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

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month 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.
Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countriesi
X
December 16, 2014 2:14 PM
Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.
Video

Video Indonesian Province to Expand Sharia Law

Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population and a legal system based on Dutch civil law and Indonesian government regulations. But in a 2001 compromise with separatists, Aceh province in Sumatra island’s north was allowed to implement Sharia law. Since then, religious justice has become increasingly strict. VOA correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh.
Video

Video Some Russian Businesses Thrive in Poor Economy

Capital flight, the fall in oil prices and Western sanctions are pushing Russia's staggering economy into recession. But not companies are suffering. The ruble’s drop in value has benefited exporters as well as businesses targeting increasingly frugal customers. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.

All About America

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

An Elated Alan Gross: 'It's Good to be Home'

'This is a game changer,' newly-freed political prisoner tells audience, referring to his release and the US policy shift toward Cuba
More

Over $6 Trillion Lost to Illicit Flows

Study says developing nations hurt by corruption, tax evasion
More

New Policy Will Dramatically Alter US-Cuba Relations

Plan will renew diplomatic ties, ease restrictions on travel and remittances, altering how Cubans and Americans can interact
More

Multimedia Obama Announces Historic Revamp of US-Cuba Relations

In explaining plans to begin normalizing relations with Cuba, president says, 'Isolation has not worked. It's time for a new approach,' as countries move to ease 5-decade trade embargo
More

Crowd Sings, Tangos as Pope Celebrates Birthday

Pope heard versions of 'Happy Birthday' in Spanish, Italian and other languages as he was driven through St. Peter's Square to start his weekly general audience
More

National Hockey League Players Hit by Mumps

Thirteen players affected so far, but one expert says wave of illness has about run its course
More