• U.S. Government Hilariously Creates Secret-Cuba Twitter, Then Just Quits

    April 4, 2014

    Tags: , , ,
    Posted in: Embassy/State




    There is, clearly to at least two or three people in Washington, no greater threat to American safety and security than Cuba. America has had a Cold War hard-on over Cuba for decades, and so spending millions of taxpayer dollars on it, even if it means a lot of that money actually and knowingly gets paid to the Cuban government itself, is OK. Freedom isn’t free.


    One of the most recent such events was a failed U.S. government attempt to create a Cuba-only Twitter-like text system, and then to use subscribers’ mobile phones to seed anti-Castro propaganda. The bizarre thinking underlying all this was that such social media would foment “flash mobs” in Cuba that would somehow lead to a people power revolution to overthrow the Cuban government.

    Cuba Libre, Cuba Tweet

    In 2010, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), best known for overseeing billions of dollars in reconstruction money in the successful campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, decided to create a bare-bones “Cuban Twitter,” using cellphone text messaging to evade Cuba’s Internet restrictions. It was called ZunZuneo, apparently slang for a Cuban hummingbird’s tweet. Like Twitter, get it?

    To hide the U.S. government’s involvement in all this, fake companies were established in the Cayman Islands, while DNS spoofing and other naughty tricks were employed to disguise the origin of messages, all with the goal of making sure neither the Cuban government nor the Cuban people knew this was a U.S. propaganda ploy. The plan was, according to documents obtained by the Associated Press, for the U.S. to build a subscriber base through “non-controversial content” such as soccer scores and hurricane updates. When the network reached a critical mass of subscribers, perhaps hundreds of thousands, the U.S. would introduce political content aimed at inspiring Cubans to organize “smart mobs” that would assemble at a moment’s notice a Cuban Spring. One USAID document said the formal goal was to “renegotiate the balance of power between the state and society.” This was all at a time when the U.S. fantasized that the Arab Spring would yield the same outbreak of democracy that the Ukrainian Orange Revolution is now famous for.

    Hilarious aside: USAID in its internal project documents called hard-core Castro supporters “Talibanes.”

    No Hay Problemas

    To begin, the propaganda network coincidentally activated shortly after Alan Gross, a USAID subcontractor who was sent to Cuba to surreptiously help “provide citizens access to the Internet,” was arrested. No one claims there is any connection.

    As the Cuban government became aware of the program, its users (who had no idea they were unwitting stooges in a USG black op) came under intense suspicion. This may cause Cubans to be wary of participating in future U.S. programs, and/or to be very suspicious of any legitimate third-party programs for fear of ending up in jail.

    Because sending the texts needed to participate in the program was quite expensive in Cuba, and because the U.S. sent out thousands of messages itself, significant amounts of U.S. money were paid directly to the Cuban government-owned telephone company. The good news for taxpayers was that the Spain-based front company for this mess negotiated with the Cuban government for a bulk-rate for the texts. Can I get a Viva! from the crowd?

    When the service started to become popular and exceed the technical capabilities of what the U.S. set up, the U.S. limited Cubans to only one text a day per person, unlikely to be conducive to creating flash mobs and revolution.

    Various problems capped Cuban participation in the program to only about one percent of the total population. At one point USAID claimed this was good, and kept the project “under the radar.”

    By mid-2012 Cuban users began to complain that the service worked only sporadically. Then not at all, and ZunZuneo simply vanished. The old web domain is now up for sale by a URL broker. Surprisingly, no takers to date. The ZunZuneo Facebook page is still online, last updated in May 2012. Be sure to hop online and “Like” them.

    To hide the program from Congressional scrutiny, the money spent on Cuba was taken out of funds publicly earmarked for Pakistan.

    As part of all the texting, a contractor for the project built a vast database about the Cuban subscribers, including gender, age, “receptiveness” and “political tendencies.” This will never be leaked, hacked, stolen or ever come into the hands of the Cuban government so that they can stomp out any legitimate dissent.

    A lawyer specializing in European data protection law, told the Associated Press it appeared that the U.S. program violated Spanish privacy laws because the ZunZuneo team illegally gathered personal data and sent unsolicited emails using a Spanish front company. Especially in the wake of the revelations of NSA spying throughout Europe, this is unlikely to have affect on broader relations.

    Since USAID, ostensibly a humanitarian aid organization, apparently created several international clandestine front companies, spoofed Cuban telcom networks and funneled money through Cayman Island banks, there is no chance that the CIA had anything to do with any of this.

    USAID at one point turned to Jack Dorsey, a co-founder of Twitter, to seek funding for the project. Documents show Dorsey met with Suzanne Hall, a State Department officer who worked on “new media projects.” Ms. Hall, who appears to be about 26, is captured on video here, explaining how cool social media thingies are. Please note the statue of Hillary Clinton on the bookshelf on the right side of the screen.

    Nothing in the documents available lists exactly how much this all cost American taxpayers.


    Note: As we go to press, the Cuban government is still in power and doing just fine, thank you. Please note that U.S. government efforts to promote freedom in Cuba in no way conflict with U.S. government plans to maintain its off-shore penal colony at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, indefinitely.



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    Copyright © 2018. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

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  • Recent Comments

    • Rich Bauer said...

      1

      Of course this blows CIA’s chances to use USAID as cover for its covert officers, as this birdbrain attempt to subvert a government casts suspicion on every USAID employee and exposes them to hostile action. Way to go, State.

      It’s Time to amend the USAID Mission Statement to include covert actions to subvert governments.

      Note: U.S. law requires that any covert action by a federal agency must have a presidential authorization and that Congress should be notified. The Obama administration on Thursday said the program was not covert and that it served an important purpose by helping information flow more freely to Cubans.

      Parts of the program “were done discreetly,” Rajiv Shah, USAID’s top official said.

      “We also offered to brief our appropriators and our authorizers,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said.

      Spoken like real birdbrains.

      04/4/14 5:11 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      2

      Of course, State is infamous for birdbrain decisions that get its employees killed: Anne Smedinghoff, Ambassador Stevens, Nairobi, …

      04/4/14 5:31 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      3

      04/4/14 5:56 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      4

      “Harf described the program as “discreet” but said it was in no way classified or covert. Harf also said the project, dubbed ZunZuneo, did not rise to a level that required the secretary of state to be notified. Neither former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton nor John Kerry, the current occupant of the office, was aware of ZunZuneo, she said.”

      04/4/14 6:09 PM | Comment Link

    • Kyzl Orda said...

      5

      “To hide the program from Congressional scrutiny, the money spent on Cuba was taken out of funds publicly earmarked for Pakistan”

      Just to clarify, isnt that illegal? To take money from one authorized budget and transfer it to another program, to a particular contractor, with no contract competition, no proposal submission, and for purposes not related to what the original funds were provided for?

      04/4/14 6:14 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      6

      What a pack of liars. When the GOP wins the Senate, State will be lucky to have money in its budget to supply its salad bar.

      04/4/14 6:22 PM | Comment Link

    • teri said...

      7

      “To hide the program from Congressional scrutiny, the money spent on Cuba was taken out of funds publicly earmarked for Pakistan.”

      And this may partially explain why we see news like this today:

      “The State Department has no idea what happened to $6 billion used to pay its contractors.

      “In a special ‘management alert’ made public Thursday, the State Department’s Inspector General Steve Linick warned ‘significant financial risk and a lack of internal control at the department’ has led to billions of unaccounted dollars over the last six years. […]”

      http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Articles/2014/04/04/6-Billion-Goes-Missing-State-Department

      Gosh, takes me back to the good old days, when Rumsfeld announced that $2 tt (two trillion dollars, US) had mysteriously gone missing from the Pentagon. That was the day before 9/11.

      And I have to add that as much as America’s politicians hate Cuba, for reasons known only to themselves, they despise Haiti more. Anyone ask either Clinton or Bush what happened to all the Haiti Aid money, donated by average, well-meaning Americans? $100 mm went to build a luxury hotel so US contractors wouldn’t have to stay in crappy digs as they went in to plunder the country after the earthquake, but the rest has disappeared. Oh, wait, Clinton DID use about ten bucks of the donations to buy plastic sheeting and sticks (this is literally true) for “temporary housing” for the Haitians left homeless, purchased from the same company that provided the toxic formaldehyde trailers given to the Katrina victims. Nothing to help with the cholera epidemic brought in by the UN blue helmets. Cuba, on the other hand, has sent in teams of doctors and continues to donate medicine in an effort to, y’know, actually help Haiti.

      Obama did let Aristide return, as long as he wouldn’t run for office again – can’t have his ideas about a minimum wage in Haiti revived – so I guess there is that.

      It seems something about poor people with dark skin just really pisses off the PTB in the US.

      04/5/14 9:29 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      8

      Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight subcommittee on National Security, told AP he would look into the matter. “That is not what USAID should be doing,” he said. “USAID is flying the American flag and should be recognized around the globe as an honest broker of doing good. If they start participating in covert, subversive activities, the credibility of the United States is diminished.”

      Oh, for the love of God.

      04/5/14 9:32 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      9

      04/5/14 10:49 AM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...

      10

      quote “We’re all morons,” Morris said, vehemently. unquote

      Says the spokesman for the DCOTP(tm). Meanwhile, living proof is offered up in biblical proportions daily on the TEH VEH.

      bartender..I propose a toast. Here’s to 300 million American morons. May they take solace in the fact that Lady Gaga endorses the DCOTP.

      04/5/14 2:06 PM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...

      11

      ps… “Oh, for the love of God.”

      Indeed Rich. The credibility of the United States. Diminished.

      BWHAHAHAHA…HOHOHOHOHOH…HEHEHEHEHEHE…HAHAHAHA!

      Credibility.. the US. Good God. Another record broken on the Hubris-O-Meter.

      04/5/14 2:17 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      12

      America, the home of the free to kill:

      A US citizen and employee of an American-owned defense contracting firm, who worked as an Arabic translator, was detained at a US military facility near Baghdad. He was subjected to torture and after being released found he was now on watch lists that made it impossible to travel. But a remedy was not granted because remedies have never been extended in cases involving the military, intelligence or national security.

      The government’s rationale is that if military officials knew they could be held accountable for detaining and torturing someone who was a US citizen it would get in the way of being able to make decisions without hesitation in “defense” of American “liberty and national interests.” And the same rationale is advanced by the government when it comes to executing US citizens suspected of terrorism without charge, indictment or prosecution—it would get in the way of decision-making to keep America safe.”

      That makes me feel MUCH safer.

      04/5/14 4:01 PM | Comment Link

    • wemeantwell said...

      13

      You refer to the Bivens Remedy, which allows citizens to sue individual USG officials who violate their Constitutional rights. A district court refused to allow it just last week in the case of drone-murdered Anwar al-Awaki, whose father tried to sue Admiral McRaven from JSOC.

      04/5/14 11:04 PM | Comment Link

    • Kyzl Orda said...

      14

      Is there an option for American citizens in these situations to take their case to the Hague or an international human rights court as a next step?

      04/6/14 1:12 PM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...

      15

      quote”Is there an option for American citizens in these situations to take their case to the Hague or an international human rights court as a next step?unquote

      They have no jurisdiction over the USG. What is astounding, notwithstanding this latest blow to the Bill of Rights, is the mere fact you asked this question. Living proof that we’ve arrived at Orwell 2014.

      The fact is Kyzl..the USG is a Legal Imperialist now. They simply “legalize” what ever it is they want to do, including murdering their own citizens. And who is to stop them. That is the point of legal imperialism. It’s been going on since time immortal.

      All I know now that a judge has lowered herself into the cesspool of USG criminality by this ruling..is she single handedly has declared the obvious..the USG is NOW ILLEGITIMATE. Period. This now means the USG can kill you for any reason, any time, anywhere they so deem without one shred of due process. If this isn’t living proof..NOTHING IS. The America we knew is now dead. Gone. Zilch. Zero. And now, I know Jim Garrison was right. Fascism will come to America in the name of..you got it..National Security. Well, as far as I’m concerned..National Security only exists for the ruling class now. We are on our own. Time to buy an AR-15.

      04/6/14 1:36 PM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...

      16

      ps..Things are heating up in Connecticut. These people refuse to kneel down to Tyranny. I submit you will see more and more of this…in every State in the Union as the collectivist gun grabbers try to pass laws that are designed to do ONE THING..INFRINGE on that which cannot be. Without the power of the 2nd Amendment..you might as well prepare your self for a future of Totalitarianism ON STEROIDS. All I know is there are 3% of gun owners who will NOT take it sitting down.

      http://sipseystreetirregulars.blogspot.com/2014/04/ct-rally-photos.html

      http://sipseystreetirregulars.blogspot.com/

      04/6/14 1:49 PM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...

      17

      04/7/14 12:33 AM | Comment Link

    • Kyzl Orda said...

      18

      Here’s someone who refused to register too:

      http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/22/nyregion/brooklyn-bus-shooting.html

      04/7/14 2:33 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      19

      The lies would be HILLARY-ious if they weren’t so Syria-ish:

      http://www.lrb.co.uk/2014/04/06/seymour-m-hersh/the-red-line-and-the-rat-line

      04/7/14 11:50 AM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...

      20

      Kyzl Orda said…

      quote”Here’s someone who refused to register too”unquote

      I’m positive you think registering would have stopped him. I’m also sure you think guns kill people on their own.

      04/7/14 1:17 PM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...

      21

      Hey Kyzl…

      I bet you think if these guys had registered their guns this wouldn’t happen..right? I also bet you think she doesn’t have the right to defend herself..with an unregisterd gun..right?

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vpv9tJwjmAk

      04/7/14 1:33 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      22

      “I know Jim Garrison was right. Fascism will come to America in the name of..you got it..National Security.”

      Can’t blame Turkey for its false flag Sarin gas attack. They learned that from US turkeys.

      https://whatreallyhappened.com/WRHARTICLES/framingarabs.html

      04/7/14 5:04 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      23

      04/7/14 5:15 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      24

      State’s stupidity endangering its employees:

      The federal agency responsible for administering civilian foreign aid came under fire Tuesday, accused of endangering its own employees by pursuing risky programs abroad — including a controversial “Cuban Twitter” project that one lawmaker called a “cockamamie idea.”

      The lawmaker, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., claimed that he’s gotten emails from employees with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) “all over the world” asking “how could they do this, to put us in such danger?”
      Senator Leahy claimed the Cuban Twitter program would have been easily discovered. As for other programs being run by USAID, Leahy voiced concern that they could “taint all USAID employees around the world as spies.”

      Shah acknowledged that these programs entail risk but insisted they were being conducted “discreetly.”

      Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., did not dispute the value of USAID’s programs, but questioned why another part of the government was not handling the riskier initiatives.

      “It just seems crazy,” he said.

      Shah said after the AP story came out that the ZunZuneo program was not covert and that a study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office into democracy promotion programs run by USAID and the State Department — including the Cuban Twitter project — found the programs to be consistent with the law.

      “Discreet does not equal covert,” the agency said in a blog post on Monday.

      http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/04/08/lawyer-says-american-jailed-in-cuba-begins-hunger-strike/

      04/8/14 6:57 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      25

      If discovered, Secretary Clinton will disavow your stupid actions.

      04/8/14 7:00 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      26

      Another Shah is going down:

      Rajiv Shah, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development testified before a subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee April 8, 2014 in Washington that he did not know whose idea it had been to set up the program.

      Failure is an orphan.

      04/8/14 7:04 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      27

      If this was not a covert action, why was the network built with secret shell companies and financed through foreign banks?

      04/8/14 7:07 PM | Comment Link

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