U.S. Secretly Built ‘Cuban Twitter’ To Stir Unrest

The U.S. government masterminded the creation of a "Cuban Twitter" -- a communications network designed to undermine the communist government in Cuba, built with secret shell companies and financed through foreign banks, The Associated Press has learned.

The Obama administration project, which lasted more than two years and drew tens of thousands of subscribers, sought to evade Cuba's stranglehold on the Internet with a primitive social media platform. First, the network would build a Cuban audience, mostly young people; then, the plan was to push them toward dissent.

Yet its users were neither aware it was created by a U.S. agency with ties to the State Department, nor that American contractors were gathering personal data about them, in the hope that the information might be used someday for political purposes.

It is unclear whether the scheme was legal under U.S. law, which requires written authorization of covert action by the president and congressional notification. Officials at the USAID would not say who had approved the program or whether the White House was aware of it. The Cuban government declined a request for comment.

USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah said Thursday that it was not a covert program, though "parts of it were done discreetly" in order to protect the people involved. Shah said on MSNBC that a study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found the project to be consistent with the law.

"This is simply not a covert effort in any regard," he said.

White House spokesman Jay Carney echoed Shah's statement and said he was not aware of individuals in the White House who were aware of the program. Carney also said President Barack Obama does support efforts to expand communications in Cuba.

At minimum, details uncovered by the AP appear to muddy the U.S. Agency for International Development's longstanding claims that it does not conduct...

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