The Arab revolution’s curious friends–Part IV
Anne Applebaum, who has shamelessly defended child rapist Roman Polanksi, is kvetching in the Washington Post about the State Department not doing enough to help foreign dissidents evade their governments’ internet censorship. Her solution:
But American companies are not dysfunctional, or at least not yet. A few million dollars is a rounding error in the annual budget of Google or Facebook — and I suspect a large financial reward awaits the company that finds a way to deliver uncensored Internet access to those deprived of it. Their chief executives just need to show a bit more nerve, a bit more appetite for risk than government officials. Given all of the above, that shouldn’t be very difficult.
The former editor of The Economist does give credit to another federal agency, however, for its application of the anti-censorship programs created by Freegate and Ultrareach:
As it also happens, another U.S. government agency, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, has deployed these two companies’ programs with notable success. The BBG runs Voice of America, Radio Free Asia and Radio Free Europe (which now broadcasts to Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia) and produces plenty of pointless bureaucracy, too. But because its radio stations all run Web sites, they care whether people can read and hear them. When they received a grant to fight Internet censorship — $1.5 million obtained from an earlier State Department grant in August 2010 — they spent it immediately on support for Freegate and Ultrareach. Those who use their programs now enter via a VOA or RFE site but can then go on to use any other page or program, including Facebook or Twitter.
The BBG can track its success: At first, it noted an uptick in access in Iran, China and Vietnam (where there are now some 80,000 users). More recently, Ultrareach recorded a 700 percent jump in use in Tunisia between Dec. 17, when a desperate fruit vendor set himself on fire, and Jan. 12, the day President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali officially ended Internet censorship in Tunisia. It tracked a 6,125 percent increase in use of its services in Egypt from Jan. 21 to 27.
I’ve written the following about the BBG in a piece on James Glassman’s role in the Arab revolution:
In 2007, Glassman became chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), a US government agency that provides propaganda to overseas audiences via the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa), Radio Free Asia, and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (Radio and TV Marti). Norman J. Pattiz, the “founding father” of Radio Sawa, which is increasingly popular in Egypt, sits on BBG’s board. Pattiz is also on the national board of the Israel Policy Forum, which is “committed to a strong and enduring U.S.-Israel relationship and to advancing the shared interests of the United States and the State of Israel.” Its Israeli Advisory Council is comprised of prominent figures from Israel’s military and intelligence establishment, mostly notably David Kimche, who was once described as “Israel’s leading spy and would-be Mossad chief.” According to a Washington Report profile, “The ‘man with the suitcase,’ as Kimche became known by colleagues in Israel, would appear in an African country a day or two before a major coup, and leave a week later after the new regime was firmly in control, often with the aid of Israeli security teams.”
Apart from their shared passion for Arab freedom, Applebaum and Glassman have both been on the payroll of the pro-Israel American Enterprise Institute.