Less than five hours after Donald Trump tweeted to slam former FBI Director James Comey as a “dishonest fool” for allegations that Comey had leaked classified information to the press — an allegation for which he was cleared by the Department of Justice inspector general, as The Inquisitr reported — Trump returned to Twitter.
He posted what experts say is a highly classified United States intelligence photo of a satellite launch base in Iran.
On Thursday, Iran attempted to launch a satellite from the Imam Khomeini Space Center in the country’s northern region.
But, as Reuters reported, the rocket believed to be carrying the Iranian satellite exploded on its launch pad. Commercial satellite photos published by news outlets on Thursday showed the aftermath of the failed launch from a distant perspective in which details were extremely difficult to discern.
The image Trump tweeted on Friday was taken from a considerably closer perspective, revealing the remnants of the destroyed rocket in detail. In fact, it was so clear that one expert — Open Nuclear Network Deputy Director Melissa Hanham via her Twitter account — stated that the photo was not taken by an American satellite, but instead was “the good stuff.”
Scott Stedman, founder of the investigative reporting site Forensic News, said on his Twitter feed that the photo, seen below in Trump’s tweet, appears to be a “classified drone image.”
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. pic.twitter.com/z0iDj2L0Y3
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 30, 2019
Another expert, Ankit Panda of the Federation of American Scientists, wrote on Twitter, “The president is sharing IMINT on Twitter now, apparently.” IMINT is an abbreviation for “image intelligence,” the term used to describe intelligence info gathered via satellite, drone or other types of photographic images.
Also via Twitter, both Panda and The New York Times’ visual investigations expert Christiaan Triebert noted that the high resolution of the photo tweeted by Trump was not within the known capabilities of any United States satellite — indicating that by tweeting the photo, Trump was revealing to the Iranians, as well as to the rest of the world, intelligence gathering methods that until now would have been unknown outside of U.S. intelligence networks.
The difference between the image revealed by Trump, and available unclassified satellite images of the failed Iran rocket launch, were clear when compared to the satellite photos posted on Thursday by another New York Times visual investigations reporter, Christoph Koettl.
— Christoph Koettl (@ckoettl) August 29, 2019
“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” satellite imagery expert David Schmerler told the Business Insider after seeing the Trump tweet. “I know that [the U.S. military has] amazing capabilities, but I don’t know what this is.”
Why Trump chose to reveal the classified image to the public remains unclear, though his tweet took a mocking tone toward the Iranians. According to Business Insider’s report, it would be extremely unusual for someone in Trump’s position to “declassify an image captured by a non-public military asset to mock another country.”