Notes from a meeting, released yesterday by a union representative for federal emergency workers, say that Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told employees that changes planned after Katrina were "partially a perception ploy to make outsiders feel like we've actually made changes for the better."
Lee Bosner, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents FEMA workers, says he obtained the typed notes from an unnamed FEMA official. A spokesman for Chertoff denied that the Homeland Security secretary had made any such remarks. According to Bosner's source, the remarks were made in the past week. Chertoff is also alleged to have said that FEMA is not a response agency for disasters; "we essentially should be only doing recovery."
The plan, according to the notes, is for a Coast Guard admiral to be placed in a number of major cities, and that person would handle disaster response.
Bearing in mind that we do not have proof of the veracity of the notes, it is nevertheless becoming increasingly difficult to trust Chertoff with regard to FEMA, let alone other matters. It was Chertoff, who, during the midst of the New Orleans crisis, said he was unaware that people were dying in the Superdome. It was Chertoff who saw fit to allow former FEMA director Michael Brown to do nothing while people on the Gulf Coast drowned, went hungry and thirsty, and had no medical care.
There is no doubt that one of the this administration's objectives has been to weaken FEMA, and there is no reason to believe it is now sincere about strengthening it again.