News / Americas

    White House: 'Cuban Twitter' Was Not Covert Operation

    Students gather behind a business looking for a Internet signal for their smart phones in Havana, Cuba, April 1, 2014.
    Students gather behind a business looking for a Internet signal for their smart phones in Havana, Cuba, April 1, 2014.
    VOA News
    The White House says a so-called "Cuban Twitter" communications network created by the U.S. government was a development program, not a covert operation.
     
    White House spokesman Jay Carney commented about the program Thursday, responding to a report released earlier in the day by the Associated Press news agency.  Carney said the program was completed in 2012.
     
    Carney said the United States takes steps to be "discreet" when operating in "non-permissive environments" such as Cuba, in order to protect those involved in the program and the general public.
     
    The AP report said the U.S. government secretly financed the social network in Cuba in an effort to stir political unrest and undermine the country's communist government.  It said the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) program evaded Cuba's Internet restrictions by creating a text-messaging service that could be used to organize political demonstrations.
     
    AP said it is unclear whether the project was legal under U.S. law, which requires written authorization of covert action by the president and congressional notification. 

    No comment
     
    The Cuban government declined an AP request for comment.
     
    The AP said details uncovered by its reporters appear to contradict USAID's longstanding claims it does not conduct covert actions.  The report says the project could undermine the agency's mission to deliver aid to the world's poor and vulnerable, an effort that requires the trust and cooperation of foreign governments.
     
    The report says the project, dubbed “ZunZuneo,'' slang for a Cuban hummingbird's tweet, was publicly launched shortly after the 2009 arrest in Cuba of American contractor Alan Gross.  He was imprisoned after traveling repeatedly to the country on a separate, clandestine USAID mission to expand Internet access using sensitive technology that only governments use.
     
    For more than two years, ZunZuneo grew and reached at least 40,000 subscribers.  But documents reveal the team found evidence Cuban officials tried to trace the text messages and break into the ZunZuneo system.  USAID told the AP ZunZuneo stopped in September 2012 when a government grant ended.
     
    The AP says it obtained more than 1,000 pages of documents about the project's development, and independently verified the project's scope and details in the documents through publicly available databases, government sources and interviews with those involved in ZunZuneo.

    You May Like

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    China Seeks On-Off Switch for Internet

    Public asks whose security is cybersecurity law aiming to protect

    UN Human Rights Chief: Burundi May Explode Into Ethnic Violence

    Burundian government accuses the UN of a campaign of distortion

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: TonySalsa from: USA
    April 03, 2014 3:00 PM
    Wow America got caught with its pants down.

    by: Cranksy from: USA
    April 03, 2014 2:04 PM
    Free speech is one aspect of American life I appreciate most, but I do think social media can cause flash-mob democracies.

    by: quslera from: USA
    April 03, 2014 1:22 PM
    Hmmm -- let's see. USAID is involved in a clandestine mission that, according to the AP report, the legality of which has been called into question.

    USAID and the State Department have also been involved in funding various programs of the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

    Was anybody, at any time, in the BBG (which has made much of its so-called engage and connect strategies, aware of the USAID covert program in Cuba?


    by: Marc from: Texas
    April 03, 2014 12:25 PM
    I see articles like this condemning another country for their repression against their citizens. I would like to point out one thing, we live in America. Where we do have these freedoms. Don't take it for granted, people died for that freedom.

    by: Freedom from: USA
    April 03, 2014 10:59 AM
    I have to disagree. Giving oppressed people the tools to communicate freely among them is always a good thing. Whether the program broke the law if it didn't follow the proper protocol, is a different matter. But, not withstanding that, it was a good thing.

    by: Not Again from: Canada
    April 03, 2014 9:48 AM
    Everyone should have acess to twitter and the internet; there is nothing sinester about providing means of communication for people, that a dictatorship denies them. Once again we observe some kind of an issue- in protecting/advancing the rights of the cuban dictatorship's position of denying its people a free means of expression/communication; if it can be afforded why not provide such a service?. What are the intentions of the people making this an issue, do not all US/Western citizens have access to twitter? were does the evil rest, in twitter or in the dictatorship that denies the people the right to communicate by twitter? More needs to be done for the freedom of expression around the world, not less!

    by: meanbill from: USA
    April 03, 2014 9:37 AM
    USAID and all the other US agencies in foreign countries, get most their funds from the (CIA), and like the wise man said; "nothing is free, and nobody gets to ride for free".

    by: Curly4 from: USA
    April 03, 2014 9:25 AM
    This sounds like a good thing and it may have been if it brought down the government and allow a freely elected government to takes its place. But when one understands that if the government could do this, for a good cause, then it could do a similar thing against a group in the US also for a good cause.

    So the finale conclusion will have to be it is not good and it is or may have broken US law.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roari
    X
    June 28, 2016 10:33 AM
    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    More Americas News

    El Chapo's Extradition to US Suspended

    Mexican judge rules that more of defense's arguments must be heard before drug lord is sent to US for trial

    North American Leaders to Discuss Climate Change, Trade in Canada

    President Obama, PM Trudeau, and President Peña Nieto will meet in Ottawa Wednesday and are expected to focus on climate change as well as trade

    Chile Seeks to Fight Obesity With New Food Labeling Law

    South American country has one of the highest childhood obesity rates in the world

    US Media Scrutinize Wave of Chinese Migrants Illegally Crossing From Mexico

    Reports show US officials caught 663 Chinese nationals illegally crossing from Mexico into San Diego, California, from last October through May

    Mexican Women Victims of Rape, Torture When Arrested

    Amnesty International finds a majority of women arrested in Mexico are sexually abused and tortured in the hours following their arrest

    Cuban Hotel Becomes First to Operate Under US Brand

    Military-owned Gaviota 5th Avenue Hotel, close to Caribbean seafront, is one of two hotels Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide agreed to manage in multimillion-dollar deal with Cuba in March