On December 5, 2012, Venezuelan teleSUR news network showed footage from the Iranian television; at its center was a captured US ScanEagle drone. The feat had been performed by Iran's Revolutionary Guards; some of them were happily chatting next to the contraption. Last December, Israel's Military Intelligence (AMAN) reported that Iran hit an American satellite; shortly after, Iran captured an RQ-170 Sentinel drone, which belongs to the top echelon of American drones. This was acknowledged by the USA, to the extent that President Obama unsuccessfully asked for it to be returned. These two events show that Iran's technological capability allows the capture of a much inferior device. The ScanEagle is a low-cost, short-range unmanned aircraft made by Boeing that measures 1.4 meters (4.5 feet) long and with a wingspan of three meters (10 feet), it is designed to send video images over a radio link to operators up to 100 kilometers (60 miles) away. In contrast, the Sentinel belongs to Tier III of American drones; it can reach an altitude of 60,000 to 65,000 feet (19,800m), a speed of up to 300 knots (560 km/h), and a whooping 3,000-nautical-mile (6,000 km) radius, with a 24 hour time-on-station capability. It is vastly superior to the walkie-talkie toy captured this time. Iran's Revolutionary Guards spokesman Brigadier General Ramezan Sharif claimed that the drone had been launched from a US Navy vessel in the Gulf, and was on a reconnaissance mission hovering over Iranian military sites and oil terminals. The amazing American reaction will probably survive its country as an eternal example of a lame lie.
US ScanEagle on catapult
A spokesman for the US Fifth Fleet based in the Gulf said none of its drones was missing. Shortly after, one of the White House spokesmen said, "there is no evidence" that the Iranian claim was true. Turning around slowly, the camera showed the public. Most reporters were unable to disguise their disbelief. Of course, the spokesman wasn't lying, he was using a different definition: Ev·i·dence [noun] 1: False claim made by a government. Amused, the Guards' spokesman recommended that the USA recount their drones, adding, "Its capture is not an issue the Americans can easily refute." Strengthening his point, he said, "more information would be released if necessary," and, "the Americans will sooner or later confirm that their drone has been captured." He knew that, earlier this year, after an initial denial, the USA had acknowledged the Iranian capture of their Sentinel drone. Another explanation for the odd American reaction is that there is no evidence because the evidence is held by Iran. Regardless of American logic, Iran owns an American ScanEagle drone; soon, it will be cloned.
The comic nature of this event hides a fundamental truth regarding American military capabilities and strategies. Not even the USA denies that it uses drones in Iran, Afghanistan, and other places. Proud pictures of the contraptions are readily accessible; their technological capabilities are openly published. The USA, like Israel, NATO, and their allies are obsessed with the creation of fear. "Deterrence" they call it; in Israel it is mainly related to its second strike option, a polite name for a fleet of German submarines carrying nuclear weapons. Like in the ridiculous American reaction to this case, the claims are often exaggerated and manipulated, to the extent that these nations fall prey to their own lies.
These lies (or partial lies, we will probably never know) are aimed not only for internal consumption by the Western electorate, but also towards Iran, or any other nation playing the role of enemy at a given moment. Some of them are a clear attempt to create fear among Iranian leaders in a desperate attempt to deter them from continuing the development of their society. This is odd. Why would the West care about a proven peaceful society? The Islamic Republic of Iran never attacked any other nation. Is that due to the compulsive need of Western, 1984-oriented societies, to have an enemy in order to control their own populations? Is Iran the perfect enemy of the West because it is peaceful and thus can be safely provoked to death? This claim is less ridiculous than it sounds at first; in Armageddon’s Trigger there is an impressive–yet partial–list of Israeli failed casus belli provocations during 2011.
These attacks on Iran are done in such a wild fashion, that sometimes I have the feeling Western journalists are running amok randomly along and across a conceptual matrix covering the violent options being promoted by their political warlords. There is a large list of accusations against Iran, reports of clandestine Western attacks on Iran, of Western spies in Iran, of assassination of nuclear scientists, of Iranian technological breakthroughs, and… just name it. On February 2010, there was even an American Weather Balloon aimed at finding out Iran’s plans regarding its nuclear fuel. The Israeli angle may be a bit different, including a Wag the Dog element, in which the "tail" (Israel) is attempting to wag the "dog" (USA) into attacking Iran as some say was done in the Iraq War. Yet, these tactics are aimed also for internal consumption, and the current event disclosed their untruthful nature.
Years ago, I listened to an odd interview of Will Smith about his film "Enemy of the State," a 1998 American action-thriller about NSA agents who kill a US Congressman and try to cover up the murder. Unluckily, the incident is filmed by a wildlife researcher, who alerts a journalist. Unable to find the video, the NSA proceeds to falsely incriminate the journalist, who in sheer terror passes the data to Will Smith before being assassinated by the US government. From this point, Will Smith becomes the Enemy of the State. While he runs for his life, the government systematically destroys his life with a carefully staged set of lies and crimes. Due to unexpected help from a former NSA agent, Smith is cleared of all charges. The movie is quite frightening in the surveillance capabilities it discloses. In the interview promoting the film, Smith described his close meeting with the American terror-machine which is spying on its own citizens. "They have over 4,000 pages of data on me," he foolishly exclaimed, convincing me that he had no idea that he was actually playing into the hands of state-criminals.
Fear Creation and the Art of Make Believe are the blueprints of the Western game; these societies attempt to intimidate other nations and individuals. Will Smith is a victim of terrifying state-surveillance and violence performed with an entire arsenal of weapons, most notoriously satellites. Here is where his film connects to the event analyzed in this article.
Enemy of the State | Terrifying State Surveillance
Drones and Satellite Surveillance
One of the closest guarded secrets of any country possessing spy satellites is the maximal resolution that they can achieve while photographing earth. The latest commercial satellite (GeoEye 1) has a Ground Sample Distance, of 0.41 m (effectively 0.5 m due to United States Government restrictions on civilian imaging). This means that one pixel in its highest resolution mode represents 0.5 m on the ground; a human head is smaller than that. Military satellites are better; probably the satellite close-up pictures of Will Smith in the movie can be achieved. This is the ultimate state scare: "Big Brother is watching you from beyond Earth." After seeing the movie, many people stopped looking upwards so that they won't be recognized from above. Truly scary idea. However, is it feasible?
An intrinsic problem of such a system is that for a given lens, the highest resolution it can achieve, the smaller the area that the resulting picture will cover. If your pixel measures 0.5 m, how many pictures you need to properly cover a soccer stadium? Think of it in military terms. The surface area of the Earth is 510 million square kilometers, land occupying 149 million km2 while water 361 million km2. You can't restrict military surveillance to the land. The result is that satellite databases are immense, and image processing is time-consuming to the extent that most companies offer raw data. Moreover, there is a limiting time frame in the process; satellites perform photographingcycles which consume time. For example, there is a tiny Israeli military unit in Tel HaShomer, which coordinates actions between the IDF, the Shin Beth and the Mossad. On their doors, their stick timetables of satellites overflying the locations. At these times, it is forbidden to leave rooms while holding documents. There are other relevant disturbances as clouds and the odd angle pictures are taken from. This makes disguising sensitive locations relatively easy. In other words, unless the government knows exactly where to search for its target, it is a lost cause. Will Smith scared us to death for nothing.
The captured drone is a credible proof of that. Despite its mighty fleet of satellite, the USA is forced to use much more expensive (if calculated in a dollar per square meter base) aerial photography. The very existence of drones prooves the limitation of space military technologies and reminds us that much of what we hear and see on mainstream media must be categorized as the Government's Art of Make Believe, of controlling by fear and not by democracy. President Obama, I apologize for this short delay, you better go back to work and count your drones. One is missing.