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Report urges US spies to shift away from Qaeda focus

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

A panel of advisors has warned the White House that US spy agencies are too focused on targeting Al-Qaeda militants and need to devote more attention to other threats, a US official said Thursday.

But officials told AFP the intelligence agencies already have adjusted their priorities and moved away from a preoccupation with drone strikes and other counter-terror operations.

The Washington Post first reported the findings of President Barack Obama's Intelligence Advisory Board, which issued its secret assessment to the White House last year.

The board found that the work of the CIA and other spy services had been distorted by more than a decade of counter-terror efforts following the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The panel, whose members include former top officials as well as Chuck Hagel, now the defense secretary, urged the agencies to return to more traditional intelligence gathering and called for a major shift in resources to correct the perceived imbalance, according to the Washington Post account, confirmed by a US official.

But the panel's report also acknowledged that changes were underway and that senior intelligence leaders regularly adjust funding and priorities, said the US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"The board went on to make some points that would have indicated this is not doom and gloom, this is not a horrible scenario and that there are things underway to address the issues that were raised," the official said.

The notion that the spy services were solely focused on counter-terrorism was "outdated."

The intelligence advisory board, which meets in secret, is made up of 14 experts, many of whom once held top government posts and have access to intelligence officials and records.

Former senior intelligence officials have voiced concern in recent years that a large-scale CIA drone bombing campaign against Al-Qaeda militants in Pakistan and elsewhere has served as a distraction from the spy agencies' primary task: to gather and analyze intelligence.

A spokesman for the national intelligence director, who oversees the country's 16 spy services, said the agencies work closely together to calibrate where to concentrate their efforts as threats evolve.

"Of the many areas where our more integrated Intelligence Community is performing better than it did just a decade ago, our ability to prioritize threats and adjust our commitment of resources stands out -- particularly in the current fiscal environment," spokesman Shawn Turner said in an email.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130321/report-urges-us-spies-shift-away-qaeda-focus