The Central Intelligence Agency recently cleansed itself of many past faults and sins with the discovery of Osama bin Laden’s hiding place in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and with the planning and execution of his capture and killing. It is now known that the agency, because it could not trust in the cooperation or discretion of Pakistani authorities, tried all possible methods to determine that the mysterious inhabitant of the high-walled compound was bin Laden. One of the tricks used was to initiate a hepatitis vaccination campaign in the area, conducted by a Pakistani health organization that the CIA obviously influenced financially.

The blood that was taken from the children living in the compound showed that their DNA coincided with that of the most wanted terrorist in history. It was the definitive test, and the U.S. commandos mounted their spectacular operation that infuriated the Pakistani government over what it considered a violation of its sovereignty.

The irritation has continued as a result of the health-initiative ruse and is now having repercussions in the work of nonprofit aid organizations that carry out health activities in Pakistan and other countries. Just as the use of journalists in espionage operations by many countries has been denounced frequently (we could mention the famous writer Arthur Koestler in Spain; Sorge in Japan; and the famous double agent Kim Philby, who seemingly worked for the British but was, in fact, a loyal servant of the Soviet Union), now indignation has spread over the health fraud used by the CIA.

Former U.S. Ambassador Jack C. Chow writes that the CIA has done great damage to “health diplomacy.” Health efforts initiated by former President Bush and supported by the singer Bono to fight AIDS in the Third World, as well as the confidence placed in many U.S. development programs, have been undermined by the CIA’s Abbottabad manipulation. Western aid workers in Pakistan encounter considerable difficulties obtaining visas, traveling in the country, etc. Another barrier is the stupid kind embraced by former South African President Mbeki, who said that the CIA had spread AIDS in Africa for evil purposes. (In reality, Mbeki was unable to address AIDS himself and was blaming anything that moved; the CIA was a tempting target.)

The agency, therefore, continues in controversy. Despite its mistakes mentioned here — and that it did not predict the end of the Soviet Union or prevent the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks — there are those who think the CIA is a malignant force in all realms. American leaders have a more modest concept of their spies. When Henry Kissinger visited China to prepare for Nixon’s trip, his host, Zhou Enlai, told him that “whenever something happens in the world, they are always thought of.”

“That is true, and it flatters them,” replied the wily Kissinger, “but they don’t deserve it.”