“Within 30 seconds he already knew two things about me.”
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, which culminated in, among other things. the overthrow of dictator Saddam Hussein and his subsequent execution.
Now, the FBI agent who was sent to interrogate the controversial Iraqi leader has spoken to CNN to recall. what the experience was like of talking to one of America’s greatest enemies.
George Piro was hand-picked by the spy chiefs of the U.S. intelligence and security agency to conduct one of the most important interrogations the country has ever conducted.
It took U.S.-led forces only weeks to defeat Saddam’s troops, but an insurgency emerged that fought for years. On December 13 of the same year in which they invaded the country, U.S. special forces found the deposed dictator hiding in a hole in northern Iraq.
After the CIA interrogated him, the FBI decided that George Piro, a U.S. special agent of Lebanese origin, was the right man to talk to Saddam. The conversations lasted seven monthswithout anyone else entering the interrogation room.
When he received the assignment, Piro bought two books about Saddam to learn more about him. “On my first meeting with Saddam, in 30 seconds, he already knew two things about me.”Piro recalls.
“I told him my name was George Piro and that I was in charge, and he immediately said: ‘You’re Lebanese.’ I told him that my parents were Lebanese, and then he said, ‘You’re Christian.’ I asked him if that was a problem, and he said absolutely not. He loved the Lebanese people. The Lebanese people loved him. And I said, ‘Well, great. We’ll get along wonderfully.'”
Piro explains how the interrogation worked during the seven months they were together. “At first, I saw him in the mornings. He would translate for his medical staff. And then formal interrogations were once or twice a week for several hours,” he said.
“As time went on, I began to spend more and more time with him because I could communicate directly and very quickly with him,” adds Piro, who explains that he spoke with the dictator “five to seven hours every dayone on one, a couple of hours in the morning, a couple of hours in the afternoon and then a formal interrogation session or two per week.”
“And we talked about everything. Especially in the first few months, my goal was just to get him to talk. I wanted to know what he valued in life and what were his likes, dislikes, and thought processes. So we talked about everything from history, art, sports to politics. We talked about things that I knew he would have no reservations or hesitations to talk about,” the special agent continues.
In 2006, Saddam Hussein was executed after being handed over to the Iraqi interim government for crimes against humanity. He was hanged at a military base on December 30, 2006.