Karen Kornbluh, a board member for the U.S. Agency for Global Media that Mr. Pack had fired, highlighted his decision to withhold nearly $20 million in funding to the Open Technology Fund, an internet freedom group overseen by the agency, that has helped create encryption products — like Signal and Tor — used by over two billion people in 60 countries.
The fund has been forced to suspend 80 percent of its projects, many of which allow citizens in China, Hong Kong, Iran, Venezuela and Belarus to circumvent stringent government firewalls and read uncensored news, she said.
“U.S. internet freedom and democracy efforts around the globe have been crippled,” Ms. Kornbluh said.
Jamie Fly, the former president of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, said the U.S. Agency for Global Media was in “significant and potentially irreparable risk” of no longer being able to counter disinformation campaigns in places like Belarus, where Russia has ramped up its own efforts to disseminate state propaganda.
Amanda Bennett, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner who resigned as the director of Voice of America shortly after Mr. Pack was confirmed to lead the agency, criticized Mr. Pack for breaching longstanding firewalls that prevent the U.S. Agency for Global Media from becoming involved in the editorial affairs of the news agencies it oversees. Mr. Pack fired four contractors involved in creating a video posted to Voice of America’s Urdu-language site that showed the Democratic presidential candidate Joseph R. Biden Jr. urging Muslims to vote and began an investigation into how it was made.
Agency employees also accused Mr. Pack of suspending seven top career officials at the agency for casting doubt on his leadership. Some questioned his handling of agency finances. They said he had denied Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty money to make payroll, and prevented the agency’s satellite offices in Thailand from procuring basic items like toilet paper.
“From small issues to very big ones, I don’t believe Mr. Pack and his team came to run the agency,” said Grant Turner, the chief financial officer at the U.S. Agency for Global Media and one of the staff members Mr. Pack has put on administrative leave. “I don’t think they even like it. This just isn’t what normal people do.”