President Trump tweets picture of sensitive satellite photo of Iranian launch site

President Donald Trump posted a photo today via Twitter of Iran’s Imam Khomeini Space Center in northern Iran, showing the damage done to the facility by the explosion of what appears to have been a Safir rocket during launch. The rocket was apparently being used in the attempted launch of Iran’s Nahid-1 satellite.

Commercial satellite imagery from Planet Labs made available this morning showed a plume of smoke rising from the space center’s launch pad. But the photo posted by President Trump was a much higher-resolution, black and white photo—a resolution that suggested it came from a National Reconnaissance Office satellite.

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.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 30, 2019

While the posted photo was obviously not at full resolution—and was partially obscured by the reflection from the flash for the phone camera used to capture it—it showed details clearly at well below a meter’s resolution. NRO satellites are known to have a resolution in approximately the tenth of a meter range, like the imagery shared in the Twitter post.

This afternoon, CNN’s Barbara Starr reported that a US official had confirmed the photo came from a National Reconnaissance Office satellite.

This is not the first time President Trump has instantly declassified intelligence information that reveals capabilities or sources. In May of 2017, President Trump shared sensitive intelligence from a foreign partner on ISIS with Russia’s ambassador and Foreign Minister in an Oval Office visit. As President, Trump is the ultimate classification authority, so he can declassify anything he feels is necessary

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