The head of an organization that represents special operators said a White House social media misstep that exposed special operators could put the lives of those servicemembers at risk in exclusive comments to the Daily Caller News Foundation on Thursday.
On Wednesday night, the White House social media account posted, and then deleted, a photo of President Joe Biden meeting with special forces personnel in Israel that exposed their faces — and thus identities. David Cook, the executive director for the Special Operations Association of America, told the DCNF the security breach could not only endanger the lives and careers of the operators exposed in the photo but give Hamas, whom the U.S. is helping Israel defeat, a “huge propaganda win.”
“I don’t even know what to say. These are horrible operational security failures,” Cook told the DCNF. (RELATED: Pentagon Claims Deterrence Is Working In Middle East Despite Recent String Of Attacks, Protests)
“The risk is high. These guys that got pictured, it could ruin their careers. They could put their families in danger. It could put them in danger,” Cook told the DCNF.
Modern facial recognition technology aside, photos that did circulate blacking out the operators’ faces still showed tattoos, watches and other identifying details. Adversaries could easily exploit this information to target the operators or their families, Cook said.
“Whoever took the picture needs to be held accountable. These kind of gaffes happen every once in a while … that’s why SOAA exists, to educate policymakers and people who’ve never been in the community what the sensitivity is around the mission and why special operators are deployed downrange all year round or not.”
The social media post had referred to the operators in the photo as “first responders” doing work in response to the Hamas terrorist attacks of Oct. 7. The Pentagon dispatched a team of special operations forces to assist the Israel Defense Forces with advice and planning for a possible hostage rescue, The New York Times reported, but stressed again Thursday that no forces will conduct operations.
The Pentagon earlier Thursday declined to comment on the photo, referring reporters to the White House. The White House told the Daily Caller it regretted the error.
White House Appears To Reveal Identities Of Special Operators In Israel In Social Media Post
— Reagan Reese (@reaganreese_) October 19, 2023
“Let’s say it was a security detail,” Cook said, referring to one of many different, and quite normal, functions of special operations forces stationed abroad. “Hamas isn’t going to delineate that — normal people can’t differentiate between a security detail and boots-on-the-ground, invasion-type stuff.”
“This is a huge propaganda win for Hamas,” Cook said.
“Maybe Hamas doesn’t have the sophistication to find these guys’ home addresses. But Iran certainly does,” Cook said.
The White House did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
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