Three years ago the CIA staged a phony vaccination program in Pakistan as part of an espionage operation to track down Osama Bin Laden. A Pakistani doctor, Shakil Afridi, used the cover of a hepatitis B vaccination program to gain access to an area where Bin Laden was believed to be hiding. Afridi’s operation failed though Bin Laden would ultimately be killed by US forces later that year.
After the Bin Laden raid Afridi was arrested and admitted to his role in the fake vaccination operation saying he was introduced to CIA operatives by an employee of Save The Children. As a result of the CIA vaccination op dozens of public health workers have been killed due to suspicion of being spies and a polio outbreak has occurred from the people in Pakistan being wary of submitting to vaccination programs for fear the programs have some ulterior motive.
Now the White House has claimed in a letter that the CIA will no longer be allowed to use vaccinations as cover for its intelligence operations.
Three years after the Central Intelligence Agency set up a phony hepatitis vaccination program in Pakistan as part of the hunt for Osama bin Laden, the Obama administration told a group of American health educators last week that the agency no longer uses immunization programs as a cover for spying operations.
In a letter to leaders at a dozen schools of public health, President Obama’s senior counterterrorism adviser said the C.I.A. had banned the practice of making “operational use” of vaccination programs, adding that the agency would not seek to “obtain or exploit DNA or other genetic material acquired through such programs.”
No word as of yet as to whether Save The Children will agree to prohibit its employees from working with the CIA. Many Western NGOs often serve as conduits for US intelligence operations. The US government’s own USAID was one of the central hubs for laundering money from Pakistan in the 1980s to what would later become Al Qaeda.
Whether or not the people of Pakistan or elsewhere will be satisfied with the White House’s promise remains to be seen.