AP Should Next Investigate How to Regain Its Objectivity

Monday, August 4, 2014
This morning, the AP released the third chapter in its collaboration with former CIA analyst and Senate staffer, Fulton Armstrong, on how to smear USAID's Cuba democracy programs.

USAID's democracy programs throughout the world, whether in Iran, Syria, Belarus or Cuba, are aimed at fostering and supporting independent civil society in closed societies. (Read USAID's statement here.)

The United States should never apologize for helping the victims of brutal dictatorships throughout the world. To the contrary, it's emblematic of our nation's finest moments in the 20th century -- from World War II through the Cold War.

Yet, for whatever reason, in the case of Cuba, support for independent civil society has long displeased Armstrong -- and now the AP. Instead, he's argued for the U.S. to collaborate with the Castro regime and to (absurdly) give it discretionary authority over USAID's Cuba programs.

Armstrong has a long history of internally working against U.S. policy towards Cuba. During his time at the CIA, Armstrong authored, together with his former colleague at the Defense Intelligence Agency, Ana Belen Montes, an oft-cited 1998 report that argued that Cuba no longer posed a security threat to the United States. Ironically, just three years later (in 2001), Montes was identified as a Cuban spy, arrested, convicted and is now serving 25-years in a federal prison.

As a Senate Foreign Relations Committee staffer, he fervently opposed any endeavor that promoted freedom for the Cuban people, whether through USAID's democracy programs, Radio and TV Marti, or a simple Senate resolution calling for the release of political prisoners. If the Castro regime dislikes it, so does Fulton Armstrong.

His strategy (and now the AP's) in the case of USAID's democracy programs is simple -- use little facts and regurgitate the terms "covert," "regime change" and "sovereignty" over-and-over again.

The first chapter in the AP's collaboration with Armstrong sought to portray American development worker (and hostage of the Castro regime), Alan Gross, as some sort of "super-spy" who smuggled highly-sophisticated communications systems into Cuba.

(After all, if Alan Gross is a "spy", then he could be swapped for other spies. Get it?)

Of course, the fact is that Alan Gross went to Cuba to help the Jewish community gain unhindered access to the Internet. Nothing more, nothing less. Moreover, he had declared all of the technology he was carrying with him to Cuban Customs.

The second chapter in the AP-Armstrong collaboration sought to portray a popular program to provide Cubans undetected access to a Twitter-style social media platform ("Zunzuneo"), as a plot to overthrow the Castro regime.

The fact is the Cuban Twitter program ("Zunzuneo") simply tried to provide Cubans -- as similar programs do in other closed societies -- with access to a social media platform that allowed them to exchange all sorts of uncensored content.

Today's chapter of the AP-Armstrong collaboration claims USAID sent young Latin Americans to recruit young Cubans to "gin up rebellion" against the Castro regime.

It also sought to highlight a recent favorite (propaganda) talking point that young Cubans may be dissatisfied and disenfranchised, but that they're pro-Castro. With that end, the AP dispatched its very own Cuban journalist, with well-known ties to the regime, to "find" one of the young Cubans that was "manipulated" by the foreigners.

The fact is that USAID's program simply sought to support the various social projects and campaigns of young activists in Cuba -- independent of the Castro regime. In this case, the support was provided by their Latin American peers.

Note each chapter in the collaboration is written by the same team of AP reporters and they all stem from information dating back to 2009-2011, while Armstrong was still at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Perhaps for its next chapter, the AP can investigate how to regain it objectivity on Cuba issues.