Saturday, September 09, 2006

Fran Speaks on Homeland Security

Fresh from her profiling in Time magazine, Frances Townsend hosted Ask the White House on Friday, just before the fifth anniversary of 9-11. Her comments are telling.

Marcus, from Princeton, New Jersey writes:
Ms Townsend: In the 911 Commission report, the statement is made that: as has always been the case in the past, the 'first' first responders in any future catastrophe will be civilians in the immediate vicinity. What is the Whitehouse and the President doing to make it clear to every American that the need to be prepared and ready, willing and able to respond in the event of another catastrophe, whether that be from the War on Terrorism or a natural disaster?

Fran Townsend

Marcus, given the threats that we face in the 21st century there is a need for all elements of our Nation – from Federal, State and local governments, to the private sector and down to individual citizens – to help create and share responsibilities in a Culture of Preparedness. This is a critical lesson we learned in the Katrina Lessons Learned Report. But as you well observe, this culture of preparedness must apply to all catastrophes and to all hazards, natural or manmade, including the War on Terror.

The President has directed the Secretary of Homeland Security to make citizen and community preparedness a National priority. As part of this effort, Secretary Chertoff has established programs such as Citizen Corp, and to ensure that all Americans know they must be ready to respond to any disaster. And we will continue to our efforts to promote and strengthen citizen and community preparedness to provide all elements of our Nation the preparedness tools they need.

How does one achieve a Culture of Preparedness, the “critical” lesson from Hurricane Katrina? How do citizens in the area evacuate hospital and nursing home patients from dead hospitals? Fran’s lessons learned report is clear as mud on that issue. It is hard to have a Culture of Preparedness when the federal government isn’t prepared to talk about the issue, much less answer questions. Fran’s culture omitted the deaths of 24 patients in Carlyle affiliate LifeCare hospital in New Orleans. Not one mention in nearly 300 pages. It suggests a Culture of Political Connections.

Later in the interview Fran responded to the leaking of classified information.

Fran Townsend
Leaks of classified information are devastating to our ability to protect the American people. Revealing classified counterterrorism tools allows our enemies to develop techniques that defeat those tools and put the country at risk. As you know, the leaking of classified information is also a crime which we pursue aggressively.

This past week the leaker of the CIA agent’s name in 2003 came to light. Over three years after the event, he self-revealed his role in the event. It did not come from a CIA, Justice Department or Homeland Security investigation. It occurred during a TV interview. There were no police or intelligence officials standing by to arrest him.

Of course the President and Vice President in the unitary executive can declassify information for political purposes, thus making such an event “not a crime”. What happened to the good ole days where information met agreed up criteria, a standard for declassification with politics not on the list?

Near the end of her online time she took another Katrina question.

Charles, from San Antonio writes:
Has your office documented progress against each of the 125 Katrina recommendations?

Fran Townsend

Thanks for your question, Charles. Members of my staff are tracking progress on all the recommendations from the Katrina Lessons Learned report. Because implementing 125 recommendations is an enormous undertaking and because we wanted to ensure the federal government was better prepared for the 2006 hurricane season, in the epilogue we called out approximately a dozen recommendations for immediate attention. I am happy to report that those recommendations have been fully implemented by the Department of Homeland Security and continuing progress is being made on the others.

What are the plans to evacuation hospital and nursing home patients both pre and post storm? The group that backfilled this role for hospitals was a trade association, the Louisiana Hospital Association. This also received no mention in Fran’s Lessons Learned Report. How has the Department fully implemented or made progress on plans to evacuate the medically fragile?

For Fran to be such a straight shooter, many questions remain unanswered. Her reputation may not be deserved after all.

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