Many Rotarians throughout the United States who have generously supported RI’s global battle against polio over the years could be excused for being angered by the Central Intelligence Agency’s infiltration of the vaccination program.
Some months ago, Taliban and other terrorist organizations turned their sights on volunteer workers who, they say, were working with the CIA under the guise of being health workers.
In its usual hideous way of making a point, the Taliban murdered a number of such workers, mostly in Pakistan, successfully scaring off many people who otherwise would be administering polio or hepatitis vaccines.
The CIA expressed outrage not just at the killings, but also that someone would dare charge the spy agency with such underhanded efforts. Today, however, that outrage was shown to be a straight-up lie.
As The New York Times reported:
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 counter-terrorism adviser said the CI. 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.”
The letter from the adviser, Lisa O. Monaco, comes more than a year after public health officials wrote to Mr. Obama expressing anger that the United States had used immunization programs as a front for espionage. The educators were protesting the C.I.A.’s employment of a Pakistani doctor, Shakil Afridi, to set up a hepatitis B vaccination program in Abbottabad to gain access to a compound where Bin Laden was believed to be hiding.
“While political and security agendas may by necessity induce collateral damage, we as a society set boundaries on these damages, and we believe this sham vaccination campaign exceeded those damages,” the educators’ letter said.
The intelligence operation failed to determine whether Bin Laden was in the compound. The Qaeda leader was killed shortly afterward, in May 2011, in a nighttime raid carried out by Navy SEALs. Dr. Afridi was arrested days after the raid and remains in jail in Pakistan.
While in custody, Dr. Afridi told interrogators that he was introduced to C.I.A. officers in Pakistan by an employee of Save the Children. Both the C.I.A. and Save the Children have denied the aid group was used for spying, but the revelation led it to close its operations in Pakistan.
Since the C.I.A.’s vaccination program became public, dozens of public health workers in Pakistan have been killed, with militant groups sometimes announcing that the workers had been suspected of being spies.
John O. Brennan, the agency’s director, put the new policy into effect last August, an agency spokesman said. “By publicizing this policy,” said Ned Price, the spokesman, “our objective is to dispel one canard that militant groups have used as justification for cowardly attacks against vaccination providers.”