DEVELOPING: U.S. Admits Drone Was Hunting Iran Nuke Sites
CNN.COM - The Sentinel drone that crashed in Iran last week was on a surveillance mission of suspected nuclear sites in the country, U.S. military officials tell CNN.
Previously, U.S. and NATO officials had said the drone was on a mission to patrol the Afghan-Iran border and had veered off course.
The officials say the Afghan government was unaware of the use of its territory to fly surveillance drones over Iran, and that the CIA had not informed the Defense Department of the drone's mission when reports first emerged that it had crashed. One official told CNN that the U.S. military "did not have a good understanding of what was going on because it was a CIA mission."
In Kabul Wednesday U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta refused to comment directly on the specifics of the drone's mission but did not deny that it had been spying on Iran and said the drone program carried out "important intelligence operations which we will continue to pursue."
The RQ-170 Sentinel is one of the United States' most sophisticated drones and flies at up to 50,000 feet. It is designed to evade sophisticated air defenses. One former intelligence official told CNN that it's "impossible to see" and discounted Iranian claims that it had been brought down by some form of electronic counter-measures.
"It simply fell into their laps," he said - after satellite communication was lost.
An Iranian engineer working on the captured drone claimed to the Christian Science Monitor that Iran was able to overtake the drone control system and land it. The engineer described to reporter Scott Peterson how Iran was able to exploit a vulnerability in the drone system.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers said categorically that Iran had nothing to do with the fate of the aircraft.
"I will say without hesitation that this was not something that anyone had anything to do with, coming down with, other than a technical problem," he said. "I will tell you there was a technical problem that was our problem, nobody else's problem. I think there is a lot of PR going on." click here to read more
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