I admire many of the creative efforts used by our intelligence agencies to keep America safe. Spycraft itself is a wonderfully fascinating area, both in reality and fiction. But some areas should be off-limits.
The 2011 intelligence effort to locate Osama bin Laden included a vaccination program aimed at obtaining DNA from children at a compound where bin Laden was suspected of – and later found to be – hiding.
A Pakistani doctor involved with the effort remains in legal trouble for his involvement in the plot, and local suspicion of future vaccination efforts in the aftermath of this scheme has led to an increase in polio cases. Fortunately, the White House has agreed to cease any future use of vaccination programs as cover for intelligence operations.
Vaccination has been one of medicine’s great triumphs. Leaving this area off-limits for intelligence gives assurance to the world that vaccination programs can always be viewed as legitimate.
The anti-vaccination effort in this country has been an unfortunate development, sowing doubt via unscientific and outright fraudulent information. No further seeds of doubt should be developed, and it’s a good thing that the CDC continues to campaign against such misinformation. By putting vaccination programs off-limits, the CIA has taken an important step and owned-up to its past.
Creativity from our intelligence services is normally a good thing. Reality and fiction have given us everything from exploding cigars to sports-car submarines. At least they will no longer give us vaccination ruses.
I’m glad we got bin Laden. I hope we did not truly need the vaccination program to do so.