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CIA closes down unit that was hunting Bin Laden

Published: Monday July 3, 2006

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The CIA has closed down a secret unit that for a decade had the mission of hunting Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenants, intelligence officials said Monday, the NEW YORK TIMES reports Tuesday. Full story here; Excerpts follow.


The terrorist tracking unit, known inside the spy agency as "Alec station," was disbanded late last year and its analysts reassigned to other offices within the CIA's Counterterrorist Center, the officials said.

The decision is a milestone of sorts for the agency, which created the unit before Osama bin Laden became a household name and bolstered its ranks after the Sept. 11 attacks, when President Bush pledged to bring bin Laden to justice "dead or alive."

The realignment reflects a view that al-Qaida is no longer as hierarchical as it once was, intelligence officials said, as well as growing concern about al-Qaida-inspired groups that have begun carrying out attacks independent of bin Laden and his top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

CIA officials said that tracking bin Laden and his deputies remains a high priority, and that the decision to disband the unit is not a sign that the effort has slackened. Instead, the officials said, the realignment reflects a belief that the agency can better deal with high-level threats by focusing on regional trends rather than on specific organizations or individuals.