An image published by Donald Trump It was for many a trill in his almost always controversial Twitter account.
But intelligence experts warned that it is a photograph that can reveal secret information and not precisely what appears in the photo.
►Iran launches advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges
►USA offers US $ 15 million to the Iranian oil captain for delivery
►Iran rules out bilateral negotiations with the United States | VIDEO
The image, allegedly taken by a Washington spy satellite, according to Trump shows a space launching platform in Iran.
But its high level of detail suggests that the image is actually a file classified as "highly confidential", according to military experts and the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
So what was the intention of the president of U.S when posting a photo? Was it a mistake of the president or could it be interpreted as a powerful intentional message to the rest of the world?
The origin of the controversy
The controversial photo came to light on August 30.
A day earlier, American media had echoed an explosion in Iran during the launch of its Nahid 1 satellite, which already accumulated two failed attempts made at the beginning of the year.
But before Iran If this news is pronounced, the US president came forward to confirm the alleged launch and, incidentally, discard its connection with what happened.
"U.S was not involved in the catastrophic accident during final preparations for the launch of Safir SLV on Site One of Semnán launches in Iran"tweeted.
"I wish to Iran best wishes and good luck to discover what happened on Site One "he added Trump next to the image that supposedly shows an explosion on an Iranian space launch pad.
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
Hours later, Iran denied the news and showed images of its satellite, even without being launched, at its Space Research Center.
"Me and Nahid 1 right now. Good morning, Donald Trump", Iranian Communications Minister Mohamad Yavad Azarí Yahromí tweeted with a selfie next to the satellite.
The minister affirmed "having no idea" of the origin of Trump's statements and said that Nahid1 would be put into orbit throughout this September.
U.S maintains that behind these launches lies a plan for Tehran to develop ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. Iran denies it and insists its projects are civil and not military.
But the nth crossing of statements between Washington and Tehran was not the real news of this matter.
The high degree of detail of the photo published by Trump He left experts speechless, who concluded that the image could not correspond to a commercial satellite but to a classified military information document.
"It was so crystalline and of such high resolution that I didn't believe it could come from a satellite", the deputy director of the Open Nuclear Network in Vienna, Melissa Hanham, told US NPR radio.
Many analysts point out that they did not know the level of precision that the US army could capture from the air, since images of this type declassified by presidents in the past were always pixelated to avoid revealing too much information.
But with his tweet, precisely, Trump He seemed to want to send a clear message to Iran (and the world) about his country's extreme vigilance over the secrets of other countries.
"He is saying that we are watching closely and that we are acting in moderation, but that if we wanted to do more, we could do it."Rebeccah Heinrich, security expert at the Hudson Institute of Pennsylvania, told NPR, U.S.
Another expert with extensive knowledge in satellites consulted by the same means agrees that what is clear from the photo is the veiled warning of Trump.
"Yes, there are clearly more details, but not a lot of useful information beyond what the best commercial images give"said this source who preferred not to be identified.
Information for other countries
An independent group of satellite observers states that it was able to discover which one was responsible for taking the image.
They achieved this by matching the obliquity of the launch pad in the image tweeted by Trump and analyzing the position of the shadows in the photo, among other elements.
So the position of the satellite at 09:44:23 was taken, and in STK I let the viewq from the satellite point towards the launch platform. That yielded this. It is a very good match so there is no doubt in my mind that it is an image taken by USA 224. pic.twitter.com/R4XGdnzPis
– Dr Marco Langbroek (@Marco_Langbroek) August 31, 2019
They claim that it is the USA 224, one of the most advanced optical recognition and top secret spy satellites in the US. and of which there is hardly any public information.
"It's basically a very large telescope, not very different from Hubble. But instead of looking at the stars, look at the surface of the Earth to create very detailed images.", astronomer Marco Langbroek, one of those responsible for this investigation, told MPR News.
Experts agree that this group of observers is not the only one who will use the photo of Trump to learn more about the USA 224 and the Washington satellite espionage systems.
"Our adversaries, Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, Syria and others, will analyze this, trying to discover how good our capabilities are.", Bruce Klingner, a former CIA member and a contributor to the conservative Washington Heritage Foundation, told NPR.
According to BBC Diplomatic Affairs correspondent Jonathan Marcus, "it is amazing for a president of U.S offer all of Washington's enemies such a public vision of their extraordinary information gathering capabilities. "
That is why they agree that the alleged warning that Trump wanted to release to Iran with his tweet does not compensate for the amount of confidential military information that the president may have left exposed.
"In terms of chess, he has sacrificed a bishop for a pawn or less", compared Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists.
Did Trump commit a crime?
Another of the most commented issues after the tweet is if, with the publication of the image, Trump I would be revealing high-level security secrets, something that is considered a crime in the US.
However, the truth is that the president of the country is the only one who is authorized to disseminate confidential information if he deems it appropriate.
"The classification system for national security information is not based on a law, it is derived from the president's own condition as commander in chief of the Armed Forces"Aftergood told NPR.
"Therefore, he has the authority to decide unilaterally what will be revealed, what will be declassified and what will not"he added.
Other American leaders used this double-edged sword in the past by deliberately declassifying sensitive material to alert their adversaries of their capabilities.
Former President Bill Clinton did it with satellite images during the Balkan War in the 1990s. In 2003, former Secretary of State Colin Powell declassified aerial images of Iraq after the start of the conflict.
However, in none of the cases were images disseminated with the degree of sharpness and detail of those tweeted last week by Trump.
"I wish Iran the best. They had a very big problem. We had a photo and I spread it, I have the absolute right to do so. We'll see what happens."he remarked Trump after the controversy.
. (tagsToTranslate) confidential (t) published (t) capabilities (t) highly (t) states