Congress looking into 'Cuban Twitter'

Members of Congress are planning to probe administration officials on the recently revealed "Cuban Twitter" project, according to a report from the Associated Press.

According to the report, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) both said their committees would be looking into the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) project that involved a social media network created to undermine Cuba's communist government.

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The network, nicknamed ZunZuneo, attracted at least 40,000 subscribers between 2009 and 2012, most of whom were young people in Cuba. The users, however, were unaware that the tool was created and maintained by the U.S. government, the report found.

U.S. officials have defended the program as an attempt to facilitate the free flow of ideas on the Internet. On Friday, the White House said the program was implemented discreetly but was not a "covert" operation.

Leahy, chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations, told the Associated Press that his subcommittee was not adequately notified of the operation.

"I know they said we were notified," he said. "We were notified in the most oblique way, that nobody could understand it."

USAID Administrator Rajuv Shah is scheduled to testify to Leahy's subcommittee regarding his agency's budget on Tuesday.

Leahy, who called the USAID operation "dumb, dumb, dumb" earlier this week, told the Associated Press he will "ask two basic questions: Why weren't we specifically told about this if you're asking us for money? And secondly, whose bright idea was this anyway?"

Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight subcommittee on National Security, told AP he would also 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."

 

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