MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The Minneapolis FBI agent who publicly warned that an attack on Iraq might enlarge the threat of future terrorism, has been reassigned, at her request, from her post as the office's chief lawyer.
Coleen Rowley, who has served as chief division counsel for 12 years, asked Special Agent in Charge Deborah Pierce to shift her to an investigative position, an FBI spokesman said.
"This was special agent Rowley's personal decision," said Paul McCabe, a spokesman for the Minneapolis FBI office, making clear that the reassignment is not a reprisal or a demotion.
"She will assume her new duties in the near future," he said.
Rowley was named one of Time Magazine's three "Persons of the Year" in December for her decision last year to publicly criticize FBI headquarters' handling of the pre-Sept. 11 investigation of Zacarias Moussaoui, who was arrested in the Twin Cities. After the Sept. 11 attacks, Moussaoui was charged with six counts conspiracy in the terror plot.
She accused the bureau of blocking the field office's attempts to obtain a warrant to search Moussaoui's belongings, which later were found to contain clues to the suicide hijackers.
While her action drew widespread praise, some present and former FBI agents criticized her.
Their criticism grew this month after she gave the Star Tribune and the New York Times copies of a letter she had sent to FBI Director Robert Mueller, in which she expressed fear that a war with Iraq would lead to a "flood of terrorism" on a scale the bureau is unprepared to handle.
Nancy Savage, president of the 11,000-member Federal Bureau of Investigation Agents Association, said the public comments "from an admitted non-terrorism expert" were "demoralizing to the many FBI employees who have been achieving significant successes in this area."
Rowley declined to comment on the reasons she sought reassignment.
McCabe said Rowley requested reassignment shortly after making her Feb. 26 letter public.
Former Minneapolis agent Dennis Sackreiter said that Pierce, the special agent in charge, disclosed that Rowley was being reassigned at a meeting of former FBI agents in Minneapolis last Friday.
Sackreiter said he wasn't surprised. He said Rowley "breached" the confidentiality that goes with her job as legal adviser.
"I don't know how it will be for other agents that have to work with her," Sackreiter said. "I would have problems. I believe the FBI has to speak with one voice, not with 10,000 voices."
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