The Obama Administration’s Sub-Minimum Wage Covert Operators

by Jim Geraghty

From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

The Obama Administration’s Awesome But Incompetent Covert Op in Cuba

Ladies and gentlemen, let’s start out our week with the weirdest story in quite a while:

WASHINGTON (AP) — An Obama administration program secretly dispatched young Latin Americans to Cuba using the cover of health and civic programs to provoke political change, a clandestine operation that put those foreigners in danger even after a U.S. contractor was hauled away to a Cuban jail.

Beginning as early as October 2009, a project overseen by the U.S. Agency for International Development sent Venezuelan, Costa Rican and Peruvian young people to Cuba in hopes of ginning up rebellion. The travelers worked undercover, often posing as tourists, and traveled around the island scouting for people they could turn into political activists.

The Obama administration, doing something to undermine one of the world’s last Communist regimes? Although let’s face it, whatever Cuba claims to be, it’s functionally kleptocratic today. The administration that’s been so risk-averse lately apparently once had a giant appetite for risk:

In one case, the workers formed an HIV-prevention workshop that memos called “the perfect excuse” for the program’s political goals — a gambit that could undermine America’s efforts to improve health globally.

You almost want to give the Obama administration an ‘attaboy’ for the nerve…

But their efforts were fraught with incompetence and risk, an Associated Press investigation found: Cuban authorities questioned who was bankrolling the travelers. The young workers nearly blew their mission to “identify potential social-change actors.” One said he got a paltry, 30-minute seminar on how to evade Cuban intelligence, and there appeared to be no safety net for the inexperienced workers if they were caught.

Incompetence? Relying on young people with vague rallying cries of ‘social change’? No backup plan? Okay, now that sounds more like the Obama administration we’ve come to know.

“Although there is never total certainty, trust that the authorities will not try to harm you physically, only frighten you,” read a memo obtained by the AP. “Remember that the Cuban government prefers to avoid negative media reports abroad, so a beaten foreigner is not convenient for them.”

Hmm. John Kerry was in the Senate when this program was launched, but it sure sounds like him.

In all, nearly a dozen Latin Americans served in the program in Cuba, for pay as low as $5.41 an hour.

[Spittake] For less than minimum wage? See, I’m willing to raise the minimum wage for American covert operators to $10.10 an hour.