Infectious diseases are an issue of national security, but the global fight against them is threatened by allegations that US security agencies use vaccination programs for intelligence operations. In December 2012, ten polio vaccination workers in Pakistan and Afghanistan were shot, causing the Pakistan government to suspend a polio vaccination drive. The Taliban claim the polio eradication program is part of a US intelligence plot and that the vaccine itself is harmful to recipients. In September 2012, the Pakistan government itself ordered foreign employees of Save the Children to leave the country, saying they were part of a plot to use a hepatitis B vaccine campaign to collect intelligence. Save the Children denies the allegations.
These are only the latest cases where allegations that a vaccination program was a front for US security operations have led to setbacks in the global battle against infectious disease. Given the vital importance of child vaccination programs to US national security interests, intelligence-community participation in public health services should be explicitly banned. Doing so might help restore confidence in vaccination programs—benefiting those immunized and the health and security of Americans here at home.
The White House can do so by amending Executive Order 12333 to add a paragraph after the prohibition on covert action related to US domestic politics. The paragraph would read: “2.14 No person acting on behalf of elements of the Intelligence Community may join or otherwise participate in any activity directly related to the provision of child public health services on behalf of any element of the Intelligence Community.”