Public health programs should not be used as cover for covert operations.
Amid a deadly backlash again vaccinations and a resurgence of polio in Pakistan, the White House has promised that the CIA will never again use an immunization campaign as a tool of spycraft.
“I wanted to inform you that the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) directed in August 2013 that the agency make no operational use of vaccination programs, which includes vaccination workers,” President Obama’s top counterterrorism and homeland security advisor, Lisa Monaco, wrote to the deans of 12 public health schools.
The Central Intelligence Agency had enlisted a Pakistani doctor, Shakil Afridi, to collect intelligence under the guise of an immunization effort in the city of Abbottabad as part of planning for the high-risk May 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound there.
The agency aimed to confirm intelligence that bin Laden was at the compound by comparing DNA obtained from children living there to a sample from the fugitive al-Qaida chief’s late sister, the Guardian newspaper reported in July 2011.
The article notes that the Taliban already suspected vaccinations were a means to sterilize Muslims. But the revelation that there WAS a plot energized the idea like nothing else could. Good going CIA!
Their statement now is meant to dispel one excuse used by the militants who still are interfering with vaccination plans. In a big way. Will this work? Um, they didn’t trust you to tell the truth then. Why now? The damage is done.