SADDAM MISREAD BUSH AND DIDN'T EXPECT A U.S. INVASION, SAYS THE DICTATOR'S INTERROGATOR IN HIS FIRST TELEVISION INTERVIEW -- "60 MINUTES" SUNDAY
He Brags About Eluding Capture and Being Missed Once by Tons of Bombs and Missiles
Saddam Hussein initially didn't think the U.S. would invade Iraq to destroy weapons of mass destruction, so he kept the fact that he had none a secret to prevent an Iranian invasion he believed could happen. The Iraqi dictator revealed this thinking to George Piro, the FBI agent assigned to interrogate him after his capture. Piro, in his first television interview, relays this and other revelations to Scott Pelley in a 60 MINUTES report to be broadcast Sunday Jan. 27 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
Piro spent almost seven months debriefing Saddam in a plan based on winning his confidence by convincing him that Piro was an important envoy who answered to President Bush. This and being Saddam's sole provider of items like writing materials and toiletries made the toppled Iraqi president open up to Piro, a Lebanese-American and one of the few FBI agents who spoke Arabic. "He told me he initially miscalculated... President Bush's intentions. He thought the United States would retaliate with the same type of attack as we did in 1998...a four-day aerial attack," says Piro. "He survived that one and he was willing to accept that type of attack." "He didn't believe the U.S. would invade?" asks Pelley, "No, not initially," answers Piro.
Once the invasion was certain, says Piro, Saddam asked his generals if they could hold the invaders for two weeks. "And at that point, it would go into what he called the secret war," Piro tells Pelley. But Piro isn't convinced that the insurgency was Saddam's plan. "Well, he would like to take credit for the insurgency," says Piro.
Saddam still wouldn't admit he had no weapons of mass destruction, even when it was obvious there would be military action against him because of the perception he did. Because, says Piro, "For him, it was critical that he was seen as still the strong, defiant Saddam. He thought that [faking having the weapons] would prevent the Iranians from reinvading Iraq," he tells Pelley. He also intended and had the wherewithal to restart the weapons program. "[Saddam] still had the engineers. The folks that he needed to reconstitute his program are still there," says Piro. "He wanted to pursue all of WMD...to reconstitute his entire WMD program." This included chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, Piro says.
Saddam bragged that he changed his routine and security to elude capture. "What he wanted to really illustrate is...how he was able to outsmart us," says Piro. "He told me he changed...the way he traveled. He got rid of his normal vehicles. He got rid of the protective detail that he traveled with, really just to change his signature."
It took nine months to finally capture Saddam, but U.S. calculations on where he might be early on turned out to be accurate. Saddam was at Dora Farms early in the war when the known presidential site was targeted with tons of bombs and many missiles. "He said it in a kind of a bragging fashion that he was there, but that we missed him. He wasn't bothered by the fact that he was there," Piro tells Pelley.