BY LAUREN ZIMA
The Fars News Agency, which has ties to the Iranian government, is reporting that Iran's top general says the country will not return a U.S. RQ-170 drone it claims it downed in Eastern Iran. Newser quotes General Hossein Salami, who called the drone a, quote, "hostile" attack by the U.S., and warned of a bigger response from Iran.
"No nation welcomes other countries' spy drones in its territory, and no one sends back the spying equipment and its information back to the country of origin ... It makes no difference where this drone originated and which group or country sent it to invade our air space. This was an act of invasion and belligerence."
The White House confirmed early last week that the drone was part of a CIA reconaissance mission and that it was missing. Salami called its capture a victory for Iran and a defeat for the U.S. But -- is the drone Iran has definitely the U.S. drone? CBS explains.
"In video released by Iran, the drone appears nearly intact -- something American officials can't or won't explain. The U.S. military says it lost control of a drone earlier this week and doesn't deny the Iranians now have it. Iran could try to reverse engineer the aircraft or hand it over to China or Russia."
Iran says the drone is intact because it wasn't shot down -- instead, officials say, the drone was taken down in a cyber attack. The Daily Mail reports that the U.S. refutes the claim.
"American officials have said that US intelligence assessments indicate that Iran neither shot the drone down, nor used electronic or cybertechnology to force it from the sky. They contend the drone malfunctioned. The officials had spoken anonymously in order to discuss the classified program."
So, what's at stake for the U.S.? CNN spoke with an intelligence expert who says that the stealth technology of the drone is widely known, but it's what's inside that counts.
"This is at the leading edge of U.S. technological capabilities. ... It's the electronic equipment, the cameras, the infrared sensors, the radar -- possibly eavesdropping communications technology. Maybe sniffers to test the atmosphere for nucleides. All that would be very valuable to Iran."
But Radio Free Europe says there might be some hope for the U.S.. because General Salami has:
" ... indicated willingness to reach a deal. ... 'The U.S. can, however, compensate this aggressive move by some correct [political] measures,' Salami added."
Still -- is the U.S. headed for even more compromised intelligence? Fox News reports Google Maps allow any user to search for the names of military bases, and zoom in so close that they can see drones.
"Aviation website Flight Global has done just that, and claims to have found the secret airstrip at Yucca Lake, Nev., used for testing the RQ-170. ... national laws do not apply above the atmosphere, and the mass public now has access to the same satellite images used by governments for decades."
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