Bloomberg News

Iran Seeks to Decode Information Stored on Downed U.S. Drone

December 13, 2011

Dec. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Iran said it is studying an unmanned U.S. reconnaissance aircraft that it shot down in the country’s east on Dec. 4, and is close to accessing information stored in it.

“We are in the final steps of breaking into the aircraft’s secret code,” Parviz Sarvari, the head of the parliament’s national security and foreign policy committee, said in an interview on the state-run Al Alam news channel late yesterday. “By accessing the U.S. classified information and their spying plans we will have valuable information at hand,”

“The findings will be used to support our accusations against the U.S.,” Sarvari said, his comments published on the state television’s website.

Three U.S. defense officials said the plane the Iranians displayed on television on Dec. 8, appears to be the Lockheed Martin Corp. RQ-170 that controllers lost contact with four days earlier. The Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency have declined to comment on the matter.

The officials spoke on Dec. 9 on condition of anonymity because the RQ-170 is part of a Secret Compartmented Intelligence (SCI) program, a classification higher than Top Secret, and because the investigation into the loss of the drone is also classified.

The U.S. says the Persian Gulf country’s nuclear program is a cover for developing atomic weapons. Iran, which is under four sets of United Nations sanctions and further U.S. and European Union measures, rejects the claim and says the program is purely civilian.

The officials said that for three years the U.S. has been flying two types of unmanned surveillance missions over Iran and along the Afghanistan-Iran border from a former Soviet airbase in Shindand in western Afghanistan’s Herat province.

In addition to monitoring construction and other activity at suspected Iranian nuclear facilities, the officials said, the CIA has been using drones to monitor cross-border traffic and Iranian support for insurgents.

--With assistance from John Walcott in Washington. Editors: Andrew J. Barden, Ben Holland

To contact the reporter on this story: Ladane Nasseri in Tehran at lnasseri@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net


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