US created fake social network firm to foster dissent in Cuba

Cell phone user in CubaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
A United States government agency secretly created a bogus social networking platform in order to foment political unrest in Cuba, according to a report by the Associated Press. Over 40,000 subscribers regularly used the ZunZuneo social networking service that began operating in the communist Caribbean island in 2009. The service, dubbed “Cuba’s Twitter” was based on SMS messages sent via mobile telephone subscribers. Its rapid success was attributed to the strict controls over Internet usage that are in place in Cuba, as well as the population’s relative lack of access to networked computers. But The Associated Press revealed on Thursday that ZunZuneo was in fact a secret program devised by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), which is a federal body operating under the Department of State. The news agency reported that the US government was able to conceal its role in building and sustaining the network by operating through a complex system of front companies set up in the Cayman Islands and in Spain. The latter were used to register ZunZuneo’s parent company and to pay the company’s bills, as well as to route millions of subscribers’ text messages without the involvement of servers based on US soil. The report stated that ZunZuneo’s corporate website even carried “bogus advertisements” strategically placed to give the site a realistic corporate look. It is worth noting that the social networking service suddenly stopped working in 2012, without providing a warning or an explanation to its tens of thousands of subscribers. But the Associated Press said the reason the service was terminated was that the US taxpayer’s money used to sustain the program simply run out. The news agency argued in its report that the program was covert in nature and should have been subjected to Presidential authorization and Congressional scrutiny. Read more of this post

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Second US government official indicted in Cuba espionage case

Ana Belen MontesBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
The United States has publicly unsealed for the first time the indictment of an American government official accused of spying for Cuba, in connection with former senior US military intelligence analyst Ana Belen Montes, who was jailed in 2002 for spying for Havana. Marta Rita Velazquez, a Puerto Rican-born American citizen, was originally indicted in 2004 for conspiracy to commit espionage as an unregistered agent of a foreign power. A graduate of Princeton University and Georgetown University Law School, Velazquez first met Montes while they were both studying at the Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, DC. In 2002, when the Federal Bureau of Investigation ended Montes’ 17-year espionage career on behalf of Cuba, it was told that Velazquez helped the Cuban Intelligence Directorate recruit Montes. The military analyst told her FBI interrogators that Velazquez introduced her to a Cuban intelligence officer in New York; she then traveled with her to Cuba, where Montes received “operational training”, before helping her obtain a job with the US Defense Intelligence Agency. At the time, Velazquez was already working with for the US Department of State as a legal officer attached to the US Agency for International Development. In that position, which she held for over a decade, Velazquez had a top-secret security clearance; she also completed tours at the US embassies in Guatemala and Nicaragua. In 2004, a grand jury in Washington, DC, indicted Velazquez for espionage, accusing her of exchanging encrypted information with Cuban intelligence officers and traveling abroad to receive operational training while secretly in the service of Cuba. Read more of this post

Some underreported WikiLeaks revelations

WikiLeaks

WikiLeaks

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
There is little point in recapping here the bulk of disclosures contained in the ongoing WikiLeaks revelations. The news sphere is jam-packed with them —and perhaps this is the real story in the WikiLeaks revelations, namely the fact that espionage and intelligence issues have near-monopolized the global news cycle for the first time since the post-Watergate Congressional investigations of the 1970s. But it is worth pointing out a handful of news stories on the WikiLeaks revelations that have arguably not received the media coverage that they deserve. Undoubtedly the most underreported disclosure concerns a 2007 meeting between US officials and Meir Dagan, the then Director of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency. During the meeting, Dagan apparently “presented US with five-step program to perform a coup in Iran“.  But there are other underreported disclosures. Take for instance the revelation that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton personally authorized US diplomats to engage in all-out and indiscriminate spying on senior United Nations officials. Although there is nothing here that will surprise seasoned intelligence observers, the breadth of intelligence collection that US diplomats are instructed to engage in (which includes collecting credit card numbers and biometric data of UN officials) is astonishing and certainly unprecedented. Moreover, it should be noted that many senior UN officials are in fact American, which leads to the intriguing question of whether US diplomats are routinely required to engage in intelligence collection against American UN officials. Read more of this post

US government agent detained in Cuba for ‘aiding opposition groups’

Development Alternatives Inc. logo

DAI logo

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
American authorities have revealed the arrest in Cuba of a US government worker, who was allegedly supplying telecommunications equipment to opposition groups. The unidentified man, who was reportedly detained in Havana on December 5, is said to work for a Maryland-based international aid group called Development Alternatives Inc. (DAI). This little-known organization works closely with the government-owned United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and last year was awarded a major government contract in “support [of] the rule of law and human rights, political competition and consensus building” in Cuba. There are reports, however, that the contract involved the clandestine supply of laptop computers and cell phones to Cuban groups antagonistic to the government in Havana. Read more of this post

US covert operations in Bolivia detailed

Counterpunch has published today a well-researched analysis piece by Roger Burbach (Director of the California-based Center for the Study of the Americas) detailing some of the recent covert operations by Washington in Bolivia. These operations do not appear to veer significantly from CIA’s (more or less standard) approach in Chile in the early 1970s, and include “direct and covert assistance to the opposition movement” in Bolivia’s energy-rich eastern provinces. USAID and the DEA are mentioned as core institutional elements in the US effort to destabilize the democratically elected Morales government. The article is available here. [IA]

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