December 4, 2011: Iranian forces brought down a U.S. RQ-170 Sentinel drone equipped with proprietary stealth technology. The U.S. was using the drone to monitor Iran’s military and nuclear facilities. The Pentagon played down the capture and President Obama asked Iran to return the drone.
February 1, 2012: Iran’s government contracted an Iranian toy company to produce a pink, $4 toy model of the Sentinel and sent it to the White House. "No one returns the symbol of aggression to the party that sought secret and vital intelligence related to the national security of a country," Iranian Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Lt. Commander Gen. Hossein Salami reportedly said.
April 22, 2012: Iran announced that it had successfully recovered sensitive data from the Sentinel—including information we had supposedly erased. Iran also said it was building a duplicate drone since the Sentinel was almost entirely intact at the time of capture.
November 1, 2012: Iran’s air and sea borders are highly disputed, yet the U.S. risked Iranian ire and flew a U.S. MQ-1 Predator drone over what Iran considers to be its territorial waters in the Persian Gulf. An Iranian SU-25 Frog-foot warplane shot at our drone in retaliation.
December 4, 2012: Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps naval forces captured a U.S. drone that reportedly violated Iran’s airspace. Since the drone did not belong to the U.S. Navy, it most likely belonged to the CIA or the Department of Defense’s National Security Agency and was conducting surveillance on Iran.
We must improve our stealth drone technology or our rivals will continue to intercept it. The Predator drones we use abroad put our national security at risk because their unencrypted GPS signal is easy for an enemy to spoof and they are susceptible to jamming (according to a September Government Accountability Office report). Why are we using such underdeveloped technology?
In addition to improving our stealth technology, but we must exercise more discretion in deciding whether to use it. Iran views U.S. drone surveillance as a direct act of aggression. If we seriously want to negotiate with Iran and avoid an unnecessary war, we must reevaluate our constant snooping with bug-prone drones.
Our drones are stirring up anti-American sentiment abroad. In just four years, the CIA’s drones have killed 2,500 people (plus numerous unreported civilians). Citizens in Iran, Pakistan, Yemen and Afghanistan progressively view our drones as violating their national sovereignty and are angered by the civilian deaths they cause.
The Obama administration may call them lies. But we know these “lies” are true: U.S. domestic drone policy ravages our constitutional freedoms while U.S. international drone policy incites blowback and threatens our national security.