Miami-Dade County

G-Man who questioned Saddam Hussein now heads Miami’s FBI office

The G-Man who interrogated Saddam Hussein after his capture during the U.S.-Iraq war has taken the reins of the FBI's Miami Field Office.

George Piro, the new special agent in charge, formerly served as the deputy assistant director of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Piro, 46, has replaced Michael Steinbach, a counter-terrorism specialist who managed the bureau’s South Florida office over the past year and returned to Washington on Friday.

Piro is in charge of more than 400 special agents whose territory runs from Key West to Fort Pierce — one of the busiest districts for federal crime in the nation. His domain also includes FBI legal attachés stationed in U.S. embassies throughout the Caribbean and Latin America.

Piro’s fluent Arabic skills in the post-9/11 era have propelled his FBI career. It started in 1999 in the Phoenix field office where he investigated international terrorism cases. Four years later, he was promoted to the Counter-terrorism Division at FBI headquarters and later selected as the bureau’s team leader in charge of Hussein’s interrogation.

U.S. Special Forces had pulled the fallen Iraqi leader from a hole in the ground in late 2003 following a nine-month manhunt.

Piro, born in Lebanon of Assyrian heritage and raised as a teen-ager in California’s San Joaquin Valley, told CBS 60 Minutes in a 2008 interview that Hussein knew him only as “Mr. George” as they sat face to face in a windowless room. Piro called him “Mr. Saddam.”

“Over time, though, in private, it changed to just Saddam and George,” Piro told 60 Minutes. Asked if Hussein ever knew who Piro really was, the agent said, “No.”

His fluency in Arabic, a rarity among FBI agents, opened up other high-level doors in the bureau. In 2006, Piro was promoted to supervisor of the Washington Field Office’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. He also served as the assistant special agent in charge of the International Terrorism Branch for the Washington Field Office, which entailed regular deployment to the Middle East.

From 2011 to 2013, Piro served as director of the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG), an inter-agency unit overseen by the Counter-terrorism Security Group within the White House that involves the intelligence community.

Before joining the FBI, Piro served as a police officer in Ceres, Calif., for nearly 10 years and previously in the U.S. Air Force after graduating from high school. He received his bachelor’s degree from Chapman University in criminal justice and a master’s degree from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in security studies.