- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 8, 2003

An FBI agent who has accused the bureau of being unprepared for terrorist attacks that could follow a U.S. war against Iraq was not speaking for the vast majority of agents now fighting the war on terrorism, says the FBI Agents Association.

"Providing personal commentary to the media from an admitted non-terrorism expert within the FBI is demoralizing to the many FBI employees who have been achieving significant successes in this arena," said Nancy L. Savage, president of the association, which represents 80 percent of the bureau's 11,000 agents.

"Counterterrorism investigative strategy should remain internal to the organizations charged with this responsibility, not played out in the media where it can be seen as providing aid and comfort to our al Qaeda enemies," she said.

Mrs. Savage called the advice "tantamount to a battlefield commander taking his direction from one soldier in a rearward-facing foxhole."

FBI Agent Colleen Rowley, in a seven-page letter to FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, said the bureau "should be deluding neither ourselves nor the American people that there is any way the FBI … will be able to stem the flood of terrorism that will likely head our way in the wake of an attack on Iraq."

Mrs. Rowley, chief principal legal assistant at the FBI's Minneapolis field office, told Mr. Mueller that an attack by U.S. military forces on Iraq "may have grave consequences for your ability to discharge your responsibility to protect Americans, and it is altogether likely you will find yourself a helpless bystander to a rash of September 11s."

Mrs. Rowley released the letter this week to the New York Times and the Minneapolis Star Tribune after receiving no response from Mr. Mueller.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer discounted Mrs. Rowley's letter, saying the administration heard the same warnings prior to attacking Afghanistan and removing the Taliban regime from power.

Last year, Mrs. Rowley said in a letter to Mr. Mueller that senior FBI officials had blocked an investigation into Zacarias Moussaoui, who authorities suspect was to be the 20th hijacker on September 11, because they did not understand the significance of his arrest a month before the terrorist attacks.

She said Minneapolis agents who arrested Moussaoui on Aug. 15 after he tried to seek lessons at a flight school faced a "roadblock" when they sought search warrants for more evidence.

She said the agents became so frustrated about the lack of response by senior officials in Washington that they sought to bypass the chain of command and notify the CIA directly but were reprimanded.

Mrs. Rowley later repeated the accusations before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Moussaoui, 33, was indicted in December by a federal grand jury in Alexandria on six counts of conspiracy and is awaiting trial. Four of the counts could bring the death penalty.

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