Video: Report: Bin Laden sleuth unit disbanded

updated 7/5/2006 8:06:14 AM ET 2006-07-05T12:06:14

The Central Intelligence Agency has closed a unit that for a decade had the mission of hunting Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenants, The New York Times reported in its Tuesday edition.

The unit, known as Alec Station, was disbanded late last year and its analysts reassigned within the CIA Counterterrorist Center, the officials told the paper.

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

Agency officials said that tracking bin Laden and his deputies remained a high priority, and that the decision to disband the unit was not a sign that the effort had slackened.

Instead, the officials said, it 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, the Times reported.

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