, identifying him, knowing that's what has happened and being certain about it was exactly the right call.

I'm told there was some confusion today on some programs, even one on Fox, I think, suggesting that I indicated that no one was who was waterboarded at Guantanamo, provided any information on this. That's just not true. What I said was, no one was waterboarded at Guantanamo by the U.S. military. In fact, no one was waterboarded at Guantanamo, period. Three people were waterboarded by the CIA, away from Guantanamo and then later brought to Guantanamo. And in fact, as you point out, the information that came from those individuals was critically important.

HANNITY: Last question, does George W. Bush, President Bush deserve as much credit for what happened Sunday as President Obama?

RUMSFELD: Well, the current administration would not have had the kinds of intelligence that was critically important, nor would they have had the Special Forces in the numbers, with the equipment, with the training, with the authorities and with the experience. We increased their budget I think fourfold during the time I was in the Pentagon. We increased the numbers in the special operations people, I believe by about 50 percent. Their equipment has been improved.

Those capabilities, to deal with asymmetric threats were developed during the George W. Bush administration, and let there be no doubt about it. So, we give credit to the current administration for making the decisions they made and clearly, the Bush administration is the one that developed and nurtured those capabilities.

HANNITY: All right. Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld, thanks for being with us, sir.

RUMSFELD: Thank you, Sean.

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