The U.S. says the drone, which crashed into the Black Sea after encountering two Russian fighter jets, will not provide any valuable intelligence if Moscow tries to recover its wreckage.
Russian officials say they will try to find whatever is left MQ-9 Reaper, shot down on Tuesday.
The head of Russia’s foreign intelligence service, Sergei Naryshkin, said Russia had the technical capability to recover debris from the drone, which was believed to be located off the west coast of Crimea.
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U.S. officials believe Russia has sent ships to the area.
At a Pentagon news conference, Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, seemed relaxed about the possibility of finding the $32 million drone.
He said: “We’re going to work through recovery operations. That’s American property. But it’s probably broken. Frankly, there’s probably not much that can be recovered.
“As far as any loss of sensitive intelligence etc. … we will take — we did take — mitigation measures. So we are very confident that anything that was valuable will no longer be valuable.”
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National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the U.S. would take “measures to protect the information” and “minimize any efforts by anyone else to use the drone to obtain useful content.”
While officials would not say how they would protect Reaper, the U.S. military has acknowledged in the past that they can remotely delete sensitive information from drones and render their systems inoperable.
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The United States said it threw the drone into the sea after a Russian Su-27 fighter jet poured fuel on it and then hit its propeller while flying in international airspace. U.S. officials are working to declassify surveillance footage from drones to prove it.
Russia has denied that it caused the accident, which led to one of the worst escalations between the two countries in years.