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

Afghanistan, Pakistan Leaders to Hold Icebreaking Talks in Paris

Two sides are expected to discuss ways to ease bilateral tensions and jointly work for resumption of stalled peace talks between Afghan government and Taliban officials

Corruption Busting Is Her Game

South African activist is building 'international online community of thousands of corruption fighters'

Former SAF Businessman Gives Books, Love of Reading to Students

Steve Tsakaris now involved in nonprofit Read to Rise, which distributes books in Soweto, encourages lower-grade primary school students to read

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
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.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs

More Americas News

IOC Leaders to Discuss Mexico Dispute Next Month

The International Olympic Committee said Friday the issue of government interference in Mexico will be reviewed by its policy-making executive board at its Dec. 8-10 meeting in Lausanne

Hurricane Sandra Loses Strength Off Mexican Coast

Now a Category 3 storm in the Pacific with winds of 195 kph, it's expected to weaken to a tropical storm Friday night

Ecuador to Impose Visa Requirements on Cuban Citizens

Objective is 'to discourage the flow of people seeking to reach the United States,' Ecuador's deputy foreign minister says

Destruction of Brazil's Amazon Forest Jumps 16 Percent in 2015

More than 5,800 square kilometers of forests were cleared during the 12 months ending in July, the government confirms — an area half the size of Puerto Rico

Local Opposition Leader Shot Dead in Venezuela

Armed assailants in vehicle shoot Luis Diaz, head of Democratic Action party, in Altagracia de Orituco in central Venezuela

Brazil Corruption Probe Widens; Bank CEO, Senate Leader Arrested

Detentions on orders from Supreme Court raise stakes in bribery scandal that now threatens heights of Brazilian banking and politics