With Bush faced with a “world of crises,” on Monday it was confirmed that the CIA closed the unit “that for a decade had the mission of hunting Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenants.”
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.
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.”
John Kerry sent to a letter John Negroponte, the Director of National Intelligence, today calling for the CIA’s bin Laden Unit to reopen immediately:
July 6, 2006
The Honorable John D. Negroponte
Director of National Intelligence
Office of the Director of National Intelligence
Washington, DC 20511
Dear Mr. Director:
I write to express my concern over recent reports that the CIA has closed down the unit responsible for hunting down Osama bin Laden. This unit should be reconstituted immediately and given all resources necessary to finish the job of holding bin Laden accountable and preventing him from organizing or inspiring future attacks against the United States and our allies.
There is no question that since 9/11, al Qaeda has morphed into a global terrorist movement that transcends any one individual. The decision to divert resources from the crucial fight against bin Laden and al Qaeda to wage war on Iraq has made the task of eradicating this increasingly diffuse threat more difficult. We now face a long, difficult and multi-faceted struggle against global terrorism and the hateful ideology that inspires it.
I fully support efforts to adapt our response to the evolving nature of the threat, but this is not a compelling rationale for curtailing efforts to bring this mass murderer to justice. In fact, we cannot lose sight of the fact that eliminating bin Laden would still strike a key blow against al Qaeda and represent a significant step forward in the war on terror. Given what is at stake, our intelligence community should be given sufficient resources to both pursue bin Laden and prosecute the broader war on terror.
Moreover, disbanding the bin Laden unit sends the message to the terrorists that they can kill thousands of Americans without being held to account. Given that Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz was quoted this week as saying that “nobody has any idea” where bin Laden is, it is especially important that we send a clear message now that we have not given up the hunt. Reconstituting the bin Laden unit now would make it clear that we will never rest until he has been brought to justice.
Past failures to eliminate bin Laden at Tora Bora and in the nearly five years since 9/11 are no excuse for failing to do everything possible to find him now. The CIA’s bin Laden unit can play an important part of our effort to win the war on terror, and I urge you to revive and strengthen it as soon as possible.
John F. Kerry