NPR reported reported on July 3 that the CIA has closed its bin Laden-tracking unit and reassigned its members to other posts. Intelligence officials told the New York Times that “the realignment reflects a view that Al Qaeda is no longer as hierarchical as it once was… 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.” Others said the move reflected changing priorities as the war in Iraq “has stretched the resources” of the CIA and other intelligence agencies.
The war on terror has clearly evolved since the days of “wanted: dead or alive.” Bin Laden may be less powerful as an individual, though not everyone agrees on that (writing in Terrorism Focus, a former head of the CIA’s bin Laden unit said his two recent speeches “strongly suggest that bin Laden remains in control of al-Qaeda”). But as a nation with over 130,000 troops deployed in Iraq, we are also undoubtedly a lot easier to hit. It’s good news that the CIA is evolving to stay on top of threats to Americans’ safety—just too bad those threats are so much easier to come by these days.