Friday, August 30, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He tweeted out a photo that gave away information about American intelligence-gathering capabilities.

Yesterday, Iran attempted to launch a rocket capable of carrying small satellites into space. There was an accident, easily visible from low-resolution commercial satellites, and news of the failure spread quickly.

Today, apparently wanting to gloat, Trump tweeted out sarcastic "best wishes" to Iran about the accident. But he also attached an incredibly detailed, ultra-high-resolution image of the accident. As intelligence experts immediately noted, by releasing the photo on Twitter, Trump has given foreign adversaries (including Iran) information about American spy satellites or drone capabilities they wouldn't otherwise have. 

For obvious reasons, these kinds of images are never, ever released publicly.

It's not clear whether the intelligence community knew that Trump would release the image. While it's common for the government to prepare and publish low-resolution images, this image appears to be a photograph of a piece of paper. This would suggest that Trump simply took a picture with his phone of a document meant to be kept secret.

Technically, this wouldn't be against the law, since presidents can declassify anything they want—although it almost certainly would have been a serious crime if anyone other than Trump had done it. 

Instead, it joins a number of other times Trump has accidentally or carelessly revealed American military secrets. In May of 2017, Trump gave visiting Russian officials extremely sensitive information shared by Israel, which would have allowed Russian intelligence agents to learn the identity and methods of Israel's agents. He then compounded the mistake by accidentally confirming to the public that it was Israel's secrets he'd given away. The previous month, he revealed the location of American submarines in the vicinity of North Korea to the president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte. 

Also today, Trump tweeted four times about former FBI director James Comey, insinuating that Comey had leaked classified information. In fact, a recent Inspector General's report explicitly explicitly cleared Comey of those allegations.

Who cares?

  • Presidents who can't be trusted with military secrets aren't fit for office.
  • Accusing other people of bad things you've done is called projection, and it's not a sign of good mental health.
  • America's military secrets are more important than Donald Trump's need to gloat.