Say "No" to Using Public Health as a Cover for Spy Operations

On 11 July 2011, The Guardian reported: "The CIA organised a fake vaccination programme in the town where it believed Osama bin Laden was hiding in an elaborate attempt to obtain DNA from the fugitive al-Qaida leader's family, a Guardian investigation has found.

"As part of extensive preparations for the raid that killed Bin Laden in May, CIA agents recruited a senior Pakistani doctor to organise the vaccine drive in Abbottabad, even starting the 'project' in a poorer part of town to make it look more authentic, according to Pakistani and US officials and local residents."

On 2 March 2012, The Guardian followed up with an article on the public health consequences of that action:


"An alliance of 200 US aid groups has written to the head of the CIA to protest against its use of a doctor to help track Osama bin Laden, linking the agency's ploy to the polio crisis in Pakistan.


"The country recorded the highest number of polio cases in the world last year, a health catastrophe that threatens to spiral out of control. ...


"However the ruse has provided seeming proof for a widely held belief in Pakistan, fuelled by religious extremists, that polio drops are a western conspiracy to sterilise the population.


"'The CIA's use of the cover of humanitarian activity for this purpose casts doubt on the intentions and integrity of all humanitarian actors in Pakistan, thereby undermining the international humanitarian community's efforts to eradicate polio, provide critical health services, and extend life-saving assistance during times of crisis like the floods seen in Pakistan over the last two years,' the InterAction coalition wrote to the CIA director, David Petraeus.


"The group, which includes the International Rescue Committee, Mercy Corps and Care, said that as well as damaging the drive against polio and other health problems in Pakistan, the CIA's tactics had endangered the lives of foreign aid workers. In recent months, at least five international NGO workers, including a British doctor, have been kidnapped by presumed Islamic extremists."


This month (January 6, 2013), twelve deans of public health schools (including Lynn Goldman) have signed on to a letter to President Obama (CC'ing Secretary Clinton and other Obama Administration officials) decrying the CIA's sham vaccination campaign and requesting that political and security interests not ignore public health consequences like those we're currently seeing in Pakistan.


Now you can add your name to a petition asking that the U.S. Government ban intelligence involvement in public health campaigns.



Photo: Kamila Hyat/IRIN















Posted under