Tuesday, July 04, 2006

C.I.A. Closes Unit Focused on Capture of bin Laden

NYT reported The Central Intelligence Agency has closed a unit that for a decade had the mission of hunting Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenants, intelligence officials confirmed Monday. The unit, known as Alec Station, was disbanded late last year and its analysts reassigned within the C.I.A. Counterterrorist Center, the officials said.

And since the NYT has been providing Osama with so much assistance, we are hoping that he will read this, and believe that it is safe for him to come out of his cave, so the Preditor missles can find him.
The decision is a milestone for the agency, which formed 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 Mr. bin Laden to justice "dead or alive."
The NYT just had to get that jab in.
The realignment reflects a view that Al Qaeda is no longer as hierarchical as it once was, intelligence officials said, and a growing concern about Qaeda-inspired groups that have begun carrying out attacks independent of Mr. bin Laden and his top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

CQ blogged if Michael Scheuer wants to lay blame for the mothballing of Alec Station, he needs to lay it at the feet of the 9/11 Commission and the politicians who insisted on enacting their slate of reforms without debate.

Alec Station's assets haven't disappeared, after all; they got swallowed up by the Counterterrorist Center. The CTC sprang into being from the 9/11 Commission's insistence on creating more bureaucracy in our intel community. Instead of taking the alphabet soup of agencies and councils handling intelligence and simplifying them into two or three spheres -- domestic (FBI), international (CIA), and military (DIA), the panel chose to keep all the agencies but created a national directorate of intelligence to sit on top of them all. This directorate would then provide additional analysis at the CTC and the office of the Director of National Intelligence -- pushing raw intel at least two additional layers away from the President and forcing data to go through more paper-shuffling before it became actionable.

The result? The new directorate has sucked resources away from the field agencies and created a new bureaucratic fiefdom for John Negroponte. Last March, the House tried to withhold appropriations from the DNI after it grew to over seven hundred employees, most of them drained away from the intelligence agencies that now report to Negroponte. We have warned over and over again about the folly of these 9/11 Commission recommendations, but when John Kerry seized on them as a campaign issue, he forced the Bush administration to adopt them almost in toto. (Not coincidentally, the recommendations for reforming Congress failed to get the same attention and have yet to be fully implemented.)

When people insisted on the kind of bureaucratic expansion and analytical centralization on which the 9/11 Commission insisted, this result became unavoidable. Robert Grenier ended Alec Station in his capacity as the CTC director -- because he wanted the assets in the CTC. Who knows how many other programs and special task forces the CTC has closed down for the same reasons?

OTB blogged Of course, they were right to be alarmed. Still, this move strikes me as reasonable enough. If bin Laden and Zawahiri were killed today, it would be cause for celebration but probably have relatively minor effect. Our enemy is not a single man at this stage but a movement.

Blue Crab blogged The loading of the objections at the front of the story are, of course, typical of the Times reporting of late. Here's the part that caught my eye.
In his book "Ghost Wars," which chronicles the agency's efforts to hunt Mr. bin Laden in the years before the Sept. 11 attacks, Steve Coll wrote that some inside the agency likened Alec Station to a cult that became obsessed with Al Qaeda. "The bin Laden unit's analysts were so intense about their work that they made some of their C.I.A. colleagues uncomfortable," Mr. Coll wrote. Members of Alec Station "called themselves 'the Manson Family' because they had acquired a reputation for crazed alarmism about the rising Al Qaeda threat." Intelligence officials said Alec Station was disbanded after Robert Grenier, who until February was in charge of the Counterterrorist Center, decided the agency needed to reorganize to better address constant changes in terrorist organizations.
Now, that sounds like the special unit may have felt themselves to be just a bit too special to me. It makes me wonder if the people might not need to get a little broader focus. Tunnel vision can be a bad thing, too.


Elephant in my Coffee said...

Good post Don!

Vigilante said...

GWB has gone AWOL on OBL. This is just the most recent confirmation.