From the time she was eleven years old, Coleen was determined that she would one day become an FBI agent. In January of 1981, she was appointed a Special Agent with the FBI and initially served in the Omaha, Nebraska and Jackson, Mississippi Divisions. In 1984, she was assigned to the New York Office where, for more than 6 years, she worked on Italian organized crime and Sicilian heroin drug investigations. She had the opportunity to further her language proficiency in Italian at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California. She also served three separate temporary duty assignments in the Paris, France Embassy and the Montreal Consulate.
In 1990, Coleen was transferred to Minneapolis where she assumed the duties of Principal Legal Advisor (which later became "Chief Division Counsel"). Her responsibilities entailed oversight of the Freedom of Information, Forfeiture, Victim-Witness and Community Outreach Programs as well as providing regular legal and ethics training to FBI Agents of the Division and some outside police training.
In May of 2002, Coleen brought some of the pre 9/11 lapses in the investigation of Zacarias Moussaoui to light. The 9/11 Commission subsequently described Moussaoui as an ï¿½Al Qaeda mistake and missed opportunity,ï¿½ the investigation of whom may have led to the center of the Al Qaeda plot if it had been pursued in a timely and effective manner.
In June of 2002, Coleen testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee about some of the endemic problems faced by the FBI and the intelligence community.
In April 2003, following an unsuccessful attempt to warn the Director and other administration officials about the dangers of launching the invasion of Iraq, she "stepped down" from her legal position and returned to being an FBI Special Agent.