Last week, the House Foreign Affairs Committee grilled Michael Pack, who President Trump recently appointed to head the US government’s state propaganda arm, the US Agency for Global Media (USAGM).
Pack was appointed in June and started a big shakeup at the US state media outlets run by the USAGM, like Voice of America and Radio Free Asia. Pack fired senior staffers, pushed out management, and froze funding.
During last week’s hearing, Democrats and Republicans on the committee teamed up to attack Pack for his purges. But what seemed more important to Congress and former USAGM officials was Pack’s move to freeze funds to the Open Technology Fund (OTF). The OTF was formed in 2012 and operated as part of Radio Free Asia for seven years. In 2019, the OTF became an independent non-profit, although it is financed by US taxpayer dollars through the USAGM.
According to former USAGM officials and OTF board members, the OTF supports protesters in other nations across the world. “In many places around the globe, OTF quietly is providing support to protesters,” said Grant Turner, the former USAGM chief financial officer, who Pack removed in August. “So the Hong Kong protesters are protecting their identities from surveillance by OTF tools; protesters in Iran; we’ve seen it in Beirut,” Turner said.
Ambassador Karen Kornbluh, who sits on the board of the OTF, also testified and spoke of how the OTF helps protest movements. “OTF has a long history of supporting internet freedom efforts, and was poised to expand its efforts in Hong Kong,” Kornbluh said. “It was going to serve support for circumvention tools and expand support for digital training.”
Kornbluh explained that the USAGM froze OTF funds before China’s national security law for Hong Kong came into effect. “And then USAGM froze, and continues to withhold, its funding – and did that just weeks before the new security laws came into effect,” Kornbluh said. “So OTF hasn’t been able to support any of these efforts.”
The frozen Hong Kong funds were first reported by Time magazine in June. According to Time, Pack froze $2 million that would have “directly benefited the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.” One project the OTF was working on in Hong Kong was a “cybersecurity incident response team” that would have analyzed Chinese surveillance techniques in Hong Kong. The team would have shared information with developers who would design apps for protesters to use. The freeze in funding made this project impossible to go through with.
Another OTF project hampered by the freeze was a $500,000 “rapid response fund, designed to provide fast relief for civil society groups, protesters, journalists, and human rights defenders.” According to Time, this initiative has already made several payouts to groups in Hong Kong since the civil unrest began in June 2019.
The cut in funding inadvertently revealed the US government’s covert role in the Hong Kong protest movement. The US government-funded National Endowment for Democracy also provides funding for “pro-democracy” movements in Hong Kong.
Besides the US government supporting Hong Kong protesters through cutout organizations like the OTF and NED, there has been more overt interference in the city. Throughout the demonstrations, protesters were seen waving US flags and calling for Congress to pass legislation. Leaders of the movement even traveled to Washington and testified before Congress, pleading for US intervention.
President Trump signed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act into law in November 2019. The administration has since sanctioned Hong Kong officials and changed the city’s special trade status. This US interference gave Beijing the foreign boogeyman it needed to pass the controversial national security law.
Pack was appointed to head the USAGM after the White House accused Voice of America of repeating Chinese state propaganda in its coronavirus coverage. Considering this, the damage Pack’s overhaul did to the OTF’s support for protesters in Hong Kong was likely an unintended consequence.
10 thoughts on “Hearing Reveals US Govt’s Invisible Hand in Protests Around the World”
US has always funded regime change to impose military dictatorships and aristocracies in other nations—birds w the same ugly feathers
As if what they had before the change was demicracy…??? In Canada when the elected government nt” and Parliament is shuttered while the offended party is able to threaten, bribe or otherwise co- opt the elected Parliament to satisfy the Royal Perogative!!! The good folk call it democracy. I call it fuedalism.
GREAT idea america, may suggest Portland, Louisville, wisconsin,etc?
Anything new? Why just Hong Kong? How about Belarus? And recognizing” a wife of an opposition leader, clearly on the take, so that West did not dare continue pushing his cause — his wife just took his place?
Who can ever read with straight face any “information” from “activists”, “human rights defenders”, “corruption fighters”, “journalists” — and a sea of other “independent” sources confirming exactly what we want to hear?
Not tired yet of “Syrian Observatory” — even though thankfully, they have bern quiet for a while. Did not have a useful story to peddle. Wait until a new “White Helmet” stunt “shocks” the world.
All same organizations, same faces. Boring, predictable interference — and all over the globe.
And what is the benefit of having them “non-profit” but privatized, while all funds come from federal government (including Department of Education)? It is simple — it gives the management of such outfits large salaries, all kinds of questionable expenses can be hidden from government oversight, and included in non-profit category for tax purposes.
But most importantly, private sector can now lobby for their business”, in a way a government program cannot. In theory, such privatized entities funded by taxpayer could be easier to nix then a government program. But over time, it proved harder and harder. Especially if such “non-profits” get some funding from private donors — usually corporations — to prevent Government from cutting funds. Along with the usual tricks of trade, as using local leverage on congressmen — the weeds of global “democracy tools” have proliferated,
And cutting anything off is a cause of national importance!
All countries from A to Z have the cornucopia of such “civil” influencers, and go-to for “news”.
It would be easier to find out if there is a country not on the list.
It may not be possible to find out how much is spent. Because corporations find a way to get money from Feds and fund their favorite “civil societies”. Department of Education gave contracts for charter schools. Who knows how many — besides over 100 to Gulen Foundation — have been used to syphon funds into other countries for the purposes of influencing their internal politics.
Most countries understand it — and most local recipients understand it. But it is free money — so they play the part. The entire edifice is corrupt through and through — and nobody knows how much is spent, and what good comes to US out of it.
These seemingly innocuous acronym “non profits” buried in the budgets of other acronym outfits, which ultimately are paid for by the US taxpayer, are funding arms of the Deep State. So deep we can barely recognize them as government subsidiaries.
You set these up as “special purpose” non profits with an “international” purpose and all normal oversight by Congress (weak at best) gets buried in the detail and disappears. So, on to Color Revolutions, picking new leaders, finding local political allies, etc. And funding “protests” to force leadership changes.
Why does this smell so much like the “bad old CIA.” from the Cold War?
Why also do recent “protests” in the US look strikingly similar to those abroad?
Starting with NED, and all of the related alphabet agencies, are funded by the taxpayer! They are focused on one thing and one thing only: regime change.
To cloak their activities as supporting democracy, etc, blah,blah is a scam and no country’s govt should allow them to operate inside its country.
However, bribes will be paid, some times huge bribes, and on we go to regime change and street protests.
In an article on a “progressive site” DeCamp wrote: “US Interference Gives Beijing Cover to Tighten Its Grip on Hong Kong… The people of Hong Kong have every right to demonstrate and demand democracy, but US intervention only serves to delegitimize their movement and gives Beijing a foreign bogeyman totighten its grip on the island.” A little consistency would be helpful.
Too bad they don’t support pro democracy movements in the US
Nobody should support democracy – nothing but mob rule. But they should support our constitutional republic and the upholding of the rights our constitution was supposed to protect, and the limits on government power it was supposed to impose. We get NEITHER from the two worthless major parties.
We DON’T have a democracy. We are a Republic, with democratic leanings. Very thin leanings. Shrinking ever so fast.
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