While Iran dismantles a prize stealth drone, Lockheed’s PR consultants cover up the damage

Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel spy drone

It’s always strange when the main thrust of a news story is the message that it really isn’t news. It’s as though the business of journalism is in part a form of mind control — identifying the things which we shouldn’t trouble ourselves to think about.

As soon as Iran proudly announced that they had captured a Lockheed RQ-170 Sentinel stealth drone that had flown from Afghanistan, a stream of reports followed about how this will be of little consequence. An unfortunate mishap. Once in a while the US loses a drone. What to do. Let’s just move on because there’s nothing worth paying attention to here.

“I don’t think this is a dagger pointed at the heart of democracy,” said Loren Thompson, defense policy analyst for the Lexington Institute in Arlington, Va. “A lot of information about this aircraft was already known by foreign military intelligence officials.”

Harper’s Ken Silverstein has called the Lexington Institute the “defense industry’s pay-to-play ad agency” so I guess Thompson’s statement to the Los Angeles Times is predictably reassuring — at least it might serve as little bit of damage control as Lockheed Martin and the Pentagon try to account for the RQ-170’s loss.

Apparently the drone should have had a fail-safe mechanism that would have enabled it to return home or self-destruct.

The most likely reason that the Sentinel didn’t self-destruct or safely return is that it was lost because of an onboard mechanical malfunction, said Thompson…

“That means what the Iranians have is a pile of wreckage — many small and damaged pieces from which they could glean little in the way of technological insights,” he said.

The question is: why is the Los Angeles Times even quoting Thompson when they have also spoken to a U.S. official with access to intelligence who says that Iran recovered the drone largely intact?

“It’s bad — they’ll have everything” in terms of the secret technology in the aircraft, the official said. “And the Chinese or the Russians will have it too.”

That sounds like the real story — or at least a major part of it.

So why fill the reporting with chaff pumped out by an expert like Thompson — who also just happens to work as a paid consultant for Lockheed Martin?

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