US secretly created 'Cuban Twitter'
Published 03/04/2014 | 09:27
The US government secretly financed a social network in Cuba to stir political unrest and undermine the country's communist government, investigations reveal.
The programme evaded Cuba's internet restrictions by creating a text messaging service that could be used to organise political demonstrations.
It drew in tens of thousands of subscribers who were unaware it was backed by Washington.
Documents and interviews show the US Agency for International Development went to extensive lengths to conceal its involvement in a so-called Cuban Twitter. They set up front companies overseas and routed money through a Cayman Islands bank to hide the money trail.
The project was launched shortly after US contractor Alan Gross was arrested in Cuba for undertaking covert work to expand internet access.
The White House says the Cuban Twitter communications network created by the US government was a "development" programme and not a covert operation.
Spokesman Jay Carney says he is not aware of individuals in the White House who were aware of the programme, but he also says President Barack Obama does support efforts to expand communications in Cuba.
Mr Carney says the government does take steps to be discreet when working in "non-permissive environments" including Cuba. He says those steps are taken to protect "practitioners and the public".