Did CIA Contribute To The Spread Of Polio In Pakistan?

May, 21, 2014: The agency has responded to public health experts’ concerns after a year’s delay.

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has finally assured that it will no longer use vaccination programs as a ruse for spying operations.

In a letter to the deans of thirteen prominent public health schools, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, Lisa Monaco said that the agency will not make “operational use of vaccination programs”. Furthermore, she assured that CIA will also not “obtain or exploit DNA or other genetic material acquired through such programs”.

Although this is certainly a commendable measure, the agency has arrived at this outcome too late and that too at the cost of valuable human life.

In the past, with the help of a Pakistani doctor Shakeel Afridi, the CIA ran a fake vaccination campaign in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in an effort to obtain DNA samples from children at a compound where bin Laden was later killed during a 2011 raid.

The militants operating in Pakistan were not happy. The Taliban increased its rhetoric against vaccination and opposed the anti-polio campaign vigorously.  By now, more than 20 Pakistani anti-polio aid workers have been killed in the country.

Does the CIA share the blame for the deaths of these public health workers? Absolutely. There is no denying the fact that CIA has an inadvertent, albeit significant, role to play in the spread of Polio in Pakistan.

Apart from the deaths of public health workers, scores of children have been exposed to the crippling disease. In 2013, Pakistan accounted for more than a fifth of all polio cases identified across the world.

These assertions lead to an imperative question. How many human lives must be put at stake for a single strategic gain?

Read More: WHO Believes The Spread Of Polio Is An International Public Health Emergency