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White House: We'll stop using vaccination schemes to spy

THE White House has pledged that the CIA will no longer use vaccination programmes as cover for spying operations. 

The spy agency used the ruse in targeting Osama bin Laden before the raid that killed him in 2011.

Pakistani Doctor Shakil Afridi had offered a programme of hepatitis vaccinations in the city of Abbottabad as cover for his CIA-backed effort to obtain DNA samples from children at the compound where Bin Laden was later killed. 

Dr Afridi was convicted and sentenced by a Pakistani court to 33 years in prison for treason. The sentence was later overturned and Dr Afridi faces a retrial.

Obama administration counter-terrorism adviser Lisa Monaco told the heads of 13 medical colleges on Friday that the CIA has agreed it would no longer use vaccination programmes or workers for intelligence purposes and would not use genetic materials obtained through such programmes.

The health-school deans were among a group of medical authorities who publicly criticised CIA use of the vaccination programme.

The deans had warned last year that the CIA use of the programme had played a role in the shootings of several health workers in Pakistan and could hamper anti-polio efforts.

In her May 16 letter to the public health educators, Ms Monaco said that the CIA policy “applied worldwide and to US and non-US persons alike.”

Neither Ms Monaco’s letter nor the CIA statement acknowledged any error in the decision to use the Pakistani vaccination programme as cover for spying.

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