U.S. Acknowledges “Cuban Twitter” Project
WASHINGTON – The government acknowledged Thursday that the U.S. Agency for International Development launched a project in Cuba to create a Twitter-like social network to increase Cubans’ access to information but rejected describing the program as covert.
“Suggestions this was a covert program are wrong,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said during his daily briefing.
“It was not a covert program. It was debated in Congress. It was reviewed by the (Government Accountability Office). Those kinds of things don’t happen to covert programs,” he said.
Carney was referring to the information published by a U.S. news agency about USAID’s ZunZuneo project, the aim of which was to create a type of Cuban Twitter to foster dissidence among young people on the Communist-ruled island.
“When you have a program like that in a non-permissive environment, i.e., a place like Cuba, you’re discrete about how you implement it so you protect the practitioners. But that does not make it covert,” the White House spokesman said.
The planning for ZunZuneo began in 2009 with obtaining 500,000 cellphone numbers in Cuba, and USAID and its contractors hid Washington’s links with the project, creating a front company in Spain and channeling funds through a bank in the Cayman Islands, according to the news account.
The social network acquired about 40,000 users who shared via posts “non-controversial” content on sports and music, although the plan was to later introduce political elements to inspire the young people to organize marches and demonstrations against the Cuban regime.
The White House on Thursday denied that Alan Gross, a USAID sub-contractor imprisoned in Cuba since 2009 for “actions against the territorial integrity of the state,” had anything to do with the development of ZunZuneo.
U.S. State Department Daily Press Briefing
U.S. Department of State
Thursday, April 3, 2014
2:48 p.m. EDT
— USAID Social Media Program to Advance Freedom of Expression
— Congressional Notification of Program / Congressional Support of Programs in Cuba
— Continued Call to Release Alan Gross
— Government Accountability Office Review of USAID Program
— U.S. Policy on Democracy Promotion Around the World
— Purpose of Program to Create a Platform for Cubans to Express Themselves
— Program not Renewed
— U.S. Government Provided Non-Political Content
QUESTION: Thanks. We’d like to ask some questions about --
MS. HARF: Let me guess.
QUESTION: -- about a certain USAID program run in Cuba.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: And my colleague, Jack Gillum, is going to start off the questioning.
MS. HARF: Oh, hello.
QUESTION: Hello. How are you?
MS. HARF: Welcome to the briefing.
QUESTION: It’s good to be here.
MS. HARF: Is it? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I think so.
MS. HARF: Go ahead.
QUESTION: So was Secretary Clinton aware of this program and did she authorize it?
MS. HARF: Well, first, why don’t I make some comments about the overall story and then I’ll get into your specific question.
MS. HARF: The first is that I do think that there – in this, I think, rather – no offense – breathlessly written story, there were a number of misconceptions in this story about what this program was and what it was not. I’m happy to go through those in detail today.
The first being, of course, the most important: that there was nothing classified or covert about this program. Discreet does not equal covert. Having worked for almost six years at the CIA and now here, I know the difference. So I’m happy to go into that in a little more detail as well.
In terms of why we undertake these programs, because we have been very clear, as has Congress, that it is important to support the Cuban people, to provide them with platforms for expression. That’s what we were doing. This was a platform. We were not generating political content of any kind on this platform. We were letting the Cuban people do that themselves. In these kind of hostile environments, for the safety of the people working on these programs, indeed for them to be effective, we believe we must be discreet in doing so.
In terms of your specific question, it is my understanding that this did not reach the Secretary’s office, either the previous Secretary of State. Obviously this ended before Secretary Kerry came in. He also was unaware of this program. It went through the normal USAID chain in terms of approval as well.
So I’m happy to dig into some of the details here if you’d like to ask them.
QUESTION: Sure. Well, I just want to say if you could first start out by characterizing what you say are some of the inaccuracies in the report.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Well, the notion that this is covert or secret. I think you’ve seen a lot of reports picking up on your story today that say secret, covert action that we were running in Cuba. That is by far not the case.
Covert action, which you can find defined in Title 50 of the U.S. Code, includes among other things the fact that you can legally and you do legally deny it. That was not the case here. The documents associated with the contracting companies were not classified. If you asked directly the contractors or the people who were aware that we were funding it if they were working for the United States Government, they would have said yes. They would not deny it. Covert action by definition includes the ability and the need to legally deny it.
So I think the tone of this story that this was somehow secret, that this was somehow covert, is just not correct.
QUESTION: There’s a difference between secret and covert, correct?
MS. HARF: Well, secret is – it wasn’t classified. It – yes, there is, but it wasn’t either. And I think the article makes a nod to it being one of the two.
In terms of the funding here – you asked me about inaccuracies, let me keep going here. In terms of the funding here, I think that your report – and let me just get this funding part here – talked about money coming possibly from funding that had been earmarked for Pakistan. It’s my understanding – and we can double-check with AID – that this was all ESF funding that was directed to Cuba. It was notified to Congress in a 2008 congressional notification titled “Outreach to New Sectors of Cuba Society” for the amount of $6,850,000 for a number of programs, including this one.
We also offered to brief our appropriators and our authorizers, which is HACFO, SACFO, SFRC, and HFAC, about our Cuban outreach programs. And again, you hear on the Hill from many people that they support these kinds of democracy promotion programs.
Another item was the notion that we were somehow trying to foment unrest, that we were trying to advance a specific political agenda or point of view. That – nothing could be further from the truth. We believe that the Cuban people need platforms like this to use themselves to decide what their future will look like, and that’s certainly what we did here.
We were trying to expand the space for Cubans to express themselves to – they could have expressed – excuse me – anti-American views on it. We didn’t monitor or we weren’t able to choose what they say on these platforms. That’s up to them. So this was, like other programs – sorry, I’m choking here – a program that, because of the hostile operating environment in Cuba, it was done discreetly. And --
QUESTION: I just had a quick question for you.
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: So you say that this is not covert.
MS. HARF: Correct.
QUESTION: But I’m just – help me draw the line here, because this is a program that was set up that was so secret that it --
MS. HARF: It wasn’t secret. Secret is a technical term, and it was not classified.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, it was obfuscated in the sense that it was set up with foreign bank accounts --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- it was set up with foreign companies overseas. The CEOs who were interviewed this were not told it was a U.S.-backed project. So help me understand how that is not covert.
MS. HARF: Well, a bank overseas doesn’t equal covert action. It just doesn’t. It’s a fact. What I would say is that you have to – when we talk about discretion, it’s not just discretion with the people on the ground. It’s discretion about where the funding is coming from, so the Cuban Government won’t shut it down, they won’t clamp down on average Cubans trying to talk to one another on this. Again, having a bank account overseas doesn’t equal, anywhere I’ve read in any kind of covert action definition, covert action.
QUESTION: Right. Well --
MS. HARF: The documents weren’t classified and the contracts weren’t classified. When companies do covert action or classified undertakings with the United States Government, the contracts are classified. That was not the case here. By definition, this does not meet the covert action definition.
QUESTION: Well, when you mention the documents, they specifically talk about keeping this an under-the-radar strategy and keeping the --
MS. HARF: Discretion, absolutely.
MS. HARF: We know the operating environment in Cuba. We know it requires discretion.
QUESTION: So you talk about saying that the appropriate members of Congress were briefed on this.
MS. HARF: I said Congress because there was a congressional notification --
MS. HARF: -- and that key staffers on these committees were – had – we had consultations with them regularly on all of our programs, and obviously, we offer briefings to these four committees when they ask for them. And they’re very supportive of our efforts in Cuba.
QUESTION: So the senator who oversees funding for the State Department says that he didn’t know about the program, called it, quote, “dumb,” and said he wouldn’t have supported it. So how is there support on it?
MS. HARF: Oh, I’m not going to speak for the senator. But again, we submitted a congressional notification in 2008 outlining what we were doing in Cuba. I can’t speak to why he knows certain things or doesn’t know certain things.
QUESTION: But is he one of the senators who would have had to approve this report? I mean, you just mentioned, what, four committees?
MS. HARF: Approve what report?
QUESTION: Or, I’m sorry, approve this program, or at least be notified of this program.
MS. HARF: Well – right. So we have authorizers and overseers here. We have, obviously, on the House and the Senate side, Foreign Ops, and on the House and the Senate side, Foreign Relations and Foreign Affairs. So in terms of this specific funding, these are the folks that sign off on it. Funding got signed off on for it --
QUESTION: So it never went through the Appropriations Committee, it only went through --
MS. HARF: That’s what I said, HACFO and SACFO, uh-huh. That’s how we get appropriated. Uh-huh.
QUESTION: That’s interesting.
QUESTION: In the --
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: In the wake of the arrest of Alan Gross, were you concerned that the covered-up nature of the U.S. Government involvement could have endangered him or endangered other Cubans using the service?
MS. HARF: Well, I think two points. The first is you use – you keep using terms that have some nefarious tone to them – covered up. This was discreet.
QUESTION: What term would you use?
MS. HARF: I would just say it was discreet, because – exactly because we know the --
QUESTION: Okay. So would the discreet nature of the U.S. Government do that?
MS. HARF: Well, we operate discreetly exactly because the Cuban Government has put dissidents in jail.
And look, on Alan Gross, we have been very clear. The Cuban Government needs to release him on humanitarian grounds as soon as possible. That has not changed. This does not change that in any way.
QUESTION: Why not? Doesn’t it put him more at risk?
MS. HARF: No. We think they should release him on humanitarian grounds. Look, we’ve been very clear that we promote freedom of expression in Cuba. That’s not a secret. If anyone thinks that’s a secret, then they haven’t been paying attention to what we’ve been talking about with Cuba over the past decades.
QUESTION: On USAID’s website --
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: -- it says, “We partner to end extreme poverty and promote resilient democratic societies.”
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Is this just another example of USAID doing its mission?
MS. HARF: Well, absolutely. Resilient democratic societies – part of that is freedom of expression and allowing the Cuban people to have platforms. Again, this was a platform where the Cuban people were allowed to create the content. When it started, the folks who operated it put weather content on it, sports content on it, to get it up and running. But no political content was ever supplied by anyone working on this project or running it. It was the people – the Cuban people on the ground who were doing so.
QUESTION: Marie, what did the program accomplish? Because it looks like it was ended in 2012.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. It ended when its normal contract ran out. It just wasn’t renewed. It wasn’t ended for any specific purpose. Look, we’ve seen – we have seen space increasing for Cubans on the internet. We’ve hoped that they will be able to do more of that, right? So I don’t know if there’s a specific – what this program itself did, but overall – excuse me – our programs are designed, again, to increase this space.
I would also note that the GAO did an extensive look into all of USAID’s programs on Cuba; as part of their inquiry, had extended telephone conversations with the two contractors running this program, had access to all of the documents about this program, and determined that everything was going fine.
QUESTION: Why was the contract not renewed? You said it ran out --
MS. HARF: Yeah, just --
QUESTION: -- I mean, the money ran out. So why – I mean, if the government had put so much interest, or USAID had put so much interest into this platform --
MS. HARF: Well, I wouldn’t say so much interest. Obviously, overall we care about --
QUESTION: Six point eight – how much was it?
MS. HARF: This was a three-year grant totaling 1.2 million. The – what I read for you was for Cuban programs writ large --
MS. HARF: -- that year in that congressional notification.
QUESTION: Okay. So to go off on Margaret’s question, you said that it accomplished a lot. So --
MS. HARF: No, I didn’t say it accomplished a lot. I said our overall policy towards increasing freedom of expression in Cuba, we think, has made some progress there, but there’s obviously a lot more work to do.
QUESTION: As a result of this platform?
MS. HARF: As a result of our programs in general. I don’t know specifically what the outcome was from this platform.
QUESTION: So you specifically say that this was not to foment unrest, yet specific objectives of this program was to – one of them was to organize, quote, “smart mobs” for demonstrations to meet at a moment’s notice. Can you explain that discrepancy?
MS. HARF: Uh-huh. Well, the documents referenced in terms of smart mobs were not USAID documents. They were meeting notes between the grantee and the contractor. There was a USAID staff member present during this brainstorming session, but the documents in your story are not USAID documents. The purpose of this project was to create a platform for Cubans to speak freely among themselves. Brainstorming – the meeting notes come from brainstorms between grantees and contractors. In no way is U.S. policy – those statements, obviously, were inconsistent with the purpose of the program. Nothing like that was ever requested of USAID. So random meeting notes that were provided to you of one brainstorming session in no way indicate what the overall purpose was of this $1.2 million project.
QUESTION: Can you explain the date of those meeting notes? The nature of that document that you’re quoting from that I can’t see?
MS. HARF: Like the documents you reported on that we didn’t see?
QUESTION: Sure. Can you describe when that – when those (inaudible)?
MS. HARF: I can get the date of it, but it’s the one that’s referenced in your story.
QUESTION: Marie, is the State Department concerned that disclosure of this program puts USAID workers abroad at risk?
MS. HARF: Well, I think what you see today is me being very clear about the nature of this program and that USAID does not do covert action overseas, because they do a lot of very good work in a lot of very tough places, and we don’t want misperceptions based on facts that aren’t entirely true to cloud people’s judgment about what USAID does overseas. So we don’t want it to. We certainly hope that this article doesn’t. That’s why I’m being very clear and standing up here and saying this.
QUESTION: Is this one of the reasons, though, that Dr. Afridi remains in jail in Pakistan?
MS. HARF: Not at all. Not at all.
QUESTION: Yes, please. I mean, I’m trying to connect this event or this – what, call it discreet or secret operation, with similar things were done and then people will start to – some governments complain about it when – with the start of the Arab Spring. Is similar actions, or is this something different as a policy, doing these similar things which is, like, it was said that was giving – whether it’s Egypt, whether in Syria, whether in Libya, whether other places, they were talking about giving a platform.
MS. HARF: Right. Well, to be clear, this program with this specific online platform was just in Cuba. I don’t know, quite frankly, of all of the different platforms we have all over the world. We generally do promote freedom of expression and in hostile environments like this one take – go to great lengths to make sure they are done discreetly. In other places, the operating environment isn’t as difficult --
QUESTION: Because --
MS. HARF: -- so we do very openly encourage freedom of expression very, very openly.
QUESTION: Because it was raised, this issue, in 2012 and 2013 especially --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- last year and the year before that, regarding the issue of some equipments and how they are avoiding to be jammed or – as a platform.
MS. HARF: Yep.
QUESTION: But then after that, realized that some people were trained under some aid programs in places like Belgrade and other – Sarajevo and other places. Is this a policy, or it’s just (inaudible) in the issue that he – my fellow, raise it now, just Cuba? Or it’s a policy it can be applied any place?
MS. HARF: Well, the policy of supporting freedom of expression, particularly in authoritarian – under authoritarian regimes where there’s not a lot of freedom of expression is of course our policy. How we do that is tailored to each country. So this program was specific to Cuba. Other places around the world, we do democracy promotion in different ways.
What I will say is one of the reasons I think it’s dangerous to mischaracterize these programs as covert, as classified, as secret – because this was not – is because, as you point out, in many places around the world, there are many misperceptions out there and conspiracy theories about what the United States is or isn’t doing. So we don’t want that kind of misperception to play into what we know are just falsehoods being perpetrated in other parts of the world.
QUESTION: To avoid this perception, or whatever you can call it --
MS. HARF: What?
QUESTION: -- misperception, how you explain to me that it’s like – or to anybody that how it is – there is a big difference that you are giving a tool or a platform --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- and you are not shaping the message?
MS. HARF: Exactly, which is I think the key point here.
QUESTION: I mean, you are saying it, but how you can control the – I mean --
MS. HARF: Well, what I’m telling you is we, through subcontracting partners, some companies, created a platform that’s similar to Twitter, where Cubans could freely express themselves. We did not supply political content. We did not drive the political content. We just – our sole purpose here was to open the space so they could supply their own political content or talk about anything else they wanted. And quite frankly, they could have said terrible things about the United States and we would have no way of controlling that. So this is solely for the purpose of creating a platform for Cubans to express themselves, which has long been the policy of the United States, the United States Congress, and many other people in this country.
QUESTION: The other thing which is like when a project like ended, how you make an evaluation it is successful or a failure?
MS. HARF: And that’s a good question. I think it speaks to Margaret and Lara’s question. I’m happy to check with our team at USAID and see if they’ve done any kind of analysis of how successful or what impact it had. I don’t know sort of – for example, I don’t know what the user numbers were. I don’t know how many people it reached. I’m happy to check with them and see if I can get some more information.
QUESTION: Are you aware of any changes that the congressional staffers who were briefed on this or had an opportunity to learn about it, any changes or complaints about the program or qualms about it that they raised?
MS. HARF: Yeah. Not to my knowledge, but I’m trying to get a little more from our USAID congressional folks, who obviously have the lead on this, because I do want to be able to provide as much detail to you as possible. Obviously, we provide general congressional notification on Cuban programs and talk all the time with members of Congress and their staff about our programs in Cuba, which, again, are widely, widely supported on the Hill. So I’m trying to get a little more on that. I haven’t heard of any. But again, we saw some comments today, so I’m sure next week when Administrator Shah and others are up on the Hill they’ll have a chance to address this directly with Congress.
QUESTION: Have you heard from the Cuban Government about this today?
MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge, no. But I – I’m happy to check, but not to my knowledge. Uh-huh.
QUESTION: Senator Leahy said this is counterproductive and puts Cubans at risk. So if that’s how he sees it, how do you respond to that?
MS. HARF: Well, again, I don’t want to speak for the senator.
QUESTION: No, I --
MS. HARF: Of course, I have great respect for him. But we believe that democracy promotion programs that increase space for freedom of expression in Cuba are very good for the Cuban people, that they don’t put Cuban people at risk because of the discreet nature in which they do them. That’s exactly why we do them in a discreet nature, so they don’t put users at risk and they’re not shut down, which would be limiting space for freedom of expression. So again, I don’t want to speak for him. I am sure we’ll have conversations with him or his staff. I know he has some questions about it. We’re happy to talk to him about those questions.
QUESTION: Do you believe the fact of its exposure may put Cuban people who express themselves on this platform at risk?
MS. HARF: That’s a good question. I can check with our folks and see if they’re doing any kind of damage assessment about that right now. I don’t know. Obviously, one of the reasons we kept our involvement discreet was so people who used it at the time, before it was shut down, that they wouldn’t be at risk. So certainly, we hope they wouldn’t be, but let me check with our folks.
QUESTION: But that then leads back to the question about Senator Leahy’s comments, which is to say that, I mean, he said it was counterproductive. If you do something that is discreet but not classified, that is subsequently exposed, as it can be because you say the documents were public and so on, you then could be doing something that could harm those people who availed themselves of this opportunity to express political views in a context in which the expression of views critical of the government can and does routinely expose people to risk.
MS. HARF: No, and it’s a good question. I would, I think, make two points on that. The first is when you say it gets exposed, obviously, again, not to be too critical of this story, but the tone that it was classified, covert, secret --
QUESTION: I’m not addressing that at all.
MS. HARF: No, no, but that actually – I am addressing your question – in that when these discreet programs become public, I think mischaracterizing them increases the chances that people will be put at risk. That’s where I was going with that.
QUESTION: Right. But --
MS. HARF: And secondly, I don’t think it’s any surprise to the Cuban Government, quite frankly, that we are trying to increase freedom of expression in Cuba. I don’t think that’s a surprise to them. I also think that we have repeatedly called on them not to crack down on these people. We have very clearly said that they should not – not these folks but other people expressing themselves freely, so they have a choice to make here and we hope they will make the right decision. Obviously, the people that were using it did not know it was U.S. Government-backed, so I think that also should probably play into their calculations.
QUESTION: Will you take that question of whether you think the exposure of a previously discreet program puts people in--
MS. HARF: At risk? Absolutely.
QUESTION: -- at risk and therefore whether you perhaps should rethink the use of such discreet programs because their public airing could, in fact, harm the people you say you are trying to help?
MS. HARF: So would you argue maybe covert or we not do them, or we make them public?
QUESTION: I’m not arguing anything.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: I’m asking you if you are looking at this again in the light of the fact that it is now public, whether this might, as Senator Leahy suggests, be counterproductive --
MS. HARF: Yep.
QUESTION: -- because its exposure could harm the people whose freedom of expression you say you are trying to defend?
MS. HARF: Exactly. And I think I would, just to follow up on the question I asked you, I think we would say certainly we hope this kind of exposure doesn’t put people at risk. When you look at the ways you can promote freedom of expression in Cuba – this is what I was getting at with my question back to you – you can either do it openly, which we think is very counterproductive because it would not work – the Cuban Government wouldn’t allow the U.S. Government to come in and do this, probably. And so we do think that the best option is to do it discreetly, but it’s a good question and I will take it.
QUESTION: Can we move on to Israeli-Palestinian talks?
MS. HARF: Do you have any more?
QUESTION: Yeah. I’m just curious about the time – I mean, you say that, I mean, the government is obviously supportive of programs like this. AID, I believe, said that they are proud of the Cuba work that they did.
MS. HARF: Absolutely.
QUESTION: Rewinding back to September 2012 when this ended, if this was so successful and good – I know you said the money stopped, but can you sort of help illuminate why there wasn’t (a) another funding source; and if there was, or there wasn’t, why it stopped, why it didn’t keep going?
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Well, it – the program wasn’t shut down. It just ended when the funding ended because we are constant – and again, I will take the question about if we can get numbers of users and things like that. We are constantly reevaluating our Cuba programs writ large, determining where the best use of our money, our taxpayer – all of your taxpayer money goes, and where we can be most effective. And so for one reason or another, this was not renewed. Not every program is meant to last forever. So again, I don’t think there was anything wrong with it. I think we just decided not to renew the contract. I am happy to check with the folks who were around then to see if there’s any more light they can shine on that for you.
QUESTION: Right. But you did spend a couple of million dollars on this program over the course of --
MS. HARF: 1.2.
MS. HARF: It’s not that much, actually, in the grand scheme of what we spend here.
QUESTION: Okay. But if it’s not much, I’m curious why it didn’t – why it wasn’t continued to be extended, particularly when these social media platforms take years to develop.
MS. HARF: Well, I think I just answered that we thought it had been useful but the money was going to be – our priorities were going to be used in different ways. I’m happy to see if there’s a more specific reason. I just do not know. I wasn’t here then. I will check. I’ve been trying to get lots of answers on this today, and that’s one I don’t have.
QUESTION: Do you have any – did you have any chance to know what happened to those people who were using those platform?
MS. HARF: It’s a good question. Let me see if I can find out some more. I think that speaks a little bit to Arshad’s question as well.
So we’ll move --
QUESTION: I just want to actually clarify one last thing.
MS. HARF: Oh. Okay. Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: You said that it’s just now been made public, but in fact it was never secret, it was never covert --
MS. HARF: Right.
QUESTION: -- so the information was out there if anybody went looking for it as we did. Right? I mean --
MS. HARF: Right. I mean, right. There’s levels here, right? There’s something that we announced with a press release and put on our website. There’s something that is, by definition in the U.S. code, covert or classified. And then there are things in the middle that for a variety of reasons, mainly security, we keep discreet. This was in the middle. So we weren’t send – we weren’t putting a press release out, but we also weren’t – these document – this contract wasn’t classified. And if someone had pressed the folks working on it, they would have said they worked for the U.S. Government.
QUESTION: So if I were to file a FOIA request, could I have gotten documents about this?
MS. HARF: I – a FOIA request is a very specific legal progress. I do not make any predictions about how any FOIA request would turn out.
QUESTION: And one last thing: You say that this wasn’t classified, but you’re – the nature in which you’re describing it, is it – you say that it may have put people at risk. Why wasn’t it classified, if that’s the case?
MS. HARF: Because there are certain conditions you have to meet for something to be classified. Look, work we do with certain communities all over the world can put people at risk. There are dangerous places we work in because we think it’s important. People volunteer to work with the United States in many dangerous places. That does put them at risk because they think it’s important. That doesn’t make something classified. There are very specific – and I don’t know if you’re familiar with these – but there are very specific requirements to meet any one of the classification justifications that you can use to classify something. That’s not necessarily always one of them. So clearly this didn’t meet that.
QUESTION: Aside from the GAO report – I swear this is my last one --
MS. HARF: It’s okay.
QUESTION: -- have there been other audits of this platform, inspectors general or anything like that? Any --
MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge. No.
MS. HARF: Again, the GAO report spoke to people involved, took a look at all of our Cuba programs, found out everything was working as it should.
QUESTION: And this is my last question, I swear, too.
MS. HARF: It’s okay.
QUESTION: If --
MS. HARF: You’re turning into Matt territory today, so promise me it’s your last question. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: That’s right, so --
MS. HARF: Between the two of you you’re asking as many. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Two of us is one Matt.
QUESTION: So that GAO report, which actually I’m familiar with and went back and read this morning before coming over here – on – when I think it’s page 9 that says that AID – and the quote here – there was “support for development of an independent social networking platform as part of this review.” I’m just try – curious how a program that’s discreetly funded, organized and operated by the U.S. Government, without telling the operators involved, how that’s independent.
MS. HARF: Because we weren’t exercising any kind of content control over it. The content was all independent. I haven’t seen that specific report you’re referring to, so I don’t want to speak for the GAO.
QUESTION: This is the only part where this –
MS. HARF: I would check in with --
QUESTION: -- there’s anything like this is referenced --
MS. HARF: I would check in with the GAO. But obviously, you’re right; we were the funding source. But the content – everything that ended up on it after, again, this initial phase where we were tweeting about things like the weather and sports, was content that was not U.S. Government content.
QUESTION: Did the U.S. Government ever have an aim of providing content to the service?
MS. HARF: Political content?
MS. HARF: No. Not at all.
QUESTION: When you said we were tweeting about the weather and so on, was – were people paid directly or indirectly by the U.S. Government tweeting on – or on this service?
MS. HARF: Well, I don’t know what the word is. So at the beginning of the service, we provided content – and I can find out exactly how we did that – to get it up and running, about things like sports and the weather. Nonpolitical. Nothing political at all. Just to get it up and running.
QUESTION: This remained in Havana, right?
MS. HARF: I don’t know where we were doing it.
QUESTION: Some guy --
MS. HARF: Yeah, I don’t know if it was the person – I’m assuming it was, but I can – I don’t know the details on that.
QUESTION: Can we move on?
QUESTION: So this was – wait, just one – sorry. So you did --
MS. HARF: Now you want to stay on the topic.
QUESTION: No, no. You did provide content, though, even if it was nonpolitical content.
MS. HARF: That’s what I said. We did never – and I said that earlier. I was very careful to say we did not in any way provide political content, and we only provided that weather, sports content at the very beginning, and then we stopped. Once it was off the ground, we stopped.