The U.S. Navy’s top military officer testified Tuesday that Iran violated international law by collecting information from 10 U.S. sailors detained earlier this year.
“They should not have been seized,” Richardson, chief of naval operations, told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Iranian state TV quoted Gen. Ali Razmjou as saying that about 13,000 pages worth of information was retrieved from laptops, GPS devices and maps, according to The Associated Press.
The information could be used in "various fields,” said Razmjou, a naval commander in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
He asserted that the collection of information was within Iran’s rights under international law.
The devices themselves were returned to the sailors, according to the report. But Razmjou said the IRGC had the right to confiscate the devices, too.
In January, Iran detained the sailors for 16 hours after their two riverine boats strayed into Iranian waters.
Richardson said earlier this month that Iran’s detention of the sailors violated international law.
On Tuesday, under questioning from Sen. John McCainJohn McCainMcCain: Leak of Trump dossier ‘totally wrong’ McCain proposes 0B defense budget for 2018 The Obama presidency that never was MORE (R-Ariz.), Richardson said he disagreed with Razmjou that the collection of information was within Iran's rights.
“Gen. Razmjou said the move falls under Iran's rights under international regulation. Do you agree with that?” asked McCain, chairman of the committee.
“I do not, sir,” Richardson responded.
“According to international law, there was no authorities to board those vessels,” he continued. “Those were sovereign U.S. vessels. They had the right to be where they were.”
McCain, who has been critical of the administration’s response to the incident, ticked off a list of Iran’s actions during and since the detention and asked how the United States should respond.
“They interviewed a military man apologizing; they put them on their knees with their hands behind their heads; they then also videoed an individual crying; then they decorated the Iranians that did it; then they had a parade,” McCain said. “What do you think we should have done in response to all that, admiral? Wouldn’t you agree that this was a humiliation for the most powerful nation on earth?”
Richardson said the United States has made its objections clear.
“I think we’ve made it very clear in terms of expressing our complete protest,” Richardson said.
But McCain remained unsatisfied.
“And that was sufficient, expressing a protest?” McCain retorted, without getting a reply.