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U.S. helps dissidents ditch Internet censors

The Obama administration is helping dissidents evade Internet censors in countries trying to repress them, smuggling in "shadow" Internet and cellphone systems, the New York Times reported on Sunday.

It says the State Department and Pentagon have spent at least $50 million to create an independent cellphone network in Afghanistan to get around the Taliban, which often shuts off communications, building cell towers on protected military bases.

Another project, based in Washington, is funding a group of young entrepreneurs who pack hard-to-recognize wireless hardware into a prototype "Internet in a suitcase."

The newspaper said U.S. diplomats have met operatives who bury Chinese cellphones in the hills near the border with North Korea, where they can be dug up and used to make furtive calls.

We see more and more people around the globe using the Internet, mobile phones and other technologies to make their voices heard as they protest against injustice and seek to realize their aspirations," The newspaper quotes Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as saying via email.

"There is a historic opportunity to effect positive change, change America supports," she said. "So we're focused on helping them do that, on helping them talk to each other, to their communities, to their governments and to the world."

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