Iran's reverse-engineering of a U.S. Sentinel drone was either a complete hoax or an unprecedented intelligence coup. While U.S. officials insist Iran fabricated its Sunday announcement that it recovered data from the RQ-170 drone, aviation and computer security experts are split on whether the regime's claim passes the smell test. As evidence that the hack was successful, Iran cited the drone's flight log, which included destinations like Pakistan, in the weeks prior to the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound, California, for a maintenance checkup on Oct. 16, 2010, and Afghanistan, for patrolling missions on Nov. 18, 2010. Still, some say there's no way Iran can be telling the truth.
Here's where the doubters and believers stand:
The doubters. The most high-profile doubter is Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who told reporters that "based on my experience ... I would seriously question their ability to do what they say they have done." He didn't explain why he didn't believe the Iranians but a Pentagon project manager, speaking to Wired's David Axe, went into more detail. "The Iranians would have us believe the drone stores its missions like tweets, ready for someone to scroll through," writes Axe. "Most autonomous warplanes load their missions during pre-flight preparation, and don’t store their records in an onboard harddrive."