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White House Rejects Charges FBI Unprepared to Deal With Terror Attacks - 2003-03-06

The White House is dismissing allegations from a veteran FBI agent who says U.S. officials are not prepared to deal with new terrorist attacks that she says would follow a U.S. war with Iraq.

FBI agent Coleen Rowley first came to the public's attention when she revealed how the bureau failed to follow up on evidence of a terrorist plot in the weeks before the September 2001 attacks in New York and Washington.

Now she has written to FBI Director Robert Mueller warning that the bureau will not be able to stem what she called "the flood of terrorism" that would likely follow a U.S. attack on Iraq.

In the letter, a copy of which Ms. Rowley released to The New York Times newspaper, she questions whether Director Mueller has made those concerns known to President Bush. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says Ms. Rowley's public letter is a "novel way" for an FBI agent to communicate with the president. He said Mr. Bush has confidence in all the steps the FBI has taken to improve security and called Ms. Rowley's suggestion that the president is out of touch an "entirely mistaken notion."

He says the president is "very well versed" in the threats facing the nation as he meets every morning with FBI officials who Mr. Fleischer says are doing their job "diligently."

If the president decides to use force against Iraq, Ms. Rowley says that would damage relationships with European intelligence agencies that are helping in the fight against terrorism.

France and Russia are threatening to block a new U.S.-backed resolution vowing to enforce earlier United Nations warnings of "serious consequences" if Iraq fails to disarm.