You all recall this, covered on Friday, Trump’s tweet of the Iranian rocket launch site upon which there had been a malfunction:
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
The “reaction” to Trump taking his phone out to photograph the classified document, including picture, has been swift and clear.
Robert Deitz, a former lawyer at the CIA and National Security Agency, told Business Insider that Trump made a “serious mistake” with the tweet.
“It identifies for the world the methods we have attained” in collecting imagery intelligence, Deitz said. “One doesn’t use intel for the purposes of taunting. The Russians and the Chinese will be very happy to study this.”
Now, we hear increasing discussion about whether Trump did even more to jeopardize our national security than just release information pertaining to our spy/drone photographic capability. Indeed, Trump may have just unleashed evidence of a decades-long campaign to disrupt Iranian missile development.
The propensity for saying the quiet part out loud is less amusing when it blows the cover on a multi-decade, multi-president campaign to disrupt Iranian missile and nuclear development with minimal loss of life.
Lots of analysts counting pixels in Beijing and Moscow today. https://t.co/BI4eQ8OAQw
— Alex Stamos (@alexstamos) August 30, 2019
“Multi-decade,” multi-presidential campaign to interfere with Iranian’s missile and possible nuclear development? Where have we heard that before? A computer worm for centrifuges, maybe?
It’s now widely accepted that Stuxnet was created by the intelligence agencies of the United States and Israel. The classified program to develop the worm was given the code name “Operation Olympic Games“; it was begun under President George W. Bush and continued under President Obama. While neither government has ever officially acknowledged developing Stuxnet, a 2011 video created to celebrate the retirement of Israeli Defense Forces head Gabi Ashkenazi listed Stuxnet as one of the successes under his watch.
It would seem that our intelligence community has had an active program to degrade Iranian nuclear capabilities for some time. Is it possible that the intelligence community is speaking in code here? That the problem with Trump’s tweet is not the photograph – which, admittedly, isn’t all that different than that which one could get from Google Earth – is the real intelligence breach more related to the fact that the U.S. did have something to do with the rocket malfunction, and Trump’s gloating and coy denial is seen as proof?
There is no question that the United States has a program aimed at interfering with Iranian rocket development. From February of this year in the New York Times:
The Trump White House has accelerated a secret American program to sabotage Iran’s missiles and rockets, according to current and former administration officials, who described it as part of an expanding campaign by the United States to undercut Tehran’s military and isolate its economy.
Officials said it was impossible to measure precisely the success of the classified program, which has never been publicly acknowledged. But in the past month alone, two Iranian attempts to launch satellites have failed within minutes.
Those two rocket failures — one that Iran announced on Jan. 15 and the other, an unacknowledged attempt, on Feb. 5 — were part of a pattern over the past 11 years. In that time, 67 percent of Iranian orbital launches have failed, an astonishingly high number compared to a 5 percent failure rate worldwide for similar space launches.
So two-thirds of Iranian launch attempts end in failure. It sounds like an intelligence program is effectively keeping the Iranians from making much progress. But for that program to continue with success, it must remain unacknowledged, and opaque. No intelligence officer wants attention focused on the program. And yet what could possibly set off more alarm bells than a public tweet, taunting Iran?
The people who know the issue best, former intelligence officers, are uniformly angered and concerned. Perhaps the outspoken former intelligence officials are signaling a deeper concern. By focusing upon the intelligence capability given away in the picture, they may be covering more concrete concerns about the possible rocket program itself.
Terrifying. This is exactly the type of thing that gets some of our most loyal people killed, people in the field gathering intelligence or running counter-intelligence, the silent war. On a Trump-whim, they might be in serious danger. Moreover, if Iran now believes the U.S. is disrupting its rocket program, it is very possible that Iran might attack U.S. interests outside the region. Those deaths – too, would be a direct result of Trump’s impulsiveness and braggadocio.
We need off this train, Pelosi cannot start impeachment proceedings soon enough. This action alone would endanger any president. Perhaps this will be the last straw.
We knew it would get very ugly. It is hard to believe that Trump would blow aside national security concerns this easily, or at least this publicly. We best prepare for more ugliness, in ways we previously couldn’t imagine. Start imagining.
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