President Donald Trump said he had an “absolute right” to share an image of a failed satellite launch in Iran that experts had expressed concerns about whether it was meant to be disclosed to the public.
“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,” the president told reporters before leaving the White House for Camp David on Friday, Aug. 30.
Earlier, the president had tweeted the image showing the aftermath of an accident at an Iranian space facility.
“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,” the president said.
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
After being shared, the image faced mounting scrutiny from experts who said the president likely disclosed U.S. surveillance secrets.
One expert told the NPR the tweet shows “some pretty amazing capabilities that the public simply wasn’t privy to before this … these are closely held national secrets.”
Patrick Eddington, a former CIA satellite imagery analyst told Reuters the photo “appeared to be a classified image taken by a U.S spy satellite,” adding “it is no doubt welcome news to our adversaries.”
Based on the majority ruling in the 1988 Supreme Court, Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists Project on Government Secrecy said the president has the authority to “classify and declassify at will.”
President Trump withdrew the U.S. from a 2015 nuclear deal last year and ratcheted up economic pressure on Iran this year. At the G-7 summit earlier this week, the president said he would be open to meeting with Iran’s president.