NEW YORK – The CIA says efforts to hunt down Usama bin Laden are as strong as ever, despite a report that the agency has shut down a unit that hunted for the Al Qaeda leader and his top lieutenants.
The New York Times reports the unit, known as Alec Station, was disbanded late last year and two dozen analysts were reassigned within the CIA Counterterrorist Center.
Intelligence officials said the realignment reflects a view that Al Qaeda is no longer as hierarchical as it once was, as well as a growing concern about Al Qaeda-inspired groups that have begun carrying out attacks independent of bin Laden and his top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri.
The recent book "Ghost Wars" says some in the CIA were uncomfortable with the unit, saying its zeal for capturing bin Laden took on a cult-like atmosphere.
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.
"This is an agile agency, and the decision was made to ensure greater reach and focus," CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Millerwise Dyck told the paper.
The decision to close the unit was first reported by National Public Radio, The Times said.