Rumsfeld: Intel about bin Laden could have come from Gitmo

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Monday that critical intelligence about al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's whereabouts could have come from detainees at Guantánamo Bay. 

Rumsfeld, who served under President George W. Bush, emphasized that U.S. knowledge of bin Laden's location was dependent on good intelligence and highlighted reports that a detainee provided a clue to U.S. officials.

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"The fact that he has been killed and is no longer a factor is an important one," Rumsfeld said on NBC's "Today" show. "We have always been able to kill or capture ... [the issue was] an intelligence problem."

New intelligence "very well could have been partly a result of the interviews that took place at Guantánamo," he added.

Rumsfeld is one of the chief defenders of the Guantánamo Bay military prison in Cuba, which was set up during the Bush administration soon after the 9/11 terrorist attacks that bin Laden oversaw. 

Obama said at the outset of his presidency that he would close the controversial prison and also made a promise on the campaign trail that the U.S. would kill or capture bin Laden on his watch.

Reaction has flowed in following President Obama's announcement late Sunday that U.S. forces killed bin Laden in Pakistan. Republicans have largely thanked and credited both Obama and Bush for his slaying. 

Rumsfeld said both Obama and Bush "put pressure on the terrorists," which led to bin Laden's killing.

Rumsfeld appeared to base his claim about the Guantánamo Bay detainees on a senior administration official's statement that detainees helped flag the identity of individuals providing support to bin Laden after 9/11.

"Detainees in the post-9/11 period flagged for us individuals who may have been providing direct support to bin Laden and his deputy, [Ayman al-] Zawahiri, after their escape from Afghanistan," the official said on a conference call with reporters. 

Despite the triumph for U.S. forces, Rumsfeld said someone would almost certainly replace bin Laden at the top of al Qaeda's power structure.

"I think we have to assume this isn't the end of radical Islamists trying to kill Americans," he said. "He will be replaced," he added, before expressing confidence that the U.S. would kill his successor as well.