Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
September 1, 2015

‘Cuban Twitter’ Dominates USAID Hearing (Video)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The senior senator charged with overseeing the U.S. Agency for International Development budget unleashed scathing criticism on the department’s leader Tuesday over a “Cuban Twitter” program.

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., the longtime chairman of the Appropriations State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee, pressed USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah over the U.S-run social media platform in Cuba that was reported last week by The Associated Press. Leahy wanted to know who was behind creation of the program, but Shah did not have a specific answer, saying it came before he started running the agency at the end of 2009.

“Whose idea was it for this specific program? I’ve read the legislation. The legislation doesn’t say anything about setting up a cockamamie idea in Cuba with Twitter accounts and all on something that the Cubans would be so easy to discover,” Leahy said. “Whose idea was this specific program to go to Cuba, who? It’s a simple question.”

“Sir, the program was in place before I arrived,” Shah said.

Shah also criticized the AP’s reporting on the program, insisting it “had a number of critical inaccuracies,” and adding that it was not a covert operation.

In a blog post, USAID disputed the characterizations of the ZunZuneo platform, as it has been called.

“USAID works in places where we are not always welcome. To minimize the risk to our staff and partners and ensure our work can proceed safely, we must take certain precautions and maintain a discreet profile. But discreet does not equal covert,” the agency said. “The programs have long been the subject of Congressional notifications, unclassified briefings, public budget requests, and public hearings.”

Shah expanded on those points Tuesday morning.

“Working on creating platforms to improve communication in Cuba and in many other parts of the world is a core part of what USAID has done for some time and continues to do,” Shah said. “Our administration’s policy is to continue to support efforts to allow for open communications. To the extent that the AP story or any other comment creates the impression that this effort or any other goes beyond that for other ulterior purposes, that is simply inaccurate.”

Leahy connected the ZunZuneo debate with the detention of Alan Gross, who has been in the custody of the Cuban authorities since 2009, when he was arrested while working as a subcontractor for a USAID project.

“As far as I can tell, USAID and the Obama administration has all but forgotten about him,” Leahy said in his opening statement. “It’s long past time for the administration and the Cuban government to negotiate a resolution to this ordeal, so Mr. Gross can return home. Now, I’m told by the administration, ‘Well, if you only knew all the things we were doing.’ All I know is whatever they’re doing hasn’t accomplished one darn thing.”

Gross is currently reported to be on a hunger strike in protest of the continued detention.

Leahy said he has met with Gross on two occasions, and he called on the U.S. and Cuban governments to take more concrete action to try to get Gross home.

“There is a way to resolve it. There is ample precedent for doing so. It’s in our national interest, and it could be done immediately if, if the administration really wanted to,” Leahy said.

Comments (21)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

author email

  1. Anonymous

    Aug. 20, 2015
    8:34 a.m.

    I precisely desired to appreciate you again. I am not sure the things that I would’ve made to happen in the absence of the type of ideas documented by you over such a field. It truly was a real scary condition for me, but coming across a professional fashion you processed it made me to leap for contentment. I am just happier for the support and then wish you really know what a powerful job you happen to be undertaking instructing the others by way of your websites. Probably you haven’t got to know any of us.

    http://www.letsgohorseracing.com.au/index.php/wednesday-whinge2/3114-wednesday-whinge-why-not-ask-the-cleaning-lady-to-endorse-new-tab-deal

  2. Anonymous

    Aug. 21, 2015
    8:27 p.m.

    When it comes to business you want ot be sure that you’ve got all your bases covered. More importantly it seems like you’ve covered the basics in this post.

    http://www.bbb.org/phoenix/business-reviews/credit-card-processing-service/nova-merchant-services-in-charlotte-nc-1000016757/

  3. Anonymous

    Aug. 21, 2015
    9:39 p.m.

    Great post! We’re a successful software design and development company specializing in creating e-commerce Websites, iPhone, Android, and windows 8 applications, facebook applications, Internet marketing (SEO/SEM/SMO and PPC campaigns)

    https://www.facebook.com/public?query=Peter+Taulli++&type=users&nomc=0

  4. Anonymous

    Aug. 22, 2015
    2:16 a.m.

    We are a successful software design and development company specializing in creating e-commerce Websites, iPhone, Android, and windows 8 applications, facebook applications, Internet marketing (SEO/SEM/SMO and PPC campaigns)

    http://www.yelp.com/biz/ocean-canyon-properties-texarkana-2

  5. Anonymous

    Aug. 22, 2015
    3:13 p.m.

    They will provide you with a free diagnostic of your problem and a recommended solution. But you are under no obligation to have us do the repairs.

    https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCuR_r-U_vUuxu7GO8n3Ct_w

  6. Anonymous

    Aug. 24, 2015
    3:56 a.m.

    I must thank you for the efforts you have put in penning this site. I am hoping to check out the same high-grade content by you later on as well. In truth, your creative writing abilities has inspired me to get my own, personal blog now ;)

    https://www.facebook.com/public/Richard-Rafes

  7. Anonymous

    Aug. 24, 2015
    6:05 p.m.

    When it comes to business you want ot be sure that you’ve got all your bases covered. More importantly it seems like you’ve covered the basics in this post.

    http://reiprofits.hubpages.com/hub/TomKish

  8. Anonymous

    Aug. 24, 2015
    10:21 p.m.

    Great post! We’re a successful software design and development company specializing in creating e-commerce Websites, iPhone, Android, and windows 8 applications, facebook applications, Internet marketing (SEO/SEM/SMO and PPC campaigns)

    http://www.merchantsolutionsllc.com/

  9. Anonymous

    Aug. 25, 2015
    10:41 p.m.

    This was actually discussed a while ago and I was for it initially. Over time though it became apparent that the total community was getting involved with this project. Archiving this would be best for everyone.

    https://www.facebook.com/pages/1st-art-gallerycom/184087514967365

  10. Anonymous

    Aug. 26, 2015
    3:03 a.m.

    Terrific work! This is the type of information that should be shared around the web. Shame on the search engines for not positioning this post higher! Come on over and visit my site . Thanks =)

    http://healthservices.camden.rutgers.edu/

  11. Anonymous

    Aug. 26, 2015
    6:16 a.m.

    I would say that longevity is all about a state of mind. While diet and health can aid in this I think it’s the mindset. It all boils down to making them think that they are still an asset.

    http://realestatepipelinereviews.com/?page_id=18

  12. Anonymous

    Aug. 27, 2015
    3:54 a.m.

    One thing they did say about her though was that she loved olive oil, which is why she lived so long. Impressive when you sit down and think of it.

    https://twitter.com/garykovner

  13. Anonymous

    Aug. 27, 2015
    4 a.m.

    Get to know your friends and family members better though this type of entertainment, it’s guaranteed to make you think twice.

    https://www.ratemds.com/doctor-ratings/2579793/Dr-DAVID2BT.-TURBYFILL-Pensacola-FL.html

  14. Anonymous

    Aug. 27, 2015
    7:52 p.m.

    Im definitely enjoying the information. Im book-marking and will be tweeting this to my followers! Outstanding blog and fantastic design.

    http://www.citysearch.com/profile/37698542/cranford_nj/elen_s_kids_modeling_talent_agency.html

  15. Anonymous

    Aug. 28, 2015
    7:43 a.m.

    I precisely desired to appreciate you again. I am not sure the things that I wouldve made to happen in the absence of the type of ideas documented by you over such a field. It truly was a real scary condition for me, but coming across a professional fashion you processed it made me to leap for contentment. I am just happier for the support and then wish you really know what a powerful job you happen to be undertaking instructing the others by way of your websites. Probably you havent got to know any of us.

    http://herbtrotter.com/

  16. Anonymous

    Aug. 28, 2015
    11:30 a.m.

    When it comes to business you want ot be sure that you’ve got all your bases covered. More importantly it seems like you’ve covered the basics in this post.

    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Zimmerman-Motorcars/124055530964064

  17. Anonymous

    Aug. 28, 2015
    5:37 p.m.

    Someone essentially lend a hand to make severely posts I would state. That is the very first time I frequented your website page and thus far? I surprised with the analysis you made to create this particular submit incredible. Fantastic job!

    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Anchor-house-financial/1619345148334192

  18. Anonymous

    Aug. 29, 2015
    7:28 a.m.

    We have 20+ years experience in the IT industry especially eCommerce. We believe in building long-term relationships and making certain that our clients succeed in all their goals because their success is our success.

    http://www.flippingworkshops.com/default.aspx

  19. Anonymous

    Aug. 31, 2015
    5:08 p.m.

    This is pretty much the exact information I was looking for! I really appreciate it. I did a quick Google search and came across this page, which was obviously helpful.

    http://www.sellmytimesharenow.com/timeshare/Ocean+Canyon+Properties+Campground/resort/buy-timeshare/

  20. Anonymous

    Aug. 31, 2015
    10:17 p.m.

    This is pretty much the exact information I was looking for! I really appreciate it. I did a quick Google search and came across this page, which was obviously helpful.

    https://www.facebook.com/public?query=Peter+Taulli++&type=users&nomc=0

  21. Anonymous

    Aug. 31, 2015
    11:30 p.m.

    Life can be tough at times, you put in the hours of work and only end up with blank stares. You know what I mean? That’s the time posts like this keep me motivated.

    https://www.facebook.com/rrafes

Sign In

Forgot password?

Or

Subscribe

Receive daily coverage of the people, politics and personality of Capitol Hill.

Subscription | Free Trial

Logging you in. One moment, please...