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ANCA asks White House about foreign fraud safeguards for petition site

The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) has formally asked the White House for information about the types of safeguards that the Administration has put in place to protect its popular “We the People” on-line petition system against foreign attempts at fraudulent manipulation of American civil society discourse.

In a letter to White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian referenced the Armenian American community’s concern regarding “a number of petitions addressing Armenian topics, including one that echoes, nearly word for word, the message of Azerbaijani dictator Ilham Aliyev’s well-funded, unfounded and hateful campaign to misrepresent Azerbaijan’s well-documented history of aggression against Armenia and the independent Republic of Nagorno Karabakh.” Hamparian went on to ask for greater clarity regarding rules related to international participation, and an explanation about any safeguards that have been put in place against “against fraud and to protect this important arena for dialogue with our government from being abused by foreign entities.”

Several petitions echoing Azerbaijani government attacks on Karabakh rapidly collected tens of thousands of on-line signatures in recent days. The text of one in particular, titled “pay close attention on The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. 20% of Azerbaijan territory was occupied by Armenian military,” has a direct link to the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, a project headed by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s multi-billionaire wife, Mehriban Aliyeva. Unlike other “We the People” petitions, where the city and state of a majority of signers is typically posted, the anti-Armenian petitions, by and large, do not have any geographic identification.

News of Azerbaijani government manipulation of online metrics and social media statistics to boost the image of authoritarian dictator Ilham Aliyev came out earlier this month in Azadlyg newpaper, with reports of pressure on government employees to “like” President Aliyev’s Facebook page in the run up to his 2013 election.

President Aliyev, who has repeatedly announced that, “our main enemies are Armenians of the world,” flew into an anti-Armenian tirade on Twitter a few months ago, stating that “Armenia is a country of no value.” He has also called Yerevan an Azerbaijani city, occupied by Armenia. The ANCA documents and, on a consistent basis, informs Congress, the Administration, and the media about Azerbaijan’s threats and acts of aggression against Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh. The ANCA widely circulates a fact sheet highlighting the direct correlation between the increase in Azerbaijan’s military budget and the number of ceasefire violations on the line of contact with Armenia and Karabakh (link provided below).

http://www.anca.org/assets/pdf/Azeri_rhetoric_summary.pdf

The full text of the ANCA letter to Ms. Jarrett is below.

February 13, 2013

Dear Ms. Jarrett,

We are writing to ask for clarification regarding the Administration’s policies regarding the White House’s “We the People” petitions.

Our inquiry is in connection to a number of petitions addressing Armenian topics, including one that echoes, nearly word for word, the message of Azerbaijani dictator Ilham Aliyev’s well-funded, unfounded and hateful campaign to misrepresent Azerbaijan’s well-documented history of aggression against Armenia and the independent Republic of Nagorno Karabakh. We would very much value your insights on the following points:

1. Are non-U.S. residents allowed to sign White House petitions?

2. What safeguards are in place to ensure compliance with any citizenship, residency, or other rules related to participation in White House petitions?

3. What systems has the White House put in place to guard against fraud and to protect this important arena for dialogue with our government from being abused by foreign entities?

Thank you for your attention to our concerns and for sharing your feedback with us on this matter.

Please know how much we appreciate your service to the White House and to the American people.”

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