In the attack on the Jawas on Tatooine in A New Hope the Stormtroopers went to some lengths to indicate to observers that Sandpeople carried out the attack. They may not have fooled Obi-Wan but presumably others would have believed that Sandpeople were responsible. What is beyond doubt is the cover-up attempt.

Luke: It looks like the Sandpeople did this. There's Bantha tracks. They've never hit anything this big.
Obi-Wan: They didn't. But we are meant to think they did. These tracks are side-by-side. Sandpeople always ride single file to hide their numbers.
Luke: These are the same jawas that sold us R2 and C-3PO.
Obi-Wan: And these blast points, too accurate for Sandpeople. Only Imperial Stormtroopers are so precise.

What did the Empire hope to gain by covering up the attack? Would it really matter if people knew that they'd done it? They were, after all, in a pretty strong position at this point. The Jawas themselves hardly pose much of a threat. Even if the population of Tatooine was unhappy by the attack what did the Empire have to fear from that discontent. Especially in the light of this recent development.

Tarkin: The Imperial Senate will no longer be of any concern to us. I've just received word that the Emperor has dissolved the council permanently. The last remnants of the Old Republic have been swept away...The regional governors now have direct control over their territories. Fear will keep the local systems in line. Fear of this battle station.

Why not just be open about the brutality of the Empire and their methods?

Edit: Whilst the linked question is along the same lines, neither answer deals with the Tarkin statement. The accepted answer argues that the attack on Tantive IV/the Jawas would cause unease in the Senate. This is rendered irrelevant on the disillusion of the Senate. The other answer says that killing Jawas is bad publicity for the Empire. As I say in the comments, if the Empire cared about this then they wouldn't have destroyed Alderaan. I'd like an answer that preferably deals with the Tarkin comments and the Empire's fear-based strategy. I've changed the question title accordingly.

  • I think this is more or less answered here. – Null Jul 18 '16 at 17:53
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    Destroying Alderaan is bad publicity, too, but it's worth it because Alderaan constitutes a threat to Imperial power. It's brutality that has a purpose -- demonstrating to other would-be rebels that resistance is futile. But as you've said yourself, Tatooine is powerless and no threat to the Empire. Attacking Jawas who don't constitute a threat just shows everyone that the Empire will kill you for any reason -- even if you aren't actually rebelling. The message is: don't rebel and you'll be okay. – Null Jul 18 '16 at 18:08
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    Part 1 - Wouldn't the Empire be far more concerned about covering up their ongoing search for the Death Star plans? It's one thing to cover up arresting Leia to avoid sympathy for the Rebellion, and yes they want to question her in secrecy about the Death Star plans and the secret Rebel base, but how would anyone make a connection between Leia and slaughtered Jawas on Tatooine, especially since the Empire controlled and manipulated the Holonet news anyway? The only people who that information would be meaningul towards would be members of the Rebellion. – Phyneas Jul 18 '16 at 19:30
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    Part 2 - In Legends, Vader is aware that Leia has the plans and is carrying them to another location. When she ditches them she knows she will be captured so she can't retrieve them, the inference being that someone else can/will, someone else who can investigate the crashed pod the same way the Stormtroopers did. Presumably the Empire doesn't want those people knowing that it is on their trail and going after the plans, especially if they are not yet aware that Leia has been intercepted. The Empire can't know that Tatooine wasn't the intended dropoff point for them. – Phyneas Jul 18 '16 at 19:32
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    We also have to consider the question of who made the command decision to cover up the attack on the Jawas. Sure, Tarkin may not care about the Empire's image. And Vader casually brutalizes people wherever he goes. But the Jawa attack may have been the responsibility of someone much lower on the chain of command, who may not have wanted to create bad press for the Empire on merely his own authority. – tbrookside Aug 13 '18 at 1:09