Regarding Anne Applebaum’s April 5 op-ed column, “Freedom firewalls”:
Over the past 18 months, the State Department has distributed nearly $22 million in grants to support Internet freedom. This is a matter of public record. We have funded a dozen circumvention technologies, including the two Ms. Applebaum mentioned, Freegate and Ultrasurf. The Broadcasting Board of Governors uses some of the same technologies to drive traffic to its sites. This is complementary but distinctly different from the objective of our Internet freedom program.
We have also funded other new technologies that are protecting the privacy rights of Internet activists in closed societies, and we have trained more than 5,000 digital activists around the world. Our support has proven highly effective. Within the next few weeks, in conjunction with the U.S. Agency for International Development, we will notify Congress of our intention to award another $28 million in grants to put new technological tools into the hands of human rights activists.
Second, Ms. Applebaum cited speculation that the State Department suffers from “anxiety in not wanting to displease the governments that create firewalls — especially the Chinese government.” In fact, it is a matter of public record that we are funding a series of programs that directly support Internet freedom in China — and protect activists in other countries whose governments hack into their e-mails, crash their Web sites and block their mobile phones.
Finally, the State Department does possess the technical capacity to make this money available to experts. We have excellent in-house technological expertise and draw on the best experts available from other government agencies.
Michael H. Posner, Washington
The writer is assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor.