Here’s the video Iran says it hacked from a downed U.S. drone

February 7, 2013

A state TV station in Iran has broadcast video that Iranian officials say they have extracted from a U.S. drone that went down in December 2011. The footage was allegedly recorded by the drone.

The video is pretty dull. It shows, according to the A.P.'s write-up, "an aerial view of an airport and a city, said to be a U.S. drone base in Kandahar, Afghanistan." It also shows video of the drone: of the Iranian military moving it with a helicopter and later tinkering with it. It's possible that Iran is holding back other, more sensitive footage, but none of this exactly suggests an intelligence bonanza, if it's even real.

So here's the big question: is it real? CNN says it couldn't confirm that one way or the other. The Atlantic Wire notes that there has been some uncertainty as to whether or not the drone that Iran paraded before TV cameras last year was the real thing:

There is reason to be skeptical, of course, since some experts have doubted all along that Iran ever had the U.S. drone in the first place. (The one they put on display in 2011looked pretty fake, especially for an aircraft that was supposedly blown out of the sky.) The Pentagon admitted to losing a drone over Afghanistan, but never actually confirmed that Iran had possession and have not yet commented on this video.

Iran announced last April that it had successfully hacked into computer hardware on the drone, which officials called a "national asset." The consistent pace at which Iran has announced various achievements and breakthroughs with the downed drone, and the loud volume at which it has done so on state media, suggest that the country may be treating this thing as primarily a propaganda tool.

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Max Fisher | February 7, 2013