As New Orleans Drowned, Chertoff Was Focused On Avian Flu and Immigration


7AM: Katrina hits. Chertoff (not FEMA director Brown) is in charge of managing the national response.MORNING: Brown makes frantic calls to Chertoff: “I am having a horrible time….I can’t get a unified command established.”

(Knight-Ridder later reported, “Katrina…was a major concern, but not the only thing preoccupying Homeland Security officials.” Evidently it was quite low on the list; Bush called Chertoff as the hurricane made landfall to talk about immigration. )



MORNING: Chertoff goes on with business-as-usual, flying to Atlanta for a previously-scheduled briefing on avian flu.

AFTERNOON: Chertoff declares Katrina an “incident of national significance” and transfers full authority to FEMA Director Michael Brown.

Two weeks later Chertoff’s office insisted, “We pushed absolutely everything we could, every employee, every asset, every effort, to save and sustain lives.”

Evidently Chertoff wasn’t part of the “every employee” strategy.