Seattle officials were warned more than two weeks before the World Trade Organization conference that violent or destructive criminal activity by protesters and anarchists was a "distinct possibility."

The warning was contained in a classified FBI counterterrorism threat assessment given to Seattle police and other law enforcement agencies that participated in WTO security planning.

It calls into question statements by Seattle Mayor Paul Schell and police officials who repeatedly said they were surprised by the extent and nature of the violent protests that disrupted the WTO meeting last month.

A copy of the FBI report was obtained by the Seattle Times.

The report also called attention to an incident one month before the WTO conference that gave Seattle police a picture of the vandalism and violence that would play itself out on the streets.

FBI officials attributed a Nov. 1 fire-bombing at the downtown Gap store to the Animal Liberation Front, a violent animal rights group, or anarchists. "Both of these movements are expected to mount protests during the WTO meeting," the report said.

Bob Royer, a spokesman for Schell, said that Assistant Police Chief Ed Joiner, the head of WTO security planning, has said many times that the FBI threat assessment was accurate.

"We thought we could handle it," Royer said, referring to the protests.

But Schell was forced to declare a state of emergency and call in the National Guard in a crackdown that has unsettled the city. Nearly 600 people were arrested as protesters and bystanders alike were swept up in the police action.

The fallout led to the pending retirement of Police Chief Norm Stamper and forced Schell to defend the city's WTO planning against widespread criticism.