Drone Hacking Claims: A Little Truthful or Bold Lies?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Joel Harding

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My favorite blog I ever published was about Iran.  My favorite line was the very first one, it was the visual cue accompanied by a completely different almost-Monty Python type caption.  Read it, please, I’ll wait.

I just finished a teaching a course about Information Operations recently . One of the students came from the area of the world I’ll call Southern Asia, which to me includes Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. 

We were discussing my frustration with how facts are often established in this part of the world, to put it simply, it is the polar opposite from most of the rest of the world. Much of the Southern Asian beliefs and accepted facts are based on storytelling. 

One story often builds on another story, the next story might build off the second and so on. By the time the storyteller begins his 50th story, for instance, everything about the first story is now an accepted fact for both the audience and the story teller.  To say anything less negates the storyteller and his stories and causes his reputation to become diminished.

I had a friend in the late 1990s who originated from Afghanistan and moved to the Washington DC area, I lived in the same apartment complex and our families became friends.  He and I would sometimes talk and my frustration grew every time we spoke. In the space of one short paragraph I would often wonder how he had distorted the facts so severely, how he had misperceived US intentions so grossly and I wondered if I could ever remember enough of these incidences to argue their validity (or lack thereof). 

I tried, I truly tried, but it was like arguing with a brick wall. His emotional and impassioned arguments were met by what I hoped were reasoned and logical counter-arguments. I failed.  Miserably. There was not enough time to lay out the facts. He was a good story teller.

Now Iran is claiming that an “electronic warfare” unit forced down an US RQ-170 Sentinel Drone on December 4th, 2011 through a cyber attack.  My last blog addressed this issue and I hope I finally succeeded in laying out a logical argument negating their claim. 

Since then I have read countless articles and blogs which say the same thing. Lately the Iranians are saying they are close to uncovering all the secrets contained in the drone and unlocking the software. BS. Instead of a detailed explanation I just say BS. As they say in  Missouri, “Show me”.

Now the Iranian News Agency, Fars, is stating that 90 US drones have been downed since 2007.

The number of the hi-tech drones that the US has lost since 2007 in combat or while spying over other world countries reached 90 with the last one hacked by Iranian armed forces and brought down in the Eastern parts of the country almost intact 10 days ago. Source

Notice, please, the ‘hack’ in this story is now an assumed fact.  No further discussion, the story builds upon previous BS.

The next sentence threw me for a loop.

The Drone Crash Database of the global research says thirteen drone crashes have taken place over the past ten months, including the stealth drone in Iran.

I’m not disputing someone established a Done Crash Database, but who is the “global research”? Which agency, bureau or department, from which country and what are their qualifications?  Are they biased?

The report goes on.

According to global research database, 25 large drones have crashed so far this year. Altogether the database records some details of 90 drone crashes since January 2007.

This year, as in 2011? Curious minds wonder: crashed on takeoff or landing? Any shot down?  Mechanical or electrical failure?  25 large drones this year will now become fact, according to the Fars story teller. There will be no future discussion, no disclosure of sources and certainly no admission of incorrect data.  That isn’t in their culture.

USAF accident investigation announcements reveal that three US Predator drones have crashed in Djibouti, one in March 2011 and two in May 2011. While there are only bare details at this stage, more details should become available when the investigation report is published.

Okay…  an investigation report. Done by whom?  The USAF?  Published?  One strongly doubts it has taken six months and no close-hold report has been published and distributed to those with a “need to know”, certainly the Iranians do not have a need to know. The assumption is also that the Iranians are on the distribution list (they’re not) or the report will be objectively discussed by Fars (not in your wildest dreams).

Other crashes include an Israeli Heron drone that crashed in Turkey.

Ah… do I detect a certain amount of bias in this now? Even though Unmanned Aerial Systems will be sold to most countries in the world, on every continent, the Fars report manages to only talk about the United States and now (surprise) Israel.

I’m patiently waiting, Iran, for a factually based and objective report about, oh, anything... or I can continue throwing the BS flag.  In my humble and now very public opinion, I cannot and will not believe any reports originating in Iran.  About anything. They’re all BS.

Cross-posted from To Inform is to Influence

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L Niles Most of the questions you raise to discredit the Fars article can be answered by about 5 minutes of research. The facts aren't nearly as ominous as the story you tell. Google quickly reveals that the Drone Crash Database isn't some shadowy mystery; it is found on the Drone Wars UK web site http://dronewarsuk.wordpress.com/. You can read about the organization and who is behind it on that web site, and decide for yourself if you think they're biased. That web site includes links to the investigative reports -- yes, they are from the USAF, they do typically take longer than 6 months to complete (not unlike NTSB reports on civilian air crashes, which usually take 9-24 months), and yes, the USAF distributes those reports on its web site to anyone who cares to read, including Iranians. Lastly, while UAVs are in use by many countries, except for one crash each of a Chinese and German UAV, all of the crashes in the database are UAVs of US or Israeli origin.
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Joel Harding Good points all, and thank you.

I updated my original blog at http://toinformistoinfluence.com and included that link.
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