Trump’s photo tweet gave away US secrets, say experts

Satellite reconnaissanceA tweet by United States President Donald Trump may have compromised secrets about America’s reconnaissance satellite capabilities, according to experts who analyzed it over the weekend. The American president posted a message about Iran’s space program on his personal Twitter account on Saturday, August 30. The message read: “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. I wish Iran best wishes and good luck in determining what happened at Site One”.

Trump was referring to an apparent rocket launch failure that happened on Friday, August 29, at the Semnan Space Center in northern Iran. The suspected rocket failure caused significant damage to Semnan’s Site One launching pad, some of which appears to have burned down. It is thought to be the second such incident in Iran and it must be a source of frustration for Tehran, which has been trying to place a new satellite in orbit for almost a year now. Washington and other countries have criticized Tehran’s space program, saying it is a disguised missile program that could potentially be used to launch a nuclear bomb.

Along with his written message, the US president tweeted an aerial photograph showing the damage at the Semnan Space Center. Some have since claimed that the photograph, which Trump appears to have taken from a printed document given to him by a US spy agency, offers “an unprecedented example of US spy satellites at work” and inadvertently reveals some of America’s most closely guarded satellite capabilities. Experts say they have been able to determine that the photograph was taken by a satellite, rather than a surveillance aircraft or unmanned drone. Some say they have even been able to pinpoint the exact satellite that was used to generate the image, by analyzing the angle of the photograph. It is believed that it was taken by USA 224, which is one of America’s top-secret optical reconnaissance satellites.

More importantly, the US president’s tweet may have provided Washington’s adversaries with an example of the precise power of America’s reconnaissance satellites. Their exact surveillance capabilities are a closely held secret that is known by specialists at the National Reconnaissance Office and the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, two of America’s most obscure intelligence agencies. It has long been speculated that the images captured by American spy satellites far surpass the 25 centimeter resolution that is available to commercial satellite services. A number of experts have suggested that the photograph tweeted by Trump displays a resolution that “is amazingly high” and must be “at least 10 centimeters, if not better”. One specialist juxtaposed the image tweeted by the US president next to an image of the same launch site taken with a commercial satellite. The difference is indeed remarkable. One expert told the NBC news network that Trump’s “utterly careless” tweet would “have global repercussions”.

Last year Nada Bakos, who spent 20 years in the Central Intelligence Agency, wrote an editorial in The Washington Post in which she warned that foreign intelligence agencies were paying close attention to the US president’s tweets. Bakos argued that President Trump’s “Twitter feed is a gold mine for every foreign intelligence agency”. She added that, throughout her CIA career, she and her team “never had such a rich source of raw intelligence about a world leader, and we certainly never had the opportunity that our adversaries (and our allies) have now”, because of Trump’s social media presence.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 02 September 2019 | Permalink

8 Responses to Trump’s photo tweet gave away US secrets, say experts

  1. bjmarsh1 says:

    Are you sure that this photo was classified and of US origin? Provide evidence if you have proof. Is it not true also that the US President has the unique authority to declassify classified material? Additionally, are you in possession of evidence that the photo’s release was not redacted by the originator thus allowing unclas publication? Finally, why are you adopting a political position by reporting this in the manner you have chosen?

  2. Mike Beuster says:

    LOL! Bill Clinton gave away those secrets a long time ago. …As part of its philosophy of supporting “free trade” while creating unfair advantages for U.S.-based firms, the Clinton Administration strongly supported this misuse of technical intelligence.

  3. Jack says:

    Anyone who is unaware that there are satellites that can read the label on the back of your jeans is an idiot. No secrets (on the U.S, side) were given away.

  4. @bjmarsh,
    So the president tweeted another ally’s sat recon picture, with annotated notes ? Perhaps you believe he tweeted a commercial sat picture ? Maybe you should do some research and show us which commercial sat image he used. Was it a wise thing for him to tweet any images about it at all ? I remember when he whined incessantly that Obama was telling our adversaries in Afghanistan that the US intended to withdraw and when, thus putting us at a strategic disadvantage. So his strategy re Afghaniatan with his admin is different how ? Indeed POTUS is the ultimate declassifying authority but I was under the impression that we would play smart and not give anything that would provide an advantage to our rivals. Well, I was obviously mistaken.

  5. Adesignerofgold says:

    If your so called experts had ever seen today’s sat photos, they would clearly know that the quality has been extremely downgraded… if this image is truly from a national recon sat…

  6. xenonman says:

    My respect for President Trump has risen immeasurably, if he indeed has shared classified information with the American public!

  7. xenonman says:

    I’m so sick and tired of having to listen to all these CIA “experts” and veterans telling US citizens what we can and can not be allowed to see or read. Foreign intelligence services reviewing Twitter to find classified information? How stupid do these Agency jerks think we are?

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