In war-zone blunder, Donald Trump tweets video revealing secret US Navy Seal team in Iraq
- The whereabouts of US special operations forces are usually a closely guarded secret
- But because the US president has broad authority to declassify information, Donald Trump’s tweet is unlikely to have broken any rules
US President Donald Trump appears to have inadvertently unmasked a Navy Seal team during his short visit to a US base in Iraq this week.
Ordinarily, the whereabouts of special operations forces are a closely held secret. In the rare instances when they are filmed while in a combat zone, their faces and other identifying features are usually blurred out.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 26, 2018
But after his lightning trip to Al-Asad Air Base in western Iraq on Wednesday, his first to a war zone as president, Trump tweeted a video of him posing for photos with US troops, shaking their hands and signing mementos.
In one scene, he is giving a thumbs up alongside a group of what appear to be US Navy Seals.
According to the pool report of the event, held in a dining hall at the base, a man called Kyu Lee told Trump he was the chaplain for Seal Team Five.
Lee recalled Trump telling him: “Hey, in that case, let’s take a picture.”
While the president has broad authority to declassify information, so his tweet probably did not run afoul of any rules, some observers called it a breach of operational security.
Revealing identities “even if it’s the commander-in-chief, would prove a propaganda boon if any of this personnel are detained by a hostile government or captured by a terrorist group”, Malcolm Nance, a former US Navy intelligence specialist told Newsweek.
Special Operations Command (SOCOM) did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Trump also drew criticism in the US for repeating a previously debunked claim that he had secured military members a pay rise for the first time in 10 years, when in fact the Pentagon has increased pay each year.
In Iraq following the visit, pro-Iran lawmakers called for the government to expel US forces.