There is new evidence to support Iran’s claim that the U.S.’ most advanced stealth drone, the RQ-170, did not crash inside Iran due to a simple malfunction as U.S. officials claimed. But rather, the Iranians attacked weaknesses in its GPS system to force it to land inside Iran. Jeffrey Carr and Public Intelligence released separate statements adding credence to the Iranian claims. Public Intelligence released a secret air force report that described serious weaknesses in the drone communications systems which might allow them to be sabotaged or jammed by those it is targeting. After reading this report, Carr, a top cybersecurity expert wrote this:
With this report as background, the capture of the RQ-170 by Iranian forces needs to be evaluated fairly and not dismissed as some kind of Iranian scam for reasons that have more to do with embarrassment than a rational assessment of the facts.
An Iranian engineer familiar with his country’s campaign to sabotage U.S. drones described it to the Christian Science Monitor:
“The GPS navigation is the weakest point,” the Iranian engineer told The Monitor, giving the most detailed description yet published of Iran’s “electronic ambush” of the highly classified US drone. “By putting noise [jamming] on the communications, you force the bird into autopilot. This is where the bird loses its brain.”
The “spoofing” technique that the Iranians used – which took into account precise landing altitudes, as well as latitudinal and longitudinal data – made the drone “land on its own where we wanted it to, without having to crack the remote-control signals and communications” from the US control center, says the engineer.
CNN reported on December 6th that U.S. officials claimed the drone was doing reconnaissance on an “intelligence” flight over western Afghanistan and not intending to enter Iranian airspace:
A senior U.S. official with direct access to the assessment about what happened to the drone said it was tasked to fly over western Afghanistan and look for insurgent activity, with no directive to either fly into Iran or spy on Iran from Afghan airspace.
Since there are no quotations in this passage it’s hard to know what this official said. But it may very well be that the drone wasn’t surveilling Iran from within Afghanistan but rather from within Iran itself. This would allow the statement to be nominally true, with an emphasis on very nominally.
Today, defense secretary Leon Panetta reacted to Iran’s demand of Afghanistan that it cease serving as a host for U.S. drones and their incursions into its territory. Instead of denying this as it had earlier, Panetta said such flights would continue:
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, visiting with Afghanistan’s president, Hamid Karzai, in Kabul on Wednesday, said that surveillance flights over Iran would continue despite the loss of the drone.
A major about-face in U.S. policy which few in the media seem to have noticed. So in fact, the U.S. is now admitting that it is invading Iran’s territory, which is a major escalation in the battle of wills between Israel-U.S. and Iran.
In that December 6th report, the U.S. official seemed to lie again when he said all the Iranians have is a “pile of rubble.” Given that the Iranians are displaying an intact RQ-170 for public viewing, that would seem to give the lie to this claim as well. Unless the U.S. would like to claim that the craft on display isn’t the one the Iranians brought down. But then again, how did they get this one if not the way they claim?
Aside from its implications for heating up the covert U.S.-Israeli war on Iran, these reports raise another serious issue: the U.S. now has near zero credibility in almost anything it has to say about Iran. Its claims about the nature, trajectory and imminence of the Iranian bomb program; its claims about IRG hit men seeking to assassinate Saudi ambassadors; its claims it is not involved with acts of sabotage and violence inside Iran; its claims not to be involved in cyber warfare episodes like Stuxnet…all of these have been questioned, even ridiculed by seasoned analysts. This new development will hold U.S. protestations up for even greater disdain. They will also cause future claims by the U.S. on these and related subjects to be treated dubiously.
I’m also reminded of U.S. claims that Osama bin Laden was not murdered in cold blood. They have the videotape to prove what happened. The fact that they don’t release them tells us the truth.
In fact, I’m thinking that U.S. officials may be taking lessons from the Israeli hasbara apparatus: when anything happens that makes you look bad, lie and deny it. If someone catches you in a lie it will take so long for them to do so that you’ll already be onto the next story and the media and public will be scrambling to catch up. When you can, make up stuff to make your opponent look bad. This is why I treat pronouncements from the Israeli military-intelligence apparatus skeptically. Any statement from the Israelis that is at odds with or contrary to their interests I treat with deference and respect; any statement that advances their ulterior motives must be taken with great a grain of salt unless it can be verified independently. Now we need to do the same with our own government.