You’ve probably seen some of the footage from Donald Trump’s surprise trip to Iraq. According to a Newsweek report, it’s possible you’ve seen more you should have.
President Donald Trump and the White House communications team revealed that a U.S. Navy SEAL team was deployed to Iraq after the president secretly traveled to the region to meet with American forces serving in a combat zone for the first time since being elected to office.
While the commander-in-chief can declassify information, usually the specific special operations unit is not revealed to the American public, especially while U.S. service members are deployed. Official photographs and videos typically blur the individual faces of special operation forces, due to the sensitive nature of their job.
The president’s video posted Wednesday did not shield the faces of special operation forces.
I won’t pretend to be an expert in this area, though Newsweek spoke to Malcolm Nance, a former U.S. Navy intelligence specialist and an MSNBC analyst on national security issues, who described Trump’s video as a break from protocol.
“Operational security is the most important aspect of personnel deployments. The real names, faces, and identities, of personnel involved in special operations or activities, are usually a closely held secret in a combat zone,” Nance said. “Revealing them casually, through an unusual media exposure even if it’s the commander in chief, would prove a propaganda boom if any of this personnel are detained by a hostile government or captured by a terrorist group. There would be no denying who you are and what you do.”
It doesn’t help matters that Trump has very little credibility in this area.
In May 2017, for example, the American president, for reasons that have never fully been explained, shared highly classified intelligence with two high-ranking Russian officials.
Around the same, Trump had a chat with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in which the Republican shared information about dispatching two nuclear submarines off the coast of the Korean peninsula. By one account, Pentagon officials were “in shock” over Trump’s willingness to talk about the movement of U.S. submarines.
About a year later, Trump spoke at a fundraiser in Missouri, where he reportedly discussed some of the details of a classified mission in Syria.
And then, of course, there’s Trump’s refusal to give up his unsecured smart phones, which create additional security risks.
About a month after Trump’s inauguration, the Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. intelligence officials were worried about the new president’s “trustworthiness” and “discretion.”
In retrospect, maybe they were onto something.