Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Why USAID’s Cuban Twitter Program was Secret

On April 3, three journalists from the Associated Press (AP) published the first in a series of well-investigated stories about a heretofore unknown U.S. government-funded project in Cuba. They described how an opaque organization within the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) called the Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) proffered a Twitter-like social networking app to Cuban cell phones. Little did the apps’ users suspect that they were receiving information from and being monitored by an entity of the U.S. government.

While AP pulled off an incredible investigative coup—one that resulted in a tense Senatorial committee hearing on Tuesday April 8—the project AP describes is only part of a long history of such programs in Cuba and around the world. Unfortunately the story focused attention on a project that no longer exists, rather than on the U.S. government entity USAID/OTI, which continues to operate secretly throughout the world. 

Jeremy Bigwood investigates for NACLA check it out