Monday, July 10, 2006


The disbanding of the Alec Unit is not even the most recent confirmation.

It was actually dissolved late last year and only now announced.

Michael Scheuer, The man who led America's hunt for Osama bin Laden, has said the CIA was wrong to disband the only unit devoted entirely to the terrorist leader's pursuit - just at a time when al-Qaida is reasserting its influence over global jihad.

CIA officials disclosed this week that the Alec Unit - named after Mr Scheuer's now teenage son - had been disbanded, and its agents reassigned. The agency described the shakeup as a necessary adaptation to the changing nature of the US war on terror. Scheuer:
What it robs you of is a critical mass of officers who have been working on this together for a decade. We had a breed of specialists rare in an intelligence community that prides itself on being generalists. It provided a base from which to build a cadre of people specialising in attacking Sunni extremist operations, who sacrificed promotions and other emoluments in their employment in the clandestine service, where specialists were looked on as nerds.

From the very beginning, Alec was an anomaly in that it was not subordinated to any area division, and it was given the authority to communicate with overseas stations - with or without the permission of area divisions. That caused a great deal of heartburn among very senior leaders at the agency.
Mr Scheuer said he disagreed with the argument it was making that Bin Laden was isolated, the organisation was broken and that he was now just a symbol.
How do you explain the fact that he is able to dominate international media whenever he wants to?

Bin Laden has always said the main activity of al-Qaida is the instigation ... of Muslims to jihad.

All of the people who have been picked up have said they were inspired by Bin Laden, that they trained in their own countries and used information picked up on the internet.

So the fire that Bin Laden was trying to set is what we are beginning to see around the world and, unfortunately, nowhere more than in the west.

I don't think anyone could have expected to see the success of such an organisation.

One of the things that really slowed down the western response to Sunni extremists, but al-Qaida specifically, is that when intelligence agents looked at a group made up of Yemenis, Egyptians, Saudis, Algerians and converts, the natural response was to say, 'That is not going to last 10 minutes. They can't get along together.' It took a long time for people to realise we were seeing an animal of a very unique nature. We haven't even begun to understand where our enemy is coming from.
Scheuer basically feels the dismantling of the unit reflected a myopia in an intelligence community uncomfortable with the independence of the CIA agents who championed Bin Laden's pursuit.In a letter to John D. Negroponte, Director of National Intelligence, Senator John Kerry agrees, calling for the reinstitution of the Alec Unit:
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.

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...
As I have had opportunity to say many times since Kerry was nominated by the Democrats in 2004, the Senator is correct more than twice a day. This is one of those instances.


  1. If Putin can get Shamil Basayev for the Russians, why can't Bush get bin Laden for us?

  2. What I hear, Putin is soon looking for a job. Since your guy, what's his name, is retiring soon, maybe he could...oh drats, I forgot that you have the silly nationality requirement preventing this brilliant idea. Oh well, it was just a thought.

  3. You mean, outsourcing political leadership and statecraft? Because this is hard work we can't get Americans to do?

  4. Not just that but, Putin's approval rates are stratospheric 75% compared to that of what's his name's minus 25%, or there abouts. Besides, Putin got his boogeyman, Basayev, while what's his name's one, bin Laden, is still at large and sending his ocassional video greetings to remind us about it.

  5. Who among us wants to give up what's left of out democracy to get a leader like Putin?

  6. Philip Hensher, It's déjà vu in Afghanistan:

    The war in Afghanistan has been surrounded by such evasions and rewritings that you have to conclude no one has any idea what the aim is any longer.

    I seem to be the only person to remember that when the troops went in in 2001, the primary aim was not to topple the Taliban but to extract the leaders of al-Qaida. When that proved unsuccessful, the primary aim was declared always to have been to get rid of an oppressive regime.

    Very quickly, the war was claimed to have been a great success. We were asked to believe that the entire country was now united after the liberation, the Taliban decisively defeated, when, in fact, it had mostly disappeared.

    .... Now the war is entering a new phase, and it's idiotic to suppose it will do anything but escalate. The eye left the ball in Afghanistan two or three years ago, and the Taliban have taken the advantage. There is no alternative to a substantial reinvestment of troops, and, more important, substantial investment in the substance of the country to show every Afghan the advantage of a non-Taliban future. Without that, we are steadily sliding toward the same horrific experience as the Soviets.

    ... when it comes to the point, we can evacuate in shame and dishonor.

  7. Mal, I share your despair.

    It used to be that failure in Afghanistan was unthinkable. That was when a Marshall plan was still financially and politically feasible.

    And that was when international cooperation in the war against "Talebinistan" seemed to be a moral imperative after 9-11.

    Bush's un-provoked, unnecessary, largely unilateral invasion and unplanned occupation of Iraq (UULUIUOI) has drained off military assets, financial resources, and international consensus that would/could/should have clinched the deal. Now, I think, the UULUIUOI is eroding and corrupting the will and determination of the American people.

    Tragedy is the familiar but unwelcome companion to history.

  8. Blogging4food, don't be silly - all that horse manure about Putin is just a juvenile attempt at humor!

    Malfrat, your heart felt comment was bang on.

  9. Blog4food has a point. It's wrong to allow the Republicans to describe their stance on the war against terror as "uncompromising."

    Republicans and many Democrats have compromised severely, sacrificing cornerstones of our society such as the presumption of innocence and the immorality of torture and of starting wars. Lately, they have attacked the free press, a voice of conscience that has become inconvenient to their plans.

    If we "lose" the war on terror, it will be because our way of life was taken away by our own shortsighted leaders who maintain power by scaring the public. Outside attackers have no power to take away our freedom, but the public has allowed the Republican administration and Congress to degrade American principles in ways that, I believe, have exceeded the ambitions of the Sept. 11 terrorists.

    The Republicans have compromised EVERYTHING.

  10. This is a late visit here and, I just have to say how much I agree with Max. You sure are in minority with your preception where the real dangers lie.