TODAY

TODAY   |  April 03, 2014

AP report: US had secret ‘Cuban Twitter’

According to the Associated Press, the U.S. has been running a covert Twitter-like operation in Cuba designed to build support against the Castro government. It was reportedly under the aegis of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), a humanitarian agency. NBC chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell reports.

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>> an investigation revealing a program funded secretly by the u.s. to cause unrest in cuba. andrea mitchell is nbc's chief foreign affairs correspondent. what can you tell us about this?

>> reporter: this is an incredible story. according to the ap, the u.s. was running a covert twitter-like effort in cuba designed to build support against the cuban government . the cuban government now run by fidel castro 's brother raoul, the cia at one point tried to kill castro with an exploding cigar . now according to documents obtained by the associated press, the usi'd agency ran a secret program to engage unsuspecting cubans in a form of technology like twitter on their cell phone . the apparent goal -- to organize dissent against the cuban government . as many as 40,000 cuban participants had no id run by the u.s. government , which was also collecting their personal data.

>> a lot of them were really happen about the service. and if the cuban government caught on that this was a u.s.-backed program, you know, i think the question remains is were they put at risk by using the service?

>> reporter: u.s.aid is known around the world for its good works and has always denied that it spies. but in this 2011 , hillary clinton acknowledged using the internet to help people.

>> the u.s. helps people get around filters, stay one step ahead of the censors, the hackers or the thugs who beat them up or imprison them for what they say online.

>> reporter: this program was started when hillary clinton was the secretary of state. senate judiciary committee chairman patrick leahy says he is troubled by the secret program, that it creates a risk to young cuban cell phone users. leahy questioned whether it was legal and what it could mean for the fate of the usaid contractor in jail.

>> andrea, thanks.

>> meantime, natalie is following the story in chile. major aftershock overnight.

>> rattling nerves there understandably. there was a 7.6 earthquake striking that same area triggering tsunami alerts and evacuations. there were