Trump revealed to have tweeted classified image from spy satellite

President's claim is accompanied by an image of the crash site, with elements of the site labelled, shortly after he was due to attend an intelligence briefing
President's claim is accompanied by an image of the crash site, with elements of the site labelled, shortly after he was due to attend an intelligence briefing

Three years after he disseminated a highly classified satellite photograph depicting the site of a failed Iranian rocket launch, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency has formally declassified the image Donald Trump once distributed to his roughly 80 million Twitter followers.

According to NPR, the NGA declassified the image after a “grueling Pentagon-wide review to determine whether the briefing slide it came from could be shared with the public” in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from the radio network.

Just days after Mr Trump tweeted out the image showing the aftermath of an explosion at Iran’s Imam Khomeini Space Center, amateur sleuths determined the high-quality photograph had to have come from a satellite designated USA 224, which the US National Reconnaissance Office launched into space in 2011.

According to Marco Langbroek, a satellite tracker in the Netherlands who spoke to NPR at the time, it was believed that USA 224 is one of America’s KH-11 spy satellites.

Mr Trump tweeted out the image with a mocking message directed at Tehran.

"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," the then-president wrote at the time. "I wish Iran best wishes and good luck in determining what happened at Site One”.

As a matter of law, a sitting president has the ability to declassify even the most secret classified information, but US defence experts say even presidents have to transmit declassification orders through proper channels.

Mr Trump is currently the subject of a Department of Justice investigation into whether he violated US laws against the unlawful retention of national defence information by hoarding more than 100 documents marked as classified at levels up to top secret at his Palm Beach, Florida residence.