U.S. Asks Iran For Spy Drone's Return; Iran Says It's Extracting Secret Data

Dec 12, 2011
Originally published on December 12, 2011 5:02 pm

The United States is officially asking Iran for the return of a drone surveillance aircraft lost earlier this month.

"We have asked for it back. We'll see how the Iranians respond," President Barack Obama said during a White House news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Monday.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, speaking at a State Department news conference, told reporters that the U.S. had "submitted a formal request" for the craft's return, but that "given Iran's behavior to date, we do not expect them to comply."

Gen. Hossein Salami of Iran's Revolutionary Guard said on Sunday it would not give the captured piece of equipment back. The Washington Post reports today that an Iranian politician says the country is in the process of extracting data from the drone:

"Parviz Sorouri, a key member of the parliament's national security and foreign policy committee, told Iranian state television that the extracted information would be used to file a lawsuit against the United States over the 'invasion' by the unmanned aircraft."

Decoding and understanding the drone is easier said than done, according to a report by Danger Room's David Axe:

"Prepare the dissection table. Iran says it's planning to disassemble its prized acquisition: a CIA-operated drone that apparently crashed in its territory. Its goal: to learn how the drone, apparently a stealth RQ-170 Sentinel, evades radar and how its top-secret sensors work. Which has the U.S. worried about Iran copying its advanced flying robot. 'There is the potential for reverse engineering, clearly,' U.S. Air Force Chief Gen. Norton Schwartz conceded."

"But Iran will probably need help from arms exporters Russia and China in breaking down the flying-wing unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) — meaning the RQ-170′s secrets could ultimately fall into the hands of, well, pretty much every country with an interest in sticking it to Uncle Sam. Luckily for Washington, however, reverse-engineering a high-tech drone is easier said than done, according to two UAV designers who spoke to Danger Room on the condition we not print their names."

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