Video tweet of Iraq trip may have unmasked Navy Seal team

WASHINGTON • President Donald Trump may have inadvertently unmasked a US 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.

But after his lightning trip to Al-Asad Air Base in western Iraq on Wednesday, Mr 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 that appears to be part of the special operations forces.

According to the pool report of the event, held in a dining hall at the base, a man called Kyu Lee told Mr Trump he was the chaplain for Seal Team Five.

Mr Lee recalled Mr Trump telling him: "Hey, in that case, let's take a picture."

While the President has broad authority to declassify information - so his tweet likely 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 boom if any of this personnel are detained by a hostile government or captured by a terrorist group," Mr Malcolm Nance, a former US Navy intelligence specialist, told Newsweek.

Special Operations Command did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mr Trump also drew criticism in the US for repeating a previously debunked claim that he had secured military members a pay raise 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.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 29, 2018, with the headline 'Video tweet of Iraq trip may have unmasked Navy Seal team'. Print Edition | Subscribe