Panetta dismisses Iran’s claim over drone
BOGOTA - Agence France-PresseU.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta yesterday dismissed claims by Iran that it had gleaned data from a downed U.S. drone and was now building a copy of the robotic spy craft.
“I can tell you from my experience that I would seriously question their ability to do what they said they’ve done,” Panetta, a former CIA director, told reporters before landing in Bogota. The commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ aero spatial division, General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, said on April 22 that Iran had discovered “codes” from the bat-winged RQ-170 Sentinel that fell into Tehran’s hands in December.
Panetta scoffed at Iran’s account but said he could not discuss details of such a sensitive subject. “It’s, obviously, a classified program. I don’t want to get into the particulars,” he said during a briefing on his flight to Bogota, at the start of a Latin American tour.
Iran claimed one of its cyberwarfare team hacked the drone’s controls by confusing its GPS guidance system, and has since claimed it would reverse-engineer the drone. Panetta, in his first visit to Latin America as Pentagon chief, said the U.S. was concerned about the Guards’ alleged attempts to expand their influence in the Middle East as well as in South America. “That in my book relates to expanding terrorism, and I think that’s one of the areas we’re all concerned about,” he said.