A US drone forced down by the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Iranian government has demanded an apology from the Obama administration for violating its airspace., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Iran says it has gleaned data from U.S. spy drone
Sunday, April 22, 2012
Tehran -- - Iran said Sunday it had recovered data from an American spy drone that went down in Iran last year, including information that the aircraft was used to spy on Osama bin Laden weeks before he was killed. Iran also said it was building a copy of the drone.
Similar unmanned surveillance planes have been used in Afghanistan for years and kept watch on bin Laden's compound in Pakistan. But U.S. officials have said little about the history of the particular aircraft now in Iran's possession.
Tehran, which has been known to exaggerate its military and technological prowess, says it brought down the RQ-170 Sentinel, a top-secret drone equipped with stealth technology. The United States says the drone malfunctioned and downplayed any suggestion that Iran could mine the aircraft for sensitive information.
The chief of the aerospace division of the powerful Revolutionary Guards, Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, told state television that Iranian experts had recovered data from the aircraft.
"There is almost no part hidden to us in this aircraft. We recovered part of the data that had been erased. There were many codes and characters. But we deciphered them by the grace of God," Hajizadeh said.
Among the drone's past missions, he said, was surveillance of the compound in northwest Pakistan where bin Laden lived. Hajizadeh claimed the drone flew over bin Laden's compound two weeks before the al Qaeda leader was killed there in May 2011 by U.S. Navy SEALs.
He also listed tests and maintenance that the drone had undergone, all of which, he said, had been recorded in the aircraft's memory. According to Hajizadeh, the drone was taken to California on Oct. 16, 2010, for "technical work" and then to Kandahar, Afghanistan, on Nov. 18, 2010.
Hajizadeh said he provided the details to prove to the Americans "how far we've penetrated into this aircraft."
The U.S. Defense Department said it does not discuss intelligence matters and would not comment on the Iranian claims.
The semiofficial Mehr news agency said Iran had reverse-engineered the aircraft and has begun using that knowledge to build a copy of the drone.
This article appeared on page A - 4 of the San Francisco Chronicle