- A US official told CNBC that a photo of an Iranian launchpad that President Donald Trump tweeted Friday afternoon came from an intelligence briefing Trump received earlier that day.
- “The United State of America was not involved in the catastrophic accident during final launch preparations for the Safir SLV Launch at Semnan Launch Site One in Iran,” Trump tweeted with the attached the photo. “I wish Iran best wishes and good luck in determining what happened at Site One.”
- The photo raised immediate red flags among national-security experts.
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The picture was attached to a tweet in which Trump said the US was not involved in the failure of an Iranian rocket launch on Thursday.
“The United States of America was not involved in the catastrophic accident during final launch preparations for the Safir SLV Launch at Semnan Launch Site One in Iran,” Trump tweeted. “I wish Iran best wishes and good luck in determining what happened at Site One.”
Here’s the photo Trump attached to the tweet:
Iran’s rocket launch failed and blew up on the pad at a space centre in Iran, an Iranian official said. A US official also confirmed the news.
Shortly after Trump made his statement, military and national-security experts began sounding the alarm that the president likely tweeted out classified intelligence.
I remember from my time In govt, the rigorous processes we went through when declassifying intelligence to ensure we didn’t burn any sources or methods.
But I guess we can replace that process with taking a picture and tweeting it ???????? https://t.co/6enWkVuV3F
— Ilan Goldenberg (@ilangoldenberg) August 30, 2019
Soooo… that’s not a satellite picture. That’s the good stuff. https://t.co/6xWrPyU1bQ
— Melissa Hanham (@mhanham) August 30, 2019
Trying to recall the last time a president released satellite imagery (potentially classified?) to troll another country. Nothing coming to mind. https://t.co/Q9CWlLLbLp
— Shane Harris (@shaneharris) August 30, 2019
Is that a shadow of the president taking a cell phone pic of his own classified military imagery? https://t.co/CCWlJvNLEh
— Evan Hill (@evanchill) August 30, 2019
The president is sharing IMINT on Twitter now, apparently. https://t.co/u2OBBOwnNE
— Ankit Panda (@nktpnd) August 30, 2019
Is this the first time the (or a) president has tweeted out near-raw intelligence? https://t.co/hzTR9nw86l
— Shashank Joshi (@shashj) August 30, 2019
…. whose shadow am I seeing in this obvious phone picture? https://t.co/PImqHyHiiP
— Bradley P. Moss (@BradMossEsq) August 30, 2019
“I think I just got flexed on by the president,” David Schmerler, a leading expert on open-source imagery analysis, told Business Insider of the image. Schmerler had spent hours the night before analysing the widely available pictures of the failed launch but was blown away by the quality of Trump’s image.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” he said. “I know that [the US military has] amazing capabilities, but I don’t know what this is.”
Insider reached out to the White House and the National Security Council and asked for confirmation that the photo was of the Iranian launchpad, which the classification level of the photo was, and whether it was taken inside a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF), at which photos are not permitted.
Neither immediately responded to the request for comment.
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