Interrogator Shares Saddam's Confessions

Tells 60 Minutes Former Iraqi Dictator Didn't Expect U.S. Invasion

For a man who drew America into two wars and countless military engagements, we never knew what Saddam Hussein was thinking. But you are going to hear more than has ever been revealed before.

After his capture, Saddam met every day with one man, an American he knew as "Mr. George." George is FBI agent George Piro, who was the front man for a team of FBI and CIA analysts who were trying to answer some of the great mysteries of recent history. What happened to the weapons of mass destruction? Was Saddam in league with al Qaeda? Why did he choose war with the United States?

As correspondent Scott Pelley reports, Piro is the man who came to know Saddam better than anyone, as they sat face to face in a windowless room.



"I purposely put his back against the wall. And then mine against the door, psychologically to tell him that his back was against the wall in the interview room. And that I stood between him and the door, psychologically. Between him whether it's to go back to his cell, freedom, whatever he was projecting to be outside of that door. I was kind of that psychological barrier between him and the door," Piro recalls.

Just weeks after being pulled from a hole in the ground by U.S. Special Forces after a nine-month manhunt, Saddam Hussein was placed in the hands of George Piro.

Piro says he called the former dictator "Mr. Saddam," and that Hussein began to call the agent "Mr. George." "Over time though, in private, it changed to just Saddam and George," Piro remembers.

Asked if Hussein ever knew who Piro really was, the agent says, "No."

Piro is an American success story. Born in Lebanon, his family escaped the civil war there and moved to the States when he was 12. After enlisting in the Air Force, Piro became a policeman in California. He went to night school to earn the college degree required to apply to the FBI. Piro had been an agent only five years at the time, but was chosen for this assignment for his native Arabic and because it was thought Saddam would identify with a young Arab man on his way up.

Piro's first trick was to make himself appear to be much more powerful than he was. "He didn't know I worked for the FBI, he didn't know I was a field agent," Piro explains.

"If he found out you were a field agent for the FBI, what do you think his reaction would have been?" Pelley asks.

"I think initially he would have been angry. He would feel that I was way beneath him, and would not respond well to the interrogation. Or even to me," Piro says.

"I wonder who did Saddam think you were answering to?" Pelley asks.

"I think he thought, and actually on a couple of occasions talked around the issue that I was directly answering to the president," Piro says.

Piro says Saddam thought "Mr. George" was in direct contact with President Bush, but that in reality he never was.

But Saddam wouldn't have guessed, especially after seeing the charade Piro rehearsed with the guards in the jail. "At times we would rehearse where I would yell out some instructions, and they would literally start running around in panic, trying to accomplish it. And it was all part of our strategy," Piro explains.

Piro says it was all a show for Hussein, and that he established at the very beginning that he was going to be in charge of the dictator.

What did Piro tell Saddam?

"I basically said that I was gonna be responsible for every aspect of his life, and that if he needed anything I was gonna be the person that he needed to talk to," he recalls.

"He would be beholden to you for everything," Pelley remarks.

"Yes," Piro says.

Mr. George controlled the baby wipes that Saddam was fond of. Saddam was a clean freak and he used the wipes to clean his cell and wipe off fresh fruit. Saddam wrote poetry every day, but Mr. George controlled the pen and paper. And in a cell with no windows, Mr. George had the power over day and night.

"We had the guards remove their watches. And the only person that was wearing a watch was me. And it was very evident to him, 'cause I was wearing the largest wristwatch you could imagine. And it was just the act of him asking for the time -- was critical in our plan," Piro says.

"So you controlled time itself," Pelley says.

"Yes," Piro says.

  • CBSNews

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