Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Chertoff says Blanco, Nagin not to blame.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff disagreed on Wednesday with a charge by the former top federal disaster official that state and local authorities were to blame for the botched response to Hurricane Katrina.

Chertoff told a House of Representatives special committee investigating the highly criticized government response to the hurricane that he had no difficulty dealing with Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco and other state officials.

"My own view is this, I‘ve got to get my own house in order," Chertoff said. "I am not here to judge others. I did not have a problem with state and local officials."

Michael Brown, who quit as Federal Emergency Management Agency director under fire for his agency‘s slow response to the hurricane, told the committee last month that Louisiana officials were "dysfunctional."

In contrast, Chertoff said devastation caused by the storm overwhelmed the disaster-relief system. Some response systems were improved by the time hurricane Rita hit a few weeks later, Chertoff said, but he said FEMA still needs to be retooled.

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