Mind games and cookies used to question Saddam
FBI agent talks about 7 months of interrogating the Iraqi dictator
FBI agent Piro was born and raised in Lebanon and was one of only a dozen agents who spoke fluent Arabic.
When she (His Mother) later sent her son (Piro) traditional Arab cookies via FedEx, he shared them with Saddam.
— For seven months, the only person Saddam Hussein saw was FBI agent George Piro, who said he used everything from his own mother's home-made cookies to manipulations of the fallen Iraqi dictator's ego in the hunt for answers.
"It seems like only yesterday, I was sitting in a small windowless cell looking into the eyes of one of the most brutal dictators of our time," Piro said Friday at Texas A&M University, as he spoke for the first time to a civilian audience about his protracted interrogation of Saddam.
Former President George H.W. Bush, who introduced Piro to an audience of about 750 people gathered at Bush's presidential library, said the agent was uniquely qualified.
Piro was born and raised in Lebanon. At the time of Saddam's capture, the former police officer was one of only a dozen agents who spoke fluent Arabic.
"This is a special opportunity to get behind the scenes and hear the unwritten history," Bush said.
Piro was asked about the 9/11 terrorist attacks, weapons of mass destruction, whether Saddam had shown any remorse and whether the interrogation changed his mind about the invasion of Iraq.
"There was clearly no connection between Iraq and the 9/11 attack," he said. "The 9/11 attack was strictly an al-Qaida-led operation, and Iraq was not involved."
He said given Saddam's personality, he couldn't be threatened into spilling his secrets, so the U.S. government sought instead to exploit his flaws: a monster ego and an inability to accept criticism.
Piro said he led Saddam through a range of emotions and dug within himself as he sought to connect with the fallen dictator by talking about his own mother.
He said Saddam's human side was surprising as he was "very normal, very charming, very charismatic and (had) a great sense of humor."
Still, Saddam never showed regret or remorse because he thought that as a great leader, he had to make difficult decisions, Piro said.
"He told me he cared more about what people thought about him in 500 or a thousand years than on the day I was talking to him," Piro said.
"There was clearly no question in his mind," that he would go down in Arab history, Piro said. "That is how he saw himself, that knight in shining armor."
At one point, Piro jabbed at Saddam by letting him know Iraqis no longer celebrated his birthday.
"We made him very aware the Iraqi people didn't love him as much as he thought," Piro said.
As part of preparing himself to interrogate Saddam, Piro said he never took sides within himself as to whether the U.S. should have invaded Iraq.
He said he wished he'd had more time to speak with Saddam for historical purposes, but by the end of their seven months together, he'd gotten all the vital information he needed.
Saddam got emotional during their farewell, not long before he was handed over to the Iraq government, which sentenced him to death by hanging.snip