The CIA reportedly staged an elaborate fake vaccination program in Pakistan as part of its quest to pinpoint the location of Osama Bin Laden in the weeks before Navy SEALs killed the al-Qaida leader.
The Guardian reported Monday that the U.S. intelligence agency launched the project in March, after officials had located what turned out to be Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad but before they knew for certain that it was where the terrorist leader was hiding.
The plan, according to the report, was to use the staged Hepatitis B vaccination program in the town to obtain DNA from one of Bin Laden’s children to provide evidence that the family was nearby. (The samples were to be compared with DNA obtained from Bin Laden’s sister, who died in Boston last year.)
While it remains unclear whether the extensive scheme actually worked as intended, it has had unintended consequences for the Pakistani doctor who helped stage the project. The doctor, Shakil Afridi, has been arrested by Pakistani intelligence officials for co-operating with the CIA—the latest example of the frayed relationship between Pakistani and U.S. officials in the wake of the Bin Laden raid.
The vaccination ploy also shows the lengths to which U.S. officials went to attempt to confirm Bin Laden’s location before launching the risky, but ultimately successful, top-secret raid that killed Bin Laden in May.
Afridi originally started the project in a poorer section of Abbottabad in order to make the effort look more authentic. In the end, it appears as though one of Afridi’s nurses was able to gain entry into the Bin Laden compound to administer the vaccines, although it remains unclear whether the nurse was able to verify OBL’s presence there, through DNA samples or otherwise.
The Guardian with the details:
According to several sources, the doctor, who waited outside, told her to take in a handbag that was fitted with an electronic device. It is not clear what the device was, or whether she left it behind. It is also not known whether the CIA managed to obtain any Bin Laden DNA, although one source suggested the operation did not succeed.