CIA’s Fake Vaccination Program in Pakistan Unrelated to Bin Laden

Officials Term Scheme a 'Cynical Hoax'

Since the 2011 assassination of Osama Bin Laden, the Obama Administration has forwarded a more or less internally consistent, albeit often dodgy, narrative about what happened and how they came by his whereabouts. This centered on the CIA running a phony vaccination program in Abbottabad, where bin Laden was staying. Pulitzer-winning Investigative journalist Sy Hersh has revealed this to be false.

During the course of revelations that broad swathes of the official story were flat out fabrications by the administration, it became apparent that a lot of the narrative was hastily cobbled together, including the vaccination scheme.

The fake CIA program was real, and was operating around Abbottabad. At no point, however, was it ever even tangentially related to the bin Laden killing, and no one in the program ever attempted to get DNA from anyone in bin Laden’s compound.

The assassination, rather, was the result of a tip from a former Pakistani official, who simply wanted to collect on the $25 million reward. The administration, determined to keep the identity of the official secret, attributed it falsely to the vaccination scheme that they just happened to be running not far from the area.

Hersh cites officials familiar with the situation as saying the CIA’s affiliation with the once legitimate vaccination program began long before they had any hint of bin Laden’s whereabouts, and said the its publicly linking to bin Laden was a “hurriedly put together CIA cover story,” adding that the humanitarian program “has been compromised as a cynical hoax.”

The revelation of the vaccination scheme being a CIA project fueled massive backlash across Pakistan, including a number of violent attacks on vaccination workers from independent aid programs. The humanitarian consequences of the CIA going public with what it had done are yet to be fully realized, but are keeping polio and other vaccination programs too dangerous to run in much of Pakistan, setting the stage for decades of healthcare woes in rural Pakistan.

US officials had defended these humanitarian costs as “worth it” because bin Laden was killed. Now, rather, it’s revealed that it was only brought public as part of a lazy cover-up, and all these consequences are just blowback on the administration’s attempt to manufacture a narrative.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of