President Donald Trump tweeted an extremely high-resolution photo showing the aftermath of a failed rocket launch in Iran on Thursday, raising all kinds of questions about whether the president had given away U.S. intelligence capabilities.
Trump appeared to be taunting Iran in the tweet, saying the U.S. “was not involved in the catastrophic accident during final launch preparations for the Safir SLV Launch at Semnan Launch Site One in Iran.” Then he threw Iran some shade: “I wish Iran best wishes and good luck in determining what happened at Site One.”
The photo appears to have been taken with a cellphone of some type of printout from what looks like an intelligence briefing. Other images from commercial satellites also showed the damaged site at Iran’s Imam Khomeini Space Center, but none were as detailed and clear as the one Trump tweeted out to the public. A light flash and a shadow, likely from the photographer, also can be seen.
CNBC reported that the photo was indeed from an intelligence briefing and “not meant for public view.” Trump, however, said on Friday that he had the “absolute right” to release it, according to the Associated Press.
“We had a photo and I released it, which I have the absolute right to do,” he said.
That may be true, but many people still freaked out, noting once again that Trump can’t be trusted with sensitive information.
Iran also trolled Trump in return, showing reporters on Saturday what appeared to be an intact satellite ready for orbit, according to The Washington Post. The Nahid-1 satellite was only awaiting a rocket launcher, Iranian officials said. Iran’s Information and Communications Technology Minister, Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, tweeted a selfie with the satellite, adding, “Good Morning Donald Trump!”
At the center of the issue is the belief by U.S. officials that Iran’s space program is an effort to develop ballistic missiles. Iran denies this. Either way, there’s some pretty mind-blowing spying going on.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” open-source imagery expert David Schmerler told Business Insider, referring to the high-resolution photo that Trump shared. “I know that [the U.S. military has] amazing capabilities, but I don’t know what this is.”
Some speculated the image came from a drone or other type of aircraft flying over Iranian airspace. Per Business Insider:
The launch took place at the Imam Khomeini Space Center North West of Tehran. This location is more than 120 miles from Iran’s nearest border. If a drone took the photo, it was either flying over Iranian airspace undetected or somehow able to take a great picture from 120 miles away.
Others said it likely came from a U.S. spy satellite with incredibly advanced technological capabilities.
Regardless, nuclear proliferation expert Joshua Pollack told CNBC that this incident would “have global repercussions.”
“So reckless,” Pollack said of Trump’s action.