President Trump on Friday insisted he had “the absolute right” to release a detailed photo of what appeared to be the site of a failed satellite launch in Iran on Twitter, despite experts saying the image contained sensitive information and prompting questions over whether the president had disclosed US surveillance secrets.
In his tweet on Friday, Trump cited the specific location of the launchpad seen in the high-resolution satellite image, saying the US was not involved in the “catastrophic accident during final launch preparations for the Safir SLV Launch at Semnan Launch Site One in Iran”.
He ended his tweet in what appeared to be a sarcastic tone, saying “I wish Iran best wishes and good luck in determining what happened at Site One”.
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
Speaking to reporters at the White House later in the day, Trump defended his posting of the photo.
“I just wish Iran well. They had a big problem. And we had a photo and I released it, which I have the absolute right to do. And we’ll see what happens,” he said.
He said the Iranians “were going to set off a big missile and it didn’t work out too well. Had nothing to do with us”.
Asked where he obtained the photo, Trump told reporters: “You’ll have to figure that one out yourself.”
He called the launch attempt a “big mishap.”
An Iranian official said that a rocket exploded on its launch pad on Thursday due to a “technical issue,” while a US official also said Iran suffered a satellite launch failure.
Patrick Eddington, a former CIA satellite imagery analyst, said the photo tweeted by the president appeared to be a classified image taken by a US spy satellite.
“If the president simply tweeted out an image from classified briefing that utilizes our most advanced overhead collection capabilities, it is no doubt welcome news to our adversaries,” Eddington told Reuters news agency.
“While he has the authority to declassify any federal document, Twitter is not a legitimate or responsible way to do so.”
According to media reports, the image was posted shortly after Trump was scheduled to receive an intelligence briefing.