A published report says U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has created an espionage unit in the Pentagon that gives him wide authority over spy operations abroad.

The Washington Post says the Strategic Support Branch reaches into what has normally been Central Intelligence Agency territory. The report in today's (Sunday's) newspaper says the unit has been secretly operating for two years in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

A Defense Department statement released today denies the existence of such a unit, but says it is consulting with other agencies in the U.S. intelligence community -- including the CIA -- to improve human intelligence capability.

The Post says its information comes from interviews with participants, and documents obtained by the newspaper. The unit is said to deploy special operations forces and experts such as linguists and interrogators into both friendly and unfriendly nations.