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18 Jul

CIA’s fake vaccination programme criticised by Médecins Sans Frontières

Cover used by US intelligence to spy on Bin Laden in Pakistan ‘threatened immunisation work around the world’

  • in Islamabad
  • The CIA human shield operation in Abbotabad was a busted flush. The whole thing was designed to suck blood from bin Laden’s children to get the DNA that would confirm his presence in the house — but it didn’t even do that. As the New York Times reports:

    The American official said that the doctor managed to temporarily gain access to the compound, but that he never saw Bin Laden and was not successful in getting DNA samples from any Bin Laden family members.

    Endangering children, increasing mistrust and instability around the world, militarizing medicine, polluting every notion of a greater common good or human fellow-feeling …….and on and on it goes. Sick, sick, sick.

    Bin Laden complex
    Police outside the compound where Bin Laden lived. MSF has criticised the CIA’s fake vaccination drive, used as cover to spy on him. Photograph: MD Nadeem/EPA

    Médecins Sans Frontières  has lashed out at the CIA for using a fake vaccination programme as a cover to spy on Osama bin Ladenon Thursday, saying it threatened life-saving immunisation work around the world.* See MSF Statement below.

    The international medical aid charity said the ploy used by US intelligence, revealed this week in the Guardian, was a “grave manipulation of the medical act”.

    The CIA recruited a Pakistani doctor and health visitors before the operation in May that killed Bin Laden in Abbottabad in northern Pakistan, to try to ascertain whether the al-Qaida leader was living in the compound. The doctor, Shakil Afridi, set up a vaccination drive for Hepatitis B in the town in order to try to gain entry to the Bin Laden compound and obtain DNA samples from those living there.

    On Thursday night, a senior US government official defended the practice, saying it had been intended as “an actual vaccination campaign conducted by real medical professionals”. He said the team was supposed to deliver the full course of three vaccinations to those treated in Abbottabad.

    The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, added: “And it’s not as if this kind of campaign is something the CIA runs every day.”

    However, on the ground in Abbottabad the Guardian discovered that while the vaccine doses themselves were genuine, the medical professionals involved were not following procedures. In an area called Nawa Sher, they did not return a month after the first dose to provide the required second batch. Instead, according to local officials and residents, the team moved on, in April this year, to Bilal Town, the suburb where Bin Laden lived.

    “The risk is that vulnerable communities – anywhere – needing access to essential health services will understandably question the true motivation of medical workers and humanitarian aid,” said Unni Karunakara, MSF’s international president. “The potential consequence is that even basic healthcare, including vaccination, does not reach those who need it most.”

    Afridi was arrested in late May by Pakistani intelligence, for working for a foreign spy agency. The United States is pressing Pakistan to let him go and allow the doctor and his family to be resettled in the US. Islamabad is infuriated by the CIA’s activities inside the country, which were kept secret from their Pakistani counterparts.

    “It is challenging enough for health agencies and humanitarian aid workers to gain access to, and the trust of, communities, especially populations already sceptical of the motives of any outside assistance,” said MSF. “Deceptive use of medical care also endangers those who provide legitimate and essential health services.”

    The impact of the fake vaccination drive may be keenly felt in Pakistan, where the public already sees an American conspiracy everywhere. Polio campaigns could be at particular risk, as Pakistan has the biggest polio problem in the world.

    The US official said: “The vaccination campaign was part of the hunt for the world’s top terrorist, and nothing else. If the United States hadn’t shown this kind of creativity, people would be scratching their heads asking why it hadn’t used all tools at its disposal to find Bin Laden.”

    The CIA has not publicly admitted that it used the doctor. A CIA spokesman, George Little, would only say: “Finding Osama Bin Laden is a major victory for the United States and Pakistan.”

    ********

    *Alleged fake CIA vaccination campaign undermines medical care

    MSF condemns use of medical aid for military objectives; Reported ruse risks damaging trust critical for health workers and humanitarian aid.

    New York – The United States government’s alleged misuse of a vaccination campaign in Pakistan for counter-terrorism purposes constitutes a dangerous abuse of medical care, which threatens the trust essential for health agencies and humanitarian aid workers to provide lifesaving medical services, the international medical humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said today.

    “Whether true or not, the mere suggestion that the provision of medical care was carried out under false pretenses damages public perception of the true purpose of medical action,” said Dr. Unni Karunakara, MSF’s international president. “With all populations in crisis, it is challenging enough for health agencies and humanitarian aid workers to gain access to, and the trust of, communities — especially populations already skeptical of the motives of any outside assistance.”

    Deceptive use of medical care also endangers those who provide legitimate and essential health services. Furthermore, carrying out an act of no therapeutic or preventative benefit purely for military or intelligence purposes violates medical ethics, which require acting solely on the needs
    of patients and doing no harm.

    Impartial humanitarian assistance requires acceptance from all communities and warring parties – whether national governments, armed opposition movements, international forces, or even criminal groups. In all conflicts or highly politicized environments, this access can only be achieved by actions that demonstrate humanitarian providers are acting only in the interests of those receiving care.

    “The alleged fake CIA vaccination campaign constitutes a grave manipulation of the medical act,” said Dr. Karunakara. “The risk is that vulnerable communities—anywhere—needing access to essential health services will understandably question the true motivation of medical workers and humanitarian aid. The potential consequence is that even basic health care,
    including vaccination, does not reach those who need it most.”

    Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an independent medical humanitarian organization that provides assistance to people affected by armed conflicts, epidemics, man-made and natural disaster, and exclusion from health care in more than 65 countries.

    MSF has been working in Pakistan since 1986, providing free medical assistance to displaced communities and to Afghan refugees, to victims of conflict, and to people with limited access to care. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, MSF teams are present in Kurram Agency, Hangu, Lower Dir, Peshawar, Malakand and Swat districts.
    MSF is also working in Balochistan and Sindh Provinces. To ensure its independence in Pakistan, MSF solely relies on private financial contributions from individuals around the world and does not accept funding from any government, donor agency, or from any military or politically-affiliated group.

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