F.B.I. Agent Who Wrote Critical Memo Retires From Agency at 50


New York Time

January 4, 2005

MINNEAPOLIS, Jan. 1 (AP) - A career F.B.I. agent who wrote a blistering memo to the agency's director alleging missteps by the bureau before the Sept. 11 attacks retired from the agency on Friday.

The agent, Coleen Rowley, retired 11 days after turning 50, when she became eligible for a full pension, The Star Tribune reported.

Ms. Rowley, who worked for the Federal Bureau of Investigation for 24 years, said she had no immediate plans, but would like to be considered for appointment to a new federal board that will ensure counterterrorism investigations and arrests do not infringe on people's rights. The law overhauling the intelligence apparatus directs the Department of Homeland Security to create the panel, called the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board.

Ms. Rowley was hailed by colleagues in Minneapolis in 2002 when she wrote a letter to the F.B.I. director, Robert S. Mueller III, accusing bureau headquarters of squandering a chance to unravel the Sept. 11 plot.

She charged that F.B.I. supervisors in Washington blundered when they blocked requests from Minneapolis agents for a special warrant to search the possessions of the terror suspect Zacarias Moussaoui, who had been learning to fly a 747 jumbo jet at a Minnesota flight school. Mr. Moussaoui is now the only figure facing trial in the United States in connection with the attacks.

"We have a culture in the F.B.I. that there's a certain pecking order and it's pretty strong, and it's very rare that somebody picks up the phone and calls a rank or two above themselves," she said at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in 2002.

In early 2003, however, Ms. Rowley angered fellow agents by making public a letter she wrote urging Mr. Mueller to oppose a United States invasion of Iraq. She argued that a war in Iraq could result in a "flood of terrorism" on a scale the bureau was not prepared to handle.

Ms. Rowley signed up for the F.B.I. in 1980 after earning a law degree from the University of Iowa, becoming one of the few female agents at the time. She worked on organized crime cases in New York City before transferring to Minneapolis.