U.S. casts doubt on Iran's claims over captured drone

"I can tell you, based on my experience that I would seriously question their ability to do what they say they've done," Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters on Monday. 

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Ct.) said Iran's allegations they were able to gain access to the classified intel aboard the RQ-170 Sentinel drone that fell into Tehran's hands last December was another example of more "Iranian bluster." 

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"There is some history here of Iranian bluster particularly now when they're on the defensive because of our economic sanctions against them," Lieberman said during an appearance on Fox News Sunday. 

His comments came shortly after Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, head of the Iran's Revolutionary Guard, announced Tehran has successfully decoded the intelligence gathering system and memory drives from the RQ-170. 

Hajizadeh offered up a fairly detailed history of the drone's construction and flight tests in the run up to its eventual deployment in Afghanistan as proof of Iran's success in getting inside the RQ-170. 

"Had we not accessed the plane's soft wares and hard discs, we wouldn't have been able to achieve these facts," Hajizadeh told the state-run Fars News Agency on Sunday. 

As proof, he claimed the highly-secretive drone had flown over al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's hideout in Pakistan two weeks before his death, based on analysis done by Iranian intelligence. 

The drone, which is dubbed the 'Beast of Kandahar' for its past intel operations in Afghanistan, was conducting intelligence operations over Iran last December when it was captured by Iranian forces last December. 

Iranian engineers claim to have hacked into the unmanned aircraft's control systems and trick the drone's guidance systems to think it was landing in U.S-held territory in Afghanistan, according to news reports at the time. 

In fact, Iranian hackers claim to have guided the CIA-operated aerial drone to land in Iran. 

In 2009, Taliban forces were able to hack into live video feeds coming from Air Force Predator drones by using commercially-produced hardware. 

Air Force officials at the time said those gaps did not extend into the aircraft's control systems. 

Further, service officials claimed the data encryption and security standards built into the U.S. aerial drone fleet since then couldn't be cracked by the Taliban or any other adversary.