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CIA's Use Of Health Workers In Intelligence Operations Could Hurt 'Innocent People'

“The CIA’s vaccination gambit put at risk something very precious — the integrity of public health programs in Pakistan and around the globe” and has “also added to the dangers facing nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in a world that’s increasingly hostile to U.S. aid organizations,” opinion writer David Ignatius writes in a Washington Post opinion piece. Noting that attention in the U.S. has focused on a 33-year prison sentence given to Shakil Afridi, a doctor convicted of treason for helping the CIA track down Osama bin Laden through a vaccination program, Ignatius says, “Afridi and his handlers should reckon with the moral consequences of what they did. Here’s the painful truth: Some people may die because they don’t get vaccinations, suspecting that immunization is part of a CIA plot.”

Ignatius states that the number of polio cases is increasing in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria, “in part because people believe conspiracy theories about vaccination,” and notes that the WHO has warned that if the disease’s spread cannot be stopped, “polio eradication will fail.” He concludes, “Intelligence operations, by definition, operate in a gray area where the normal legal and ethical rules get fuzzy. But this case makes me wonder if some intelligence tactics, such as using health workers overseas, should be off-limits: If the operations are blown, the consequences will be too damaging, in unintended ways, to innocent people” (5/29).

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