Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Deal expected in ex-hijacker's case

William Potts
William Potts, who hijacked a plane to Cuba in 1984, is expected to change his plea to guilty, according to a court order signed today.
A change of plea hearing is set for 10:30 a.m. May 2 before U.S. District Court Judge Robin S. Rosenbaum in Fort Lauderdale.
Potts was a fugitive in Cuba for years before surrendering to U.S. authorities in November. His initial plea was not guilty. Now, though, it appears he'll change his plea to guilty as part of a plea bargain with the government.
Prosecutors have until April 30 to submit such an agreement to the court.
A calendar call set for 12:30 p.m. Wednesday has been cancelled.

No Commotion in Cuba yet

Wireless routers are part of the Commotion network in Sayada. Photo: New York Times
A surveillance-resistant tool called Commotion is not yet operational in Cuba, the U.S. Agency for International Development told the New York Times.
The Open Technology Institute created Commotion, an open-source tool that would allow democracy activists in Cuba and other nations to build independent wireless networks. I wrote about it in March 2013 (See "Cuba likely target for mesh network").
Mesh networks, originally designed for military applications, allow activists to operate independent of central authorities' communication infrastructure.
The Times said the U.S. government sees its mesh network in Sayada, Tunisia, "as a test of the concept before it is deployed in more contested zones."
In September 2012, USAID gave the New America Foundation $4.3 million for a three-year Cuba project. OTI is part of the foundation.
USAID spokesman Matt Herrick told the Times:
We are reviewing the program, and it is not operational in Cuba at this time. No one has traveled to Cuba for this grant.

Monday, April 21, 2014

ZunZuneo: Barely wet

A drop in the bucket. Photo: Wikipedia
The U.S. government reportedly spent $1.6 million on ZunZuneo, the so-called Cuban Twitter. But it isn't the amount that some people find troubling - it's the idea. American University Professor William LeoGrande said:
The problem is that the U.S. doesn’t think the law needs to be respected. It offends Cuba’s sense of sovereignty that the United States acts like its laws don’t matter.
LeoGrande and others gathered April 16 in Washington, D.C., and discussed ZunZuneo and other U.S. government-financed programs in Cuba. Capital News Service quoted Cuban Second Secretary Alexander Rodriguez Salazar as saying:
USAID is illegal in Cuba. Anything USAID does in Cuba is illegal because their sole presence in Cuba is not permitted.
USAID, or the U.S. Agency for International Development, operated ZunZuneo from 2010 to 2012. Democracy activists defend the project. They suggest that the ends justify the means. And they dismiss arguments about Cuban sovereignty, saying the socialist government has no legitimacy.
USAID began working in Cuba without the socialist government's permission in the 1990s. Some $240 million later, the Cuban government remains in power.

Top 100 federal contractors

None of U.S. government's top 100 contractors is doing democracy work in Cuba. Defense contractors top the list.
The chart shows the contractors and dollar amounts for fiscal year 2013. The total amount obligated: $255 billion - $255,638,114,404.58, to be exact.
The state of California grabbed more than a billion of that, and the government of Canada, more than $566 million, according to the Federal Data Procurement System. See Excel chart.