Thursday, July 14, 2011

The CIA and (alleged) fake vaccinations

Via DPTrombly:
In the latest incident in the rapid deterioration of the US-Pakistani relationship, the ISI have picked up a Pakistani doctor that it claims, and the Guardian reports, was involved in a horrifying breach of medical ethics. According to the Guardian’s sources, the CIA recruited this doctor to conduct a fake vaccination drive in Abbottabad, hoping to corroborate bin Laden’s sister’s DNA with residents of the mysterious compound where US operators would later terminate the al Qaeda head. Chris Albon is dead on about the disastrous medical and public health implications of this story, which will seriously endanger health workers even if the story was a complete fabrication.
Trombly says he agrees with Albon but, on the other hand, also says this is what one should expect when a clandestine agency is tasked with eliminating a most-wanted enemy. However, I suspect Albon's point is that there are some lines that even a clandestine agency carrying out an important mission should not cross. Clearly the CIA wanted to be as sure as it could be that OBL was living in that compound. The question -- or a question -- thus is whether the fake vaccination campaign, assuming it occurred, was essential or whether the required near-certainty was obtainable by other, less ethically troubling means (e.g., surveillance, tracking the courier who left and returned to the compound periodically, etc.). The CIA is licensed to do a lot of dubious things, but a good baseline rule is that torture shouldn't be one of them and neither should this.

1 comment:

LFC said...

P.s. D. Ignatius on this yesterday (here) says the fate of the doctor is still at issue between the CIA, who wants him released, and the ISI.