You Thought Goldman Was Tough On You, See How The F.B.I. Interrogated Sadam

In July 2003, the United States Army located Qusay and Uday Hussein. Upon finding the two, a 3 hour battle ensued between our troops and the two sons of the infamous Saddam Hussein, otherwise tagged by our military as the Ace of Spades.

That battle would leave Qusay and Uday Hussein, the Aces of Clubs and Hearts respectively, dead. On December 13, 2003, Operation Red Dawn would be prove to be successful and, after a long search that spanned the country, our troops would pull Saddam out of a spider hole meticulously dug under a farmhouse near Tikrit.

The first thing our nation wanted to know was whether Saddam had nuclear weapons and the second thing we wanted to know was why couldn’t we find them. The FBI needed to find someone who had a chance of getting answers out of the former Iraqi leader.

Since the odds of getting Saddam to speak were relatively low, the FBI knew they had to find someone with an Arabic background who could also speak the language. The best fit to do the job and decipher where the missing weapons were was a young special agent originally born in Beirut by the name of George Piro.

Also on the agenda was the need for knowledge regarding the Kurdish atrocities in order to build a case for Saddam’s eventual execution.

Here is what we can learn from Piro:

– Do your research on the person who is interviewing you:

Prior to interviewing Saddam, Piro knew that he needed to do his research. He studied Saddam’s life and his career from all angles, which included reading Hussein’s 4 books. As a backup, Piro extensively studied Iraqi history.

The first interview between Piro and the former Iraqi leader took place on January 13, 2004. Saddam was so impressed by his knowledge and the background work that Piro did that he immediately asked him to come back after the first interview. The F.B.I. was relieved as this would be the start of a long, historical and important relationship between the two.

– Show a sincere interest in those who are interviewing you

When Agent George Piro sat down with Saddam for the first time, one of his first questions to the former Iraqi leader was what accomplishments he was most proud of. Saddam lit up and began telling Piro about, among other things, winning landslide elections.

Also, Piro would often ask about Saddam’s poetry which the Iraqi leader was quite proud of. The young agent felt that it was this sincere interest that would in time result in a bond between the two. At Piro and Saddam’s last interview, the agent told 60 Minutes that Saddam hugged him and became teary eyed.

– Don’t ever downplay your past jobs or accomplishments

Saddam had no idea that Piro was a mid-level FBI agent. Piro knew that he had to gain respect from the Iraqi leader. The job Piro had to do was important and he didn’t want to downplay his ability. Therefore, Piro had the prison officers at the Baghdad base where Saddam was being held treat him as a superior and told Saddam that he was sent on orders directly from then-President George W. Bush.

– In the end:

In the end, through his interviewing, Agent Piro found out that Saddam never used body doubles; that Saddam thought Bin Ladin was a fanatic and never had a desire to be involved with the Al Qaeda leader; that Saddam attacked Kuwait because he was insulted by a government official in the country; that he bluffed the WMD claims because he was afraid of an invasion from neighbouring Iran; and, among other things, that Saddam never thought that Bush had the backbone to invade Baghdad and would stop in Southern Iraq while commencing war via the air like his father did.

Joe Persichini, Assistant Director in Charge of our Washington office and Piro’s boss, told 60 Minutes that Piro’s expert work in revealing Saddam’s secrets was “probably one of the top accomplishments of the agency in the last 100 years.”

Though this is an extreme example, and whatever your views on the divisive political realities of this fraught situation, any interviewer can take some basic examples – however far extrapolated – from the work of George Piro.

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