WASHINGTON (AP) — There was an angry exchange Tuesday between the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Rajiv Shah, and Sen. Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate subcommittee that oversees USAID’s budget.
Leahy asked during a hearing who was responsible for proposing the Twitter-like social media network that the U.S. government secretly built in Cuba. The hearing took place six days after The Associated Press revealed the program’s existence, and one day after USAID published what it described as a point-by-point rebuttal.
“Whose idea was this?” Leahy asked.
“The program was designed in 2007 and 2008, at that time frame,” Shah said. “The legislation that crafts the purpose of the program. …”
“No, whose idea was it for this specific program?” Leahy interrupted, his voice rising in anger. “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 (for) the Cubans would be so easy to discover. 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.”
“Do you know whose idea it was? I know it was in place before, and I said that in my opening statement before you arrived. But do you know whose idea it was?”
“I, I, well, first let me say, and I think this is important, sir, and I greatly respect your point of view. But that AP story had a number of critical inaccuracies.”
“I’ll put that in the record, both your response to the AP story and the AP story,” Leahy said. “Having said that, do you know whose idea it was?”
“I do not specifically,” Shah said. “But I will say this, that 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.”
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