The crash of a CIA drone in Iran has brought into the open what U.S. intelligence agencies would prefer kept secret: intense spying efforts in a country where the United States has no official presence.
Iran on Thursday aired with great flourish footage of the captured drone, which appeared largely intact. Pentagon and CIA spokesmen would not comment on whether it was the missing U.S. RQ-170 Sentinel unmanned aircraft.
A person familiar with the situation confirmed that the drone that crashed was on a surveillance mission over Iran. It is believed to have crashed because of a malfunction and not from being shot down or computer-hacked by the Iranians, a U.S. official said on condition of anonymity....................
U.S. surveillance of Iran through various means has been going on for years, U.S. officials and others with direct knowledge of the situation say.
A private U.S. defense expert, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that when he visited the command center at a U.S. military base in the Gulf region in 2008, it was clear that the installation was receiving multiple feeds of electronic surveillance information from inside Iran. Some of the information appeared to be transmitted from high-altitude aircraft and some from electronic sensors which the United States had somehow installed on the ground in Iran, the expert said.
The United States has no official presence in Iran so it is difficult to determine exactly what is going on inside its borders. One recent incident has yet to be fully unraveled.