Thursday, December 22, 2005

A tale of two Chertoffs

Johnny Carson started his TV career as the host of the show, "Who do you Trust?" One answer that is clearly wrong is "Michael Chertoff."

From the AP via The Guardian (anybody see this in the US press? h/t Melanie):
Internal meeting notes released by a union official say Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told employees that many changes planned for federal disaster response were a public relations ploy.

The purported statements were in typed notes issued Tuesday by a union representative for federal emergency workers. A Homeland Security Department spokesman said Chertoff considers the post-Hurricane Katrina changes one of his highest priorities and never would have made such comments.

Under the heading "Retooling/Chertoff's remarks,'' the typed notes said, ``The re-tooling is partially a perception ploy to make outsiders feel like we've actually made changes for the better.''

The notes were released by Leo Bosner, president of the American Federation of Government Employees local that represents headquarters workers at the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA, once independent, is now part of the massive Homeland Security Department.

Bosner said he obtained the notes from another FEMA official, whom he would not identify.
Not surprisingly, Chertoff's spokesthing categorically denied it. Even more, Chertoff gave a speech Tuesday saying FEMA was due for a "radical" makeover.
"We will retool FEMA, maybe even radically, to increase our ability to deal with catastrophic events,'' he said in a 35-minute speech at George Washington University.
Chertoff offered no specifics for changing FEMA but said its employees must be given authority to cut through bureaucracy to assist disaster victims quickly.

His aides said changes will come early next year.

It was unclear whether any of the changes will require legislative action, or if Chertoff will move before Congress returns to Washington in late January. A special House inquiry of the government's response to Katrina, chaired by Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., is expected to issue its findings by Feb. 15.
Legislative action? Who needs Congress. We just heard from the Commander-in-Chief himself that the Afghanistan resolution gave him authority to do whatever he wants to to ensure the safety of the country. Since Homeland Security will be the Overlord Agency in a pandemic, they can march into a locality and take over from the state and local officials to maintain civil order. And they will decide when it needs to be done.

So which Chertoff do you trust? The one that says changes are just public relations? Or the one that says big changes are in the offing. None of the Above? or, All of the Above?