Fake Vaccination Campaign Maps Media DNA


So, two days ago the Guardian, which is in near-sexual spasms of outrage over the ethical lapses of the News of the World, reported this story: 

The CIA organised a fake vaccination program in the town where it believed Osama bin Laden was hiding in an elaborate attempt to obtain DNA from the fugitive al-Qaida leader’s family, a Guardian investigation has found.

They’re a bit thin on details about how this program actually worked, but they’re filling in the blanks with blood-sucking trained spy nurses and handbags kitted out with “electronic devices”–this according to “several sources.” 

It is not known exactly how the doctor hoped to get DNA from the vaccinations, although nurses could have been trained to withdraw some blood in the needle after administrating the drug. …

A nurse known as Bakhto, whose full name is Mukhtar Bibi, managed to gain entry to the Bin Laden compound to administer the vaccines. According to several sources, the doctor, who waited outside, told her to take in a handbag that was fitted with an electronic device.

Read it through, the whole thing. Really, read it, just humor me. Note that the story does not name one credible source: It is all based, apparently, upon the word of anonymous “Pakistani and US officials and local residents.” We’ve just got to take the correspondent’s word that these anonymous sources said this, that they’re sane in the head, and that they’re not yanking his chain.

Given that this story is almost the pure distilled essence of a lunatic conspiracy theory if I’ve ever heard one, that Pakistani officials have a million reasons beyond this being, you know, true to want to propagate such a theory, that we have no idea who these “local residents” are, and that US officials who might be privy to the details of such a plan are–to put it mildly–highly unlikely spontaneously to decide they’d like to share them with the Guardian, perhaps we’d want to treat such reporting with caution? 

But no. The story has immediately been reproduced the world around and the CIA excoriated as if it is simply a matter of fact that this happened. The New York Times, The New Yorker–right on the bandwagon. The Guardian said it and so did “an American official,” so it must be so, and how shameful that the CIA did this! Don’t they realize that this will give vaccination campaigns a bad name and cause children to die? 

The whole world is breathlessly repeating this story–which is on the face of it about as plausible as the one about the Sinai Jewbot Sharks–as if the Guardian had offered some reason to believe it beyond “We heard this from a bunch of anonymous people in Pakistan.” 

It’s certainly true that the very real consequence of this story breaking into the mainstream is that programs to administer vaccinations where they’re desperately needed will now be viewed with even further suspicion–and let’s not even think about the insane anti-Americanism to which this kind of story gives rise. So if the CIA did that, why, I guess I’d agree that it was very irresponsible, particularly given their apparent inability to keep their mouths shut about it.

But you know what would be even more irresponsible? Reporting this without making it clear to your readers that meanwhile, back in the real world, people who know the details of highly classified operations with massive blowback potential would probably be small in number and wouldn’t speak to the Guardian, and anyone who speaks to the Guardian about the details of a highly classified operation with massive blowback potential would probably be nuts or trying to play you.

Here’s what else would be irresponsible: Failing to make it clear that if there’s really an “American official” with knowledge of this babbling about it to the New York Times, he’s almost certainly doing it for a reason, and the most plausible one is, “He’s screwing with someone in a way you can’t even begin to guess.” 

Here’s the best part: The Guardian now has the temerity to complain that “fears are growing for the safety” of the man they accused of working for the CIA–without citing a single credible source. He has, of course, been locked up by the ISI on suspicion of espionage.

The Pakistani authorities are holding him for working for a foreign intelligence agency, which carries harsh punishment, including the death penalty.

The Guardian story was headline news in Pakistan on Tuesday but so far, government officials have offered no comment.

That, too, is kind of thing only the right-wing gutter press would ever point out, though, so don’t think about it too much. Let’s all go back to excoriating the News of the World and making sure we forever stamp out Rupert Murdoch’s irresponsible brand of journalism. 

There are 12 comments.

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  1. Profile Photo Member

    Senior official: “Wouldn’t any country detain people for working for a foreign spy service?” Fair point. So that makes it odd that any CIA, or the doctors and nurses involved, would bring this to authorities. It could be more likely that the Pakistani doctors and nurses brought the charges, except they didn’t know what the vaccination plan was really for (except for the main doc, the only one being held). One wonders how the Pakistani people, or even government, could have figured this out for themselves, if they brought the charges.

    It gets even better: when we get to the juicy paragraph where the important deed was to be done, we don’t know if it was, what the equipment the nurse was supposed to drop off was, if she dropped it off, or how a piece of electronic equipment would be relevant for collecting DNA. Then we are told that the nurse didn’t even know the object of the vaccination, and that she won’t speak about it anyway! Pretty suspenseful stuff. I guess it was assumed that if any of Bin Laden’s relatives were there, he must be too.

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  2. Profile Photo Inactive

    Has the CIA (long the goat for anything in the middle east) become the new alien abductors? The source of a little excitement for lonely storyteller and scandalized audience alike?

    “Yes, it happened right here! I was approached by two men in black, who handed me a bag and a cellphone, and told me to go in there!”

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  3. Profile Photo Coolidge

    The CIA is everywhere. Watch out!

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  4. Profile Photo Inactive

    Idiotic. Totally. But look at another part of the scenario: would this even be doable? The procedures for testing DNA are very lengthy, though down to about a day and a half now, require a sophisticated lab, and careful handling of the sample. There is nothing like a purse-sized “insta-test” yet. You could get DNA samples off the needles, assuming that they were preserved properly, and not reused (as is common is Pakistan, one hears), but wouldn’t the “innoculees”, or their families, notice that the nurse was taking unusual measures to preserve the needles? Especially folk as cautious about security as OBL and his household retinue?

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  5. Profile Photo Contributor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.

    So, two days ago the Guardian, which is in near-sexual spasms of outrage over the ethical lapses of the News of the World, reported this story:

    Only near-sexual?

    What’s wrong? Someone saltpetering their soup?

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  6. Profile Photo Inactive

    Does this have anything to do with their recent refusal to “fight” unless monetary aid is given. Pakistan will find the once giant udder of fiat currency quite dry as time marches on. The usual global players of Russia, India, and China will not be as foolhardy as we in dealing with these vipers. Who ever shall pay Pakistan for its tremendous and lasting global and regional contributions when we turn the faucet off?None but China and they have minimal stomach for deception from beggars.

    Well at the very least next year Roche will do good business there on tamiflu unless the shipment is sunk by those pesky sharks.

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  7. Profile Photo Member

    This story gave me whiplash. I may have a basis of action against Murdoch here. Or at the very least, the Guardian. Ow. It hurts.

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  8. Profile Photo Inactive

    My CIA informant tells me that the handbag with the electronic device is this.

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  9. Profile Photo Inactive


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  10. Profile Photo Inactive
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.

    So, two days ago the Guardian, which is in near-sexual spasms of outrage over the ethical lapses of the News of the World, reported this story:

    Sounds a little like an ex F1 boss sex orgy, but the UK Telegraph (the only UK newspaper that I believe) is also reporting it.

    I know truth is stranger than fiction, these days, and this has been blown up outa all proportion by lefty rags. But the Guardian and BBC do often do some good reporting (at the expense of the national interest, occasionally) – they are a little like the NY Times in that respect.

    I am glad the CIA seems to be functioning creatively, and is not yet full of Valerie Plames.

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  11. Profile Photo Editor
    David Williamson

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.

    So, two days ago the Guardian, which is in near-sexual spasms of outrage over the ethical lapses of the News of the World, reported this story:

    Sounds a little like an ex F1 boss sex orgy, but the UK Telegraph (the only UK newspaper that I believe) is also reporting it.

    And their source is? The Guardian.

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  12. Profile Photo Member

    The MSM blaims the CIA for creating distrust in vacinations thus harming children. Reality: If the MSM gave a rip about “the children” they would spike the story.

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