Remember that dumb USAID plan to create democracy in Cuba by bringing it “Twitter-like” social media? Well, it turns out that USAID managed to be even dumber: it decided to use an HIV-prevention workshop as a front to recruit young Cubans for anti-government activities.
Yeah, you read that right. USAID, in another attempt to imitate the CIA at its silliest, decided to use an anti-HIV campaign to work against the Castro government. It is like something out of one of Vladimir Putin’s fever dreams.
And it was carried out with typical competence. From the A.P.:
In the HIV workshop effort, the AP’s investigation found the Latin American travelers’ efforts were fraught with incompetence and risk. The young workers nearly blew their mission to “identify potential social-change actors.” One said he got a paltry, 30-minute seminar on how to evade Cuban intelligence, and there appeared to be no safety net for the inexperienced workers if they were caught. In all, nearly a dozen Latin Americans served in the program in Cuba, for pay as low as $5.41 an hour ...
Drawing on documents and interviews worldwide, the AP found the travelers program went to extensive lengths to hide the workers’ activities. They were to communicate in code: “I have a headache” meant they suspected they were being monitored by Cuban authorities; “Your sister is ill” was an order to cut their trip short.
To evade Cuban authorities, travelers installed innocent-looking content on their laptops to mask sensitive information. They used encrypted memory sticks to hide their files and sent obviously encrypted emails using a system that might have drawn suspicion.
“These programs are in desperate need of adult supervision,” said Sen. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican.
Yes, quite. I will add that there seems to have been the same sort of contractor-capture as in the weird social-media-for-revolution case: Creative Associates International kept sending underpaid agents to Cuba even when the U.S. told them to stop after the Cubans arrested Alan Gross.
So what have we accomplished? We have given Castro and Putin talking points, put innocent people at risk of arrest, recruited zero Cuban rebels, and discredited USAID health operations. The next time Pakistani militants go on a rampage against vaccinations, it is going to be that much harder to convince people that they are making things up.
Can we fire Rajiv Shah now?