"The government of the United States must respect international law and the goals and principles of the United Nations charter and, therefore, cease its illegal and clandestine actions against Cuba, which are rejected by the Cuban people and international public opinion," the statement said.
USAID's top official, Rajiv Shah, was scheduled to testify on Tuesday before the Senate Appropriations State Department and foreign operations subcommittee on the agency's budget. The subcommittee's chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., called the project "dumb, dumb, dumb" in an appearance Thursday on MSNBC.
The administration on Thursday initially said it had disclosed the program to lawmakers — Carney said it had been "debated in Congress" — but hours later shifted its stance to say the administration had offered to discuss funding for it with the congressional committees that approve federal programs and budgets.
"We also offered to brief our appropriators and our authorizers," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said.
Harf described the program as "discreet" but said it was in no way classified or covert. Harf also said ZunZuneo did not rise to a level that required the secretary of state to be notified. Neither former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton nor John Kerry, the current occupant of the office, was aware of ZunZuneo, she said.
In his prior position as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Kerry had asked congressional investigators to examine whether U.S. democracy promotion programs in Cuba were operated according to U.S. laws, among other issues. The resulting report, released by the Government Accountability Office in January 2013, does not examine whether the programs were covert. It does not say that any U.S. laws were broken.
The GAO report does not specifically refer to ZunZuneo but does note that USAID programs included "support for the development of independent social networking platforms."