By Rebecca Shabad - 05/20/14 07:55 AM EDT
A top White House official has promised that the CIA would no longer use vaccination programs as a cover for spying.
“I wanted to inform you that the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) directed in August 2013 that the agency make no operational use of vaccination programs, which includes vaccination workers,” Lisa Monaco wrote to deans of 12 public health schools in a letter last week.
Monaco is President Obama’s top counterterrorism and homeland security adviser. Yahoo News posted a copy of her letter online on Monday.
Her letter comes nearly a year and a half after the health school deans criticized the CIA program in a letter to Obama.
The intelligence agency had used a vaccination program as a tactic in their efforts to track down Osama bin Laden.
A Pakistani doctor enlisted with the CIA and offered hepatitis vaccinations in Abbottabad, where bin Laden was killed in 2011.
Through the program, the doctor had actually obtained DNA samples from children who lived in the compound.
CIA spokesman Todd Ebitz told Yahoo that CIA Director John Brennan made the decision because of concerns raised by the public health officials.
“By publicizing this policy, our objective is to dispel one canard that militant groups have used as justification for cowardly attacks against vaccination providers,” Ebitz said.