Introducing: 60 Minutes All Access Learn More +
Unlimited, ad-free viewing of 60 Minutes archives, Overtime and extras
Toggle

Interrogator Shares Saddam's Confessions

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

That June 2000 speech was about weapons of mass destruction. In talking casually about that speech, Saddam began to tell the story of his weapons. It was a breakthrough that had taken five months.

"Oh, you couldn't imagine the excitement that I was feeling at that point," Piro remembers.

"And what did he tell you about how his weapons of mass destruction had been destroyed?" Pelley asks.

"He told me that most of the WMD had been destroyed by the U.N. inspectors in the '90s. And those that hadn't been destroyed by the inspectors were unilaterally destroyed by Iraq," Piro says.

"So why keep the secret? Why put your nation at risk, why put your own life at risk to maintain this charade?" Pelley asks.

"It was very important for him to project that because that was what kept him, in his mind, in power. That capability kept the Iranians away. It kept them from reinvading Iraq," Piro says.

Before his wars with America, Saddam had fought a ruinous eight year war with Iran and it was Iran he still feared the most.

"He believed that he couldn't survive without the perception that he had weapons of mass destruction?" Pelley asks.

"Absolutely," Piro says.

"As the U.S. marched toward war and we began massing troops on his border, why didn't he stop it then? And say, 'Look, I have no weapons of mass destruction.' I mean, how could he have wanted his country to be invaded?" Pelley asks.

"He didn't. But he told me he initially miscalculated President Bush. And President Bush's intentions. He thought the United States would retaliate with the same type of attack as we did in 1998 under Operation Desert Fox. Which was a four-day aerial attack. So you expected that initially," Piro says.

Piro says Saddam expected some kind of an air campaign and that he could he survive that. "He survived that once. And then he was willing to accept that type of attack. That type of damage," he says.

"Saddam didn't believe that the United States would invade," Pelley remarks.

"Not initially, no," Piro says.

"Once it was clear to him that there was going to be an invasion of the country. I mean, did he actually believe that his armies could win?" Pelley asks.

"No," Piro says. "What he had asked of his military leaders and senior government officials was to give him two weeks. And at that point it would go into what he called the secret war."

"The secret war. What did he mean?" Pelley asks.

"Going from a conventional to an unconventional war," Piro says.

"So the insurgency was part of his plan from the very beginning," Pelley remarks.

"Well, he would like to take credit for the insurgency," Piro says.

Central to that insurgency were Saddam's sons, that is, before they were killed by U.S. forces.

Asked how Saddam reacted to the deaths of his two sons, Uday and Qusay, Piro says, "I was surprised. He didn't show any remorse. He told me that he was, of course, proud of his sons. They died believing, or fighting, for what they believed."

Piro asked Saddam about his son Uday, a notorious rapist and murderer. He pressed him until Saddam didn't want to hear anymore. "He tells me to stop. Basically stop asking these questions. You don't get to pick your kids. You're kind of stuck with what you get," Piro recalls.

Among the most important questions for U.S. intelligence was whether Saddam was supporting al Qaeda, as had been claimed by some in the Bush administration.

What was Saddam's opinion of Osama Bin Laden?

"He considered him to be a fanatic. And as such was very wary of him. He told me, 'You can't really trust fanatics,'" Piro says.

"Didn't think of Bin Laden as an ally in his effort against the United States in this war against the United States?" Pelley asks.

"No. No. He didn't wanna be seen with Bin Laden. And didn't want to associate with Bin Laden," Piro explains.

Piro says Saddam thought that Bin Laden was a threat to him and his regime.