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

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Kurdish service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win More

Russian Anti-Corruption Campaigner Slams Putin’s Crackdown on Dissent

In interview with VOA Alexei Navalny says he believes new law against 'undesirable NGOs' part of move to keep Russian president in power More

Video On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions More

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.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs

More Americas News

Allies, Ex-players, Fans Abroad Cheer US Move Against FIFA

Soccer devotees flood Twitter with praise, ask why countries with richer traditions in the sport had ignored suspicions of corruption for so long
More

Soccer Great Pele to Join New York Cosmos on Cuban Trip

Goodwill mission will include exhibition match between Cosmos, Cuban national team
More

Researchers: No Foul Play in Death of Chilean Poet Neruda

Chilean government reopened investigation into Neruda's death in January, with new tests designed to look for protein damage caused by poisoning
More

US Senator: Momentum Growing to Lift Sanctions on Cuba

Sen. Tom Udall led a delegation of four Democratic lawmakers to Havana
More

Latin American Soccer Fans Cheer FIFA Corruption Sweep

Latin American fans have long booed officials assumed to be on the take, amid deep public disgust at graft in the game
More

FARC Negotiator Killed in Colombian Bombing Raid

Jairo Martinez one of 27 rebels killed last Thursday in Cauca province, in a raid that led FARC to end a unilateral cease-fire
More