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Former FEMA Director Michael Brown Testifies Before Senate Homeland Security Committee

Aired February 10, 2006 - 10:00   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: The U.S. Commerce Department says the $725 billion deficit was driven by a record imports of oil, food, cars and other consumer goods. It also marked a 17 percent increase over the 2004 deficit which set a record of its own.
Let's go live to Capitol Hill and listen to former FEMA Director Michael Brown, who was just sworn in before the Senate Homeland Security Committee. Let's listen in.


MICHAEL BROWN, FORMER FEMA DIRECTOR: ... 1989 a congressman wrote a letter to "The Washington Times" and that letter said that there's a fatal flaw if we separate preparedness from response. That congressman's name was Tom Ridge. We reached that fatal flaw in 2003 when FEMA was folded into the Department of Homeland Security.

I would encourage the committee to look at a 1978 study done by the National Governor's Association in which, and I'll quote very briefly, "as the task of the projects were pursued, it became evident that the major finding of this study is that many state emergency operations are fragmented.

This is not only because uncoordinated federal programs encourage state fragmentation, but because the strong relationship of long-term recovery and mitigation of future disasters must be tied to preparedness and response for more immediate disasters and that is not always adequately understood."

Madam Chairman, I tell you that what occurred after FEMA was folded into the Department of Homeland Security, there was a cultural clash which didn't recognize the absolute inherent science of preparing for disaster, responding to it, mitigating against future disasters and recovering from disasters.

And any time that you break that cycle of preparing, responding, recovering and mitigating, you're doomed to failure. And the policies and the decisions that were implemented by DHS put FEMA on a path to failure. And I think the evidence that we'll have before you today will show the actions that were taken that caused that failure -- and I beg this committee to take corrective action to fix that so these disasters don't occur in the future. Thank you.


PATRICK RHODE, FORMER FEMA CHIEF OF STAFF: Good morning, Madam Chairman, Senator Lieberman, senators. I would like to make just a very brief opening statement if I could.

My name is Patrick Rhode. I serve as chief of staff of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, part of the Department of Homeland Security, from April 2003 until January of 2006. I served under both former Director Brown and the current acting director, David Paulison.

I'm happy to be appearing before you today voluntarily as you continue your important work in reviewing the collective governmental response to Hurricane Katrina and assessing possible changes in emergency management.

At the outset, I would like to observe, if I could, that Hurricane Katrina was a truly catastrophic event. It was an American tragedy on numerous levels. The magnitude of the disaster was unlike anything we had previously faced as a nation. The storm compromised 90,000 square miles of the United States Gulf Coast, an area almost the size of Great Britain.

On the professional level of emergency management, it was unprecedented. On the personal level, my heart went out to those who were suffering and indeed my heart still goes out to those who continue to deal with the aftermath of Katrina.

Many people in the emergency management community, including myself, tried to do the very best they could under very difficult circumstances. The dedicated public servants working on this issue at the federal, state and local level were doing their very best to help as many people as they could under the existing framework for emergency management.

As in all things, there are lessons to be learned from this experience. I hope that these hearings will produce just such learning and lead to the creation of new legislation that can improve on the current system of disaster management.

If we can apply those lessons to make things better for the next emergency situation, I want to do all that I can to contribute appropriately to that effort.

As you know, in addition to appearing here today voluntarily, I have fully cooperated with your staffs by participating willingly in several interviews with them.

In addition, I would like respectfully to note that any statements I offer today in response to questions about how to improve the emergency management system are the opinions of one private citizen. As I sit before you today, I'm no longer a government employee but have returned to private life with my wife and six-month- old daughter.

I do not and cannot speak for FEMA. Anything I have to offer is my own personal opinion for whatever the committee may deem it to be worth. And I want to take care to be clear that it does not reflect the official views of the agency or the federal government. In short, I applaud the committee for taking on the challenges of assessing what kind of support is needed for and what changes should be made to the country's emergency management system. I am hopeful that together we can contribute to enhancements and improvements that best assist disaster victims in the future. With that, I welcome any questions or comments you may have.

COLLINS: Thank you, Mr. Rhode.

Mr. Brown, in my opening statement, I mentioned a study that you commissioned from the Mitre Corporation. It's under Exhibit Two in the exhibit book. Mitre Corporation gave you it's findings on March 2005. And I'd like to read just some of the key findings of this consultant.

Unclear lines of responsibility lead to inconsistent accountability. There is no deputy to you with operational experience and there are too many political appointees. Not enough senior management emergency experts. Lack of adequate and consistent situational awareness across the enterprise.

I also mentioned that earlier in 2004, that a group of senior FEMA operational professionals, the federal coordinating officers cadre, wrote to you a memo outlining their grave concerns. The memo cautions of unprepared teams and zero funding for training, exercises and team equipment. It is suggested re-establishing a single response and recovery division at FEMA to facilitate the refocusing that is necessary to regain some of the efficiency that has been lost at FEMA.

We've received testimony that in response to both of these warnings, which were very explicit and identifying serious problems within FEMA, that you did not take any action. My first question for you is, what action did you take in response to the warnings from these senior career people and the outside consultant?

BROWN: Madam Chairman, the first thing I think the committee needs to understand is that I indeed did commission those studies. In fact, I asked for both of those documents from the FCOs and from the Mitre Corporation. We had to literally go scrape together the money just to get the initial work done by Mitre.

But I had come to this conclusion. After three years of fighting the articles you see in "The Washington Post" about my attempts to try to get the FEMA mission put back on track and how that was rebuffed consistently by the Department of Homeland Security, did I reach this conclusion. That in order for FEMA to work effectively, I had to have something that would give a road map to either future FEMA directors, because I was intending to leave, and or to the Department of Homeland Security, other than me saying it, that would point out these problems.

As I said, we had to fight to get the money just to do the Mitre study. Once we received the Mitre study, we were in the process of trying to figure out how to complete that, get that into a document that would say, here's what we need to do, a, b, c, so I could present that to Secretary Ridge and then Secretary Chertoff to implement those. We were never given the money. We were never given the resources. We were never given the opportunity to implement any of those recommendations.

COLLINS: So you're testifying that you were rebuffed in your efforts to remedy these problems by the Department of Homeland Security. Did you ever discuss these concerns about budget, authority, organization personnel, with individuals at the White House?

BROWN: Yes, ma'am, I did.

COLLINS: And with whom did you discuss those concerns?

BROWN: I discussed those concerns with several members of the president's senior staff.

COLLINS: And would you identify with whom you discussed those concerns?

BROWN: Before I do, Madam Chairman, may I just make a few comments and ask for the committee's recommendation.

COLLINS: Certainly.

BROWN: On February 6, 2006, my counsel, Andy Lester of Lester, Loving and Davies, sent to Harriet Miers, counsel to the president, a letter requesting direction for what I should do when or if this kind of question is posed to me by the committee. Like Patrick, I'm a private citizen. The president has the right to invoke executive privilege in which confidential communications between his senior advisers are not subject to public scrutiny or discussion.

It's my belief, Madam Chairman, that I don't have the right of executive privilege. That I cannot invoke that. Yet I understand that the president, the White House, the executive, is a co-equal branch of government and that right of executive privilege resides with the president.

I also recognize that as a private citizen I am here to truthful and honestly answer any questions you may ask. So in response to the letter, which did not -- and I want to make sure we understand, the letter did not request that I be granted the executive privilege.

The letter requested guidance on what the other equal branch of government wanted me to say or not say when these kinds of questions were posed. So despite reports in the press to the contrary, the letter speaks for itself. It did not request executive privilege but guidance.

I received that guidance by letter again to counsel to Mr. Lester from White House Counsel Harriet Miers in a letter dated February 9, 2006. And I'll just read you the last paragraph.

"The president's views regarding these executive branch interests have not changed. I appreciate that your client is sensitive to the interests implicated by potential disclosure of confidential communications to which he was a party, as a senior official in the administration, as reflected in his recent responses to congressional committees and their staffs, and request that he observe his past practices with respect to those communications."

In my opinion, Chairman Collins, the letter does not answer our request for direction on what is to be done. So I am here as a private citizen stuck between two equal branches of government. One which is requesting that you're not going to invoke executive privilege but that I respect the confidentiality of the concept of executive privilege.

And on the other hand, appearing before you, again as a co-equal branch of government, under oath, sworn to tell the truth, without guidance from either one.

So, Madam Chairman, I would ask you for guidance on what you would like Michael Brown, private citizen of the United States, to do in this regard?

COLLINS: Does the letter that you have from the White House counsel direct you to assert executive privilege with respect to your conversations with senior administration officials?

BROWN: It does not and nor do I believe that I have the right to assert that privilege on behalf of the president. I am a private citizen.

COLLINS: Does -- has the White House counsel orally directed you to assert executive privilege with respect to those conversations you've had with senior administration officials?

BROWN: They have not to me and, to the best of my knowledge, they have not directed that to my counsel either. That's correct.

COLLINS: These conversations clearly could be subject to an assertion of executive privilege. In fact, if such a privilege were to be asserted by the White House, I would, in all likelihood, rule that the privilege applied to those conversations and I would instruct you not to answer the questions so that we could further explore the privilege issue with the White House.

However, in the case of conversations between the presidential advisers, the privilege is for the executive branch to assert, not the legislative branch. And because you have testified that the White House counsel's office has chosen not to assert this privilege, there is no basis for you to decline to answer the question about your conversations with presidential advisers. So I would direct you to respond to the question.

MALE: Madam Chairman.

COLLINS: Senator Stevens.

SEN. TED STEVENS, (R) Alaska: Has anyone contacted the staff or yourself from the White House requesting that executive privilege be recognized in this hearing? COLLINS: Yes. I had a lengthy discussion last night with the White House counsel in which I advised her to either send Mr. Brown a clear letter asserting executive privilege or to send it to this committee, or to have a member of the White House counsel's office present today to object to questions. And Ms. Miers declined to do either.

STEVENS: Well, I just want to say for the record, as the former general counsel of an executive department, I believe executive privilege is in the best interest of the country. And in a situation like this, if this witness testifies and there's a difference of opinion, then we're faced with a question of whether the White House wants to send someone down to challenge the statements been made.

I think it's very difficult ground we're on. I don't know where Mr. Brown's going, but it does worry me that there is a legitimate basis for executive privilege. If they have not asserted it to you, then that's their problem.

COLLINS: The senator is correct and I invited the White House the provide me with that assertion last night. They declined to do so. I invited the White House to have an attorney present to make the assertion. I have reviewed the letter and we will put both the letter from Mr. Brown's lawyer and Ms. Miers' response into the record. And the letter does not assert the executive privilege.

STEVENS: Is there White House counsel present?

COLLINS: There is not a White House counsel present that I am aware of. I suspect there are White House staffers here, however.


COLLINS: Senator Lieberman.

LIEBERMAN: Madam Chairman, if I may.

First I want to tell you, I both appreciate and support your ruling in the context of even if executive privilege had been asserted, we are a co-equal branch of government. And, in this case, we are doing an investigation on a totally nonpartisan basis that goes to the heart of the public safety of the American people. So we have an interest in obtaining the truth. We're not out to get anybody, we're out to get the truth.

But in this -- that would be my opinion even if executive privilege had been asserted. But executive privilege has not been asserted and, therefore, I think the privilege and responsibility, let alone the right of Congress as representatives of the American people to get the whole truth about Katrina, really is the priority value that we have to honor. And I thank you, Madam Chairman, for doing exactly that in your ruling.

COLLINS: Mr. Brown, I would direct you to answer the question. And I am going to reclaim the time that I had -- before we had to resolve this issue. BROWN: And, Chairman Collins, I'm happy to answer those questions.

Could you restate the question?

COLLINS: I asked you with whom you talked at the White House about the budget authority and personnel problems that you perceived were hindering your ability to carry out your mission.

BROWN: At various times I had conversations with Deputy White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolton before he moved over to OMV. And I had numerous conversations with Deputy White House Chief of Staff Joe Hagin and occasionally conversations with Chief of Staff Andy Card. I've also had conversations with both former White House Homeland Security Adviser General John Gordon and with current Homeland Security Adviser Fran Townsend.

COLLINS: Thank you.

Mr. Brown, Exhibit Six is a series of e-mails about conditions in New Orleans on Monday morning. We know from testimony before this committee that Marty Bahamonde of FEMA saw -- first received a report of the levees breaching on Monday morning at about 11:00. He later in the day over flew the area and saw it firsthand.

The e-mails also talk about all of the other problems in the city. By 10:00 on that Monday morning, August 29, you had received a report from Mr. Bahamonde that there was already severe flooding in the area. That the water level was "up to the second floor of the two-story houses, that people were trapped in attics and that the pumps for the levees were starting to fail."

What action did you take in response to that information and to pass that information along to the secretary of homeland security?

BROWN: Two things, Chairman Collins. The first and foremost, I alerted headquarters as to those reports and asked them to get in contact with Marty to confirm those reports. And I also put a call in and spoke to -- I believe it was Deputy Chief of Staff Hagin, on at least two occasions on that day to inform him of what was going on.

COLLINS: Was there anyone else that you called at the White House to inform them of these developments?

BROWN: It would have been either Andy Card or Joe Hagin.

COLLINS: DHS officials tell us that they did not know of the severity of the situation in New Orleans until Tuesday morning. That's almost 24 hours after you received the information that I referred to about the severe flooding in New Orleans. They also assert that they believe you failed to make sure that they were getting this very critical information. I'd like you to respond to that criticism.

BROWN: First and foremost, I find it a little disingenuous that DHS would claim that they were not getting that information, because FEMA held continuous video telephone conferences -- I'll refer to them as VTCs -- in which at least once a day, if not several times a day, we would be on conference calls and video calls to make certain that everyone had situational awareness.

Now I'm sitting in Baton Rouge, so I'm not sure at all time whose is on the video conference, on the VTC. But the record indicates that on numerous occasions at least Deputy Secretary Jackson and at least Matthew Broderick (ph) or Bob Stephan (ph), someone from the HSOC, the Homeland Security Operation Center, is in on those conversations on those VTCs. So for them to now claim that we didn't have awareness of it, I think, is just baloney. They should have had awareness of it because they were receiving the same information that we were.

It's also my understanding that Mr. Rhode, or someone else on his behalf, sent an e-mail either directly to the DHS chief of staff or perhaps to the HSOC, about that information. But in terms of my responsibility, much like I had operated successfully in Florida, my obligation was to the White House to make certain that the president understood what was going on and what the situation was. And I did that. And the VTCs were the operational construct by which DHS would get that situational awareness. They would get that through those VTCs.

COLLINS: Mr. Rhode, were you aware of when the levees had broken on Monday morning? And what did you do with the information? First, when where you aware of the problems with the flooding as a result of the levees breaching?

RHODE: Madam Chairman, I believe that I first heard about the issues with the levee, at least partial information, during the early hours of Monday morning or midmorning, I want to say. Somewhere between 9:00, 10:00, or so. I believe that I came across an e-mail that was sent to me that suggested that perhaps there was a levee breach. I don't think there was a whole lot more information than that.

And I endeavored to -- as was always my practice whenever someone was sending me operational information, I tried to make sure that that information made it directly to the operators. Our protocol within FEMA was to make sure that the operation team had any sort of situational information.

Again, my role was in Washington, D.C.. I was not in Louisiana. But as that information became available and as I became aware of it, I wanted to make sure that the operations team had it within Washington so that it could then be transmitted to the Homeland Security Operation Center, as there were many situational reports, obviously, throughout the day.

COLLINS: But that's exactly why I'm asking you. You were in Washington.

RHODE: Yes, ma'am.

COLLINS: You were now the top FEMA official. Did you take any steps to ensure that Secretary Chertoff was aware of this information? RHODE: As the information became more and more apparent, Marty Bahamonde later that day -- or helped orchestrate a conference call that I participated in. And at the conclusion of that conference call, I sent a letter to the department -- or sent an e-mail to the Department of Homeland Security, in addition to what I thought was operational people that were also on that call that were making sure the Homeland Security Operation Center had that information.

COLLINS: Mr. Brown, it isn't only DHS officials who say that they were unaware until Tuesday that the levees had collapsed. I've also been told that exact same thing by Admiral Timothy Keating (ph), the head of northern command, who is responsible for homeland defense for DOD. He, in an interview, told me that he was not aware until Tuesday morning that the levees had breached and that the city had flooded. Was there any communication from you or did you take any steps to ensure that northern command was informed of this catastrophic development?

BROWN: I would have not, at that point, have called Admiral Keating directly. But with -- through the FEMA operation center, there is a military liaison there. So they would have had that same operational situational awareness to pass back up their chain of command so that Admiral Keating or Secretary Rumsfeld or any of those could have had that same situational awareness.

COLLINS: What is so troubling is we have heard over and over again from top DHS officials, from top DOD officials, from the leadership throughout the administration, that they were simply unaware of how catastrophic the hurricane's impact had been because of the breaching of the levee. How -- can you help us understand this enormous disconnect between what was happening on the ground, a city 80 percent flooded, uncontrolled levees, people dying, people -- thousands of people waiting to be rescued, and the official reaction among many of the key leaders in Washington and in northern command that somehow New Orleans had dodged the bullet?

BROWN: Chairman Collins, there is a -- let me frame an answer a little different way. It's my belief that had there been a report come out from Marty Bahamonde that said, yes, we've confirmed that a terrorist has blown up the 17th Street Canal Levee, then everybody would have jumped all over that and been trying to do everything they could. But because this was a natural disaster, that has become the stepchild within the Department of Homeland Security.

And so you now have these two systems operating, one which cares about terrorism and FEMA and our state and local partners who are trying to approach everything from all hazards. And so there's this disconnect that exists within the system that we've created because of DHS.

All they had to do was to listen to those VTCs and pay attention to those VTCs and they would have known what was going on. And, in fact, I e-mailed a White House official that evening about how bad it was, making sure that they knew, again, how bad that it was. Identifying that we were going to have environmental problems and housing problems and all of those kinds of problems. So it doesn't surprise me that DHS officials would say, well we weren't aware. You know, they're off doing other things. It's a natural disaster, so we're just going to allow FEMA to do all of that. That had become the mentality within the department.

COLLINS: Senator Lieberman.

LIEBERMAN: Thanks, Madam Chairman.

Thanks for your cooperation, Mr. Brown. We're going to get back to those comments. Obviously our hope was that the department would be ready to deal with natural disasters and terrorist attacks and the impact of a terrorist bomb on the levees would have been exactly the same as the flood -- as the hurricane was to flooding the city.

Let me go back to that day, because this is very important and your comments just now highlight it. And this is about Marty Bahamonde. He takes the two helicopter flights, 5 p.m., 6:00 p.m. Central Time. He sees the devastation and he told us that immediately after those helicopter rides, he called you and reported his findings to you. Is it correct that Mr. Bahamonde told you that during the helicopter rides on that Monday evening he could see New Orleans flooding?

BROWN: That's correct.

LIEBERMAN: Is it also correct that Mr. Bahamonde told you that during the helicopter ride he could see that the leveed had broken. Is that right?

BROWN: That's correct.

LIEBERMAN: Mr. Bahamonde told us that after he finished giving you that devastating information, you said you were going to call the White House. In your staff interview, you said that you did have a conversation with a White House official on Monday evening, August 29th, regarding Bahamonde's flyover. Who was that White House official?

BROWN: Two responses, Senator Lieberman. There is an e-mail, and I don't remember who the e-mail was to, but it's in response to the information that Marty has given to me. In my e-mail -- because I recall this quite vividly, I'm calling the White House now. And indeed . . .

LIEBERMAN: In other words, you were e-mailing somebody at the White House.

BROWN: No, I was actually e-mailing somebody in response to Marty's information...


BROWN: ... back to FEMA...

LIEBERMAN: Right. BROWN: ... in which I said: Yes, I'm calling the White House now. And I don't recall specifically who I called, but because of the pattern of how I usually interacted with the White House, my assumption is that I was probably calling and talking to Joe Hagin.

LIEBERMAN: Joe Hagin, who's the deputy chief of staff...

BROWN: Who was the deputy chief of staff who was at Crawford with the president on that day.

LIEBERMAN: He was at Crawford. And you called him -- it's surprising you wouldn't remember exactly. But to the best of your recollection, you called Joe Hagin. And is it right that you called him because he had some special responsibility for oversight of emergency management?

BROWN: No, it's because I had a personal relationship with Joe, and Joe understands emergency management. Number one.

Number two, he's at Crawford with the president.

LIEBERMAN: Got it. And you quite appropriately and admirably wanted to get the word to the president...

BROWN: That's correct.

LIEBERMAN: ... as quickly as you could.

Did you tell Mr. Hagin in that phone call that New Orleans was flooding?

BROWN: I think I told him that we were realizing our worst nightmare, that everything we had planned about, worried about, that FEMA, frankly, had worried about for 10 years was coming true.

LIEBERMAN: Do you remember if you told him that the levees had broken?

BROWN: Being on a witness stand I feel obligated to say that I don't recall specifically saying those words. But it was that New Orleans is flooding, it's the worst-case scenario.

LIEBERMAN: Right. And maybe that's the bottom line, that you said this was the worst-case scenario, the city of New Orleans is flooding.

Did you ask Mr. Hagin for any particular action by the White House, the president, the administration in that phone call?

They always asked me: What do you need? Joe was very, very good about that.

The difference is, in 2004 -- the best way to describe it, Senator, if you'll bear with me for a minute -- is in 2004, during the hurricanes that struck Florida, I was asked that same question, "What do you need?" And I specifically asked both Secretary Card and Joe Hagin that on my way from Andrews down to Punta Gorda, Florida, that the best thing they could do for me was to keep DHS out of my hair.

And if I could just finish...


BROWN: So what had changed between 2004 and 2005...

LIEBERMAN: Katrina, right?

BROWN: Yes. Between the hurricanes of '04 and now Katrina, was that there was now this mentality or this thinking that, no, now this time we were going to follow the chain of command.

LIEBERMAN: Which was -- put you in charge?

BROWN: Which put me in charge, but now I have to feed everything up through Chertoff or somehow through DHS.

LIEBERMAN: I got you.

BROWN: Which just bogged things down.

LIEBERMAN: So you don't have any recollection of specifically asking Mr. Hagin for the White House to take any action at that time.

BROWN: Nothing in specific. I just thought they needed to be aware of the situation.

LIEBERMAN: Understood.

Mr. Brown, on the evening of landfall you appeared on the 9 p.m. edition, that is that same evening, of MSNBC's "Rita Cosby Live & Direct." You said then, very explicitly, that you were deeply concerned about what was happening in New Orleans. And I quote, "It could be weeks and months before people are able to get back into some of these neighborhoods," end of quote, because of the flooding.

You also said, and I quote, that you "had already told the president tonight that we can anticipate a housing need here of at least in the tens of thousands," end of quote.

LIEBERMAN: You were correct.

Did you, in fact, speak to President Bush that night, August 29?

BROWN: I really don't recall if the president got -- I mean, normally during my conversations with Deputy Chief of Staff Hagin, sometimes the president would get on the phone for a few moments, sometimes he wouldn't. And I don't recall specifically that night whether he did or not.

But I never worried about whether I talked directly to the president because I knew that in speaking to Joe I was talking directly to the president.

LIEBERMAN: Well, it's surprising, again, to me, that you wouldn't remember whether the president was on your call to Joe Hagin.

BROWN: I don't want to appear arrogant, but I talked to the president a lot. And so sometimes when he's on the phone or not on the phone, I just wouldn't recall.

LIEBERMAN: All right.

So that maybe you were inflating a little bit or being loose with your language when you told MSNBC that you had already told the president that night about...

BROWN: No, because when I say that I've told the president -- if I've told Joe Hagin...

LIEBERMAN: I got it.

BROWN: ... or told Andy Card, I've told the president.

LIEBERMAN: Yes, I have this problem here in the Capitol, too, when somebody says, "Senator Warner told me to tell you," and then I found out it was a staff member...


... or I told Senator Warner.

BROWN: Well, you need to get as good staffers as Hagin and Card, because, trust me, they tell the president.

LIEBERMAN: OK. Let now, let me go to Secretary Chertoff, because you talked about the chain of command that you were asked to follow.

Did you speak to Secretary Chertoff after your call with Marty Bahamonde and tell him about the severity of the situation in New Orleans on Monday evening?

BROWN: I don't recall specifically if I talked to Chertoff on that day or not.

LIEBERMAN: Why would you not have if that was the chain of command?

BROWN: Because I'm still operating that I need to get things done, and the way I get things done is I request it from the White House and they happen.

LIEBERMAN: Well, then, did you tell anyone else at the Department of Homeland Security in a high position, Deputy Secretary Michael Jackson, for instance?

BROWN: I think that Michael and I may have had a conversation.

LIEBERMAN: Monday evening?


LIEBERMAN: Which would have been along the same lines.

BROWN: Exactly.

LIEBERMAN: Am I right that at some point on Monday evening there was either a phone conference call or a video conference call that you were on reporting on the situation from New Orleans?


LIEBERMAN: And do you know whether anybody from the Department of Homeland Security was on that call?

BROWN: They were on all the calls.

LIEBERMAN: OK. Secretary Chertoff on that call? Don't remember.

BROWN: I don't recall.

LIEBERMAN: Do you know where he was that evening?

BROWN: As I went back through my e-mails, I discovered that he was either gone or going to Atlanta, to visit the FEMA Region 4 offices and to visit CDC.

LIEBERMAN: We're going to ask him about that. Because, obviously, the number one man in terms of the responsibility for the federal government response to this disaster, for some reason did not appreciate that it was such a disaster, that he got on a plane and went to Atlanta for a conference on avian flu.

I want to go back to Sunday, the day before. Am I right that there was a video teleconference on that Sunday in which President Bush and Secretary Chertoff were on the conference?

BROWN: I specifically recall the president being on the conference because he was in the skiff (ph) at Crawford.


BROWN: But I don't specifically recall seeing Secretary Chertoff on the screen.


And on that Sunday video conference call, am I right you were still in Washington then?

BROWN: That's correct. I left that afternoon.

LIEBERMAN: But you described the catastrophic implications of the kind of hurricane that Dr. Max Mayfield and all the other forecasters were predicting that day.

BROWN: I told the staff -- and if you don't have the transcripts of that VTC, then we need to get them for you.

LIEBERMAN: No, I want to give you a phrase. You described it as a "catastrophe within a catastrophe."

BROWN: That's correct.

This was why I was screaming and hollering about getting money to do catastrophic disaster planning. This is why I specifically wanted to do New Orleans as the first place to do that. This is why I was so furious that once we were able to do Hurricane Pam that I was rebuffed on getting the money to do the follow-on. This is why I told the staff during that video conference call...

LIEBERMAN: The day before the hurricane.

BROWN: ... the day before the hurricane struck that I expected them to cut every piece of red tape, do everything they could, that it was balls to the wall, that I didn't want to hear anybody say that we couldn't do anything -- to do everything they humanly could to respond to this, because I knew in my gut, Senator, this was the bad one.

LIEBERMAN: Thanks, Mr. Brown.

Time's up for me.

COLLINS: Senator Coleman?

SEN. NORMAN COLEMAN (R), MINNESOTA: Thank you, Madam Chair.

And, again, like, I think, all my other colleagues, my thanks to you for your leadership. This has been extraordinary.

I have to make a couple of observations, as I listen to testimony, Madam Chair.

We hear a lot and we've seen in this committee a lot of discussion about structural problems. We've had hearings where local folks and federal folks and state folks all pointed at each other and saying, "Well, they were in charge, they were in charge."

Any time you get a disaster like this, a disaster not just of Katrina, but the disaster of the response, you get the analysis that we're getting here, of literally hundreds of thousands of pages of review of information.

But I'm going to be very, very blunt here. What we had -- and having been a mayor and been involved in situations that could have been terrible, that weren't so terrible -- in the end, when things go bad, we do the analysis and we see all the structural inadequacies. But when you have good leadership oftentimes even with structural inadequacies things don't go bad.

And my sense as I listen to this is we had almost the perfect storm of poor leadership. We had a governor who was indecisive, met with the president, met with the mayor and didn't make a decision; wanted more time. We had a mayor, though well-intentioned, is holed up in a hotel room without communications; again, good intentions, wants to know what's going on, on the ground, but nobody's in charge.

And, Mr. Brown, the concern that I have is, you know, from your perspective I'm hearing "balls to the walls," but I'm looking at e- mails and lack of responsiveness. Marty Bahamonde, on sending an e- mail about situation past critical -- this is on Wednesday at this time -- hotels kicking people out, dying patients. And your response is: "Thanks for the update, anything I need to do to tweak?"

We have questions on...

BROWN: Senator, with all due respect, you take that out of context. Because you do that on the fly saying, "Yes, is there anything else I need to tweak?" And what you ignore is what's done beyond that, which is calling the White House, talking to the operations people and making certain that things are getting done.

And I'm, frankly, getting sick and tired of these e-mails being taken out of context with words like,"What do I need to tweak?" Because I need to know: Is there something else that I need to tweak? And that doesn't even include all of the other stuff that's going on, Senator.

So with all due respect, don't draw conclusions from an e-mail.

COLEMAN: And, Mr. Brown, I would maintain that, in fact, the context of the e-mails are very clear: that they show a lack of responsiveness, that they show a disconnect. That's the context.

I'm not going to take individual ones. But if you look at the entire context of the e-mail discussion, you're getting information on Monday, 11:57, a message saying, "New Orleans reported 20-foot wide breach. It's 11:57." E-mail, not out of context, coming back, saying, "I'm told here water not over the breach." At that point, obviously, it hasn't hit the fan for you.

And so I don't think it's out of context. I think the context of the e-mails -- and not just the e-mails, by the way, but the things that we as Americans saw. To me it's absolutely still stunning that on -- you got people at a convention center that are suffering, all of American knows that. All you got to do is watch TV, doesn't matter what channel you watch.

And what we have you saying at that time is, "We've just learned" -- this is a CNN interview, September 1; not out of context -- "And so this, this catastrophic disaster, continues to grow. I will tell you this, though: Every person in that convention center, we just learned that today. And so I've directed we have all available resources."

I knew a couple of days ago...

BROWN: Senator? COLEMAN: And so let me finish the comment.

What I hear here is you saying, "Well, the structural problem follows with the MITRE report, in which it was laid out very clearly the structural inadequacies." And your testimony today is that you had conversations. You pushed that forward.

Can you show me where, either in the e-mails or in the record, your very clear directives to go, quote, "balls to the walls," to clear up this situation, to fix it? Do you have anything that I can look at as a former prosecutor in writing that gives substance to what you've testified to today?

BROWN: Absolutely. Absolutely.

I've testified in front of the House that I misspoke on that day regarding that e-mail. We learned about the convention center on Wednesday and we started -- because the convention center was not planned for. It was not planned for. It was not in anyone's plans, including the city and the state's.

And when we learned about it on Wednesday night we immediately started demanding the Army and resources to take care of that. And there are e-mails in the packages that you have where I'm screaming, "Where's the Army? I need the Army now. Why hasn't it shown up?"

And because I misspoke about when I learned about the convention center, after being up for 24 hours, you want to take that out of context. And, Senator, I'm not going to allow you to do that.

COLEMAN: Let me ask you about a conversation that Mayor Nagin came before us, this committee, and he talked about going over to Zephyr Stadium.

And Mayor Nagin's comments to this committee, and I quote, "I was so flabbergasted. I mean, we're in New Orleans. We're struggling. The city was touch and go as it relates to security. And when I flew out to Zephyr Stadium, to the Saints' facility, I got off the helicopter and just started walking around and I was awestruck.

We had been requesting portable lights for the Superdome because we were standing at night and all over. To make a long story short, there were rows of portable lights. We all knew sanitary conditions were so poor we wanted porta-toilets. They had them all over the place."

Were you with Mayor Nagin at the time?

BROWN: I don't know whether I was with him on that particular date or not. But I know the area he's talking about.

COLEMAN: And can you explain to this committee, if there had been obvious deep concerns about sanitary facilities, about lighting, why those facilities, those concerns, had not been met?

BROWN: Because the United States Army, the National Guard, was having difficulty getting those supplies into the Superdome.

You need that understand that there are media reports of shooting, there are media reports of looting and everything else going on. And if the Army moves in there, the Army kills people. And so they had to be very careful about moving those things in there.

By the same token, you had civilians who began to move things in there and couldn't get them there.

So, yes, there were things stockpiled, and as that supply chain continued to fill up, Zephyr Field was full of a lot of stuff. And those things were continuing to go on the other end, to get into the city.

And so for you to take a snapshot of Mayor Nagin going there and being there for a few minutes and seeing all of that, and him screaming in his typical way about, "I want all of this stuff in the city," again, is taking it out of context, Senator.

COLEMAN: When did you order that food and water be delivered into the convention center?

BROWN: The day that we learned about it, that Wednesday. We immediately ordered that stuff to be moved.

Whether it was or not -- whether it was actually done or not, is the question you should be asking. And if it wasn't, you need to be asking why. Because we didn't have the capacity within FEMA ourselves to do that, and we needed the 5th Army or the 1st Army to move that stuff in there.

Plus, I will also remind you that there's no...

COLEMAN: Mr. Brown, just on that point alone, and that's what my notes indicate, and I just wanted to check the records. Records that have been produced to the committee by DHS indicate that FEMA did not order -- did not order -- food and water for the convention center until 8 a.m. on Friday, September 2.

BROWN: I can tell you unequivocally, Senator, under oath, that the minute that I learned that there were people in the convention center, I turned to Bill Lokey, my individual, my operations person on the ground and said, "Get MREs, get stuff moving in there."

COLEMAN: Did you ever do any follow-up to find out whether that happened?

BROWN: Senator, I continued to do operations as best I could all along, throughout that time. And I would continually ask questions: "Are things happening? Are things happening? Are things happening?"

COLEMAN: The record is very clear as to when the order was given. It was given on Friday.

And my concern is this, Mr. Brown. Again, I understand there are structural problems. I understand some of the concerns that have been raised about the function of DHS and the integration of FEMA.

But as I listen to your testimony, you're not prepared to, kind of, put a mirror in front of your face and recognize your own inadequacies and say, "You know something? I made some big mistakes. I wasn't focused. I didn't get things done."

And instead, what you've got is, "I was going to -- the problems are structural. I knew it up front. I really tried to change it."

The record, the entirety of the record, doesn't reflect that. And perhaps you may get a more sympathetic hearing if you had a willingness to, kind of, confess your own sins in this.

Your testimony here is that you're going to communicate to the president as to what he understood. I'm not sure what you understood. I'm not sure you got it.

I've got to tell you the record, not the e-mails, but the record reflects that you didn't get it, or you didn't, in writing or some way, make commands that would move people to do what has to be done until way after it should have been done.

BROWN: Senator, with all due respect, what do you want me to say? I have admitted to mistakes publicly. I've admitted to mistakes in hearings. What more, Senator Coleman, do you want from me?

COLEMAN: Well, I think...

BROWN: What do you want from me? I'm asking you. What do you want from me?

COLEMAN: What I'm hearing today and what I heard from your testimony as coming in and talking about all these structural things that the die was cast. That was your testimony today. And by the way, I have my own questions about the integration of FEMA into DHS.

COLEMAN: But what I heard today from you, that the die was cast.

BROWN: It was.

COLEMAN: And what I'm saying, Mr. Brown, I'm saying that, in fact, no leadership makes a difference. You didn't provide the leadership. Even with structural infirmities, strong leadership can overcome that. And clearly that wasn't the case here.

BROWN: Well, Senator, that's very easy for you to say sitting behind that dais and not being there in the middle of that disaster watching that human suffering and watching those people dying and trying to deal with those structural dysfunctionalities, even within the federal government.

And I absolutely resent you sitting here saying that I lacked the leadership to do that, because I was down there pushing everything that I could. I've admitted to those mistakes. And if you want something else from me, put it on the table and you tell me what you want me to admit to. COLEMAN: A little more candor would suffice.

Thank you, Madam Chair.

BROWN: How much more -- what more candor -- ask me the question, Senator. Ask me the question.

COLEMAN: Thank you.

But I think my time is up.

Thank you, Madam Chair.

COLLINS: Senator Akaka?

SEN. DANIEL AKAKA (D), ALASKA: Thank you very much, Madam Chairman.

I want you to know that I admire your leadership and commend you and our ranking member for your leadership on pursuing these hearings for the sake of the security and safety of our country.

I agree with you, Madam Chairman, and with the ranking member that it is unfair to lay blame on the gross mismanagement of the disaster on one or two people. And I do not believe that Mr. Brown should be the scapegoat for all that went wrong.

BROWN: Thank you, Senator.

AKAKA: However, let me put it: You and Mr. Rhode were in charge of FEMA. And I can recall Harry Truman's statement that the buck stops here. And so you're it and the hearing is on you.

What happened to the people in Louisiana and throughout the Gulf Coast reinforces the need for qualified, experienced leaders in senior positions throughout the Department of Homeland Security. That is why I introduced legislation last fall to require minimum professional qualifications for most Senate-confirmed positions at DHS.

Nor should we forget that until 2003, FEMA was an independent Cabinet-level agency.

AKAKA: One of my reasons for voting against creating DHS was that FEMA would no longer operate independently. FEMA's activities and budget are controlled by the secretary of the department. We cannot forget the problems of FEMA, that they are the problems of DHS, and the ultimate responsibility of the commander in chief.

Mr. Brown, my question relates to a statement you made during your interview with the committee. When asked about whether you were keeping Secretary Chertoff apprised of the situation in New Orleans on Monday, the day the storm hit, you stated that you, and I quote, "did not believe that the department had any operational mandate at that point, and that if the secretary wants information about something, he can either call me directly or reach out to HSOC to get that information," unquote. My question to you is, wasn't it your responsibility as undersecretary to keep Secretary Chertoff informed on the developments of an ongoing crisis that involved multiple components of his agency? What's your comment on your responsibility on that?

BROWN: Yes, Senator, it is my responsibility to keep him informed and we have structures in place by which to do that. The HSOC and his representatives are involved on the VTCs, and he and I exchanged phone calls and talked at times to do that.

But when you're running operations, the primary responsibility has to be to run operations, and then you feed information as you should through the channels, through the VTCs, through the e-mails, through the situational reports that get to him.

And then, if he has questions about any of those sit reports that come to him, he can call me, or if there's something in the sit reports that I think is of particular interest to him, then I would call and tell him.

AKAKA: Mr. Brown, in your interview you referred to the so- called tax, so-called tax that FEMA was forced to pay when the department was first stood up and you were the deputy director of FEMA.

You said that the tax funded the shared components of DHS, such as the secretary's office and the I.T. system.

You told committee investigators that FEMA's mitigation funding suffered a disproportionate reduction because you were trying to avoid taking money out of other areas, such as the national flood insurance fund.

You may recall that the administration tried to reduce FEMA's mitigation funding prior to the creation of DHS. The president's FY '02 budget proposed eliminating the pre-disaster mitigation program which later was saved by Congress.

The administration responded by seeking to eliminate all post- disaster mitigation funding in FY '03.

AKAKA: My question to you is, is it possible that the reason mitigation funding took such a hard hit when DHS collected its tax is that mitigation programs aren't valued by the administration?

BROWN: It's nice to appear before a committee as a private citizen and not be constrained by talking points or SAPs that say what you can or cannot say.

But, yes, I think that is part of the problem is that there is a belief within OMB that mitigation programs don't have a good enough cost-benefit ratio, so therefore we need to eliminate them; when indeed, I do believe there's a good side to it, that the administration believes that pre-disaster mitigation funds could be used. So there was a balance to be struck: try to do both pre- and post-disaster. But I do think that mitigation, to a certain extent, was given the back seat.

AKAKA: Mr. Brown, in a response to pre-hearing questions for your confirmation hearing before this committee in June of 2002 to be deputy director of FEMA, you stated, and I quote, "mitigation will continue to be a primary focus for the agency," unquote.

As undersecretary, did you consider informing Congress that mitigation programs were not being prioritized and were, in fact, receiving less funding than you thought they should have under DHS?

BROWN: I think the American public needs to know how it works in D.C.: that am agency administrator can have his priorities and OMB can have their priorities, and never shall the two meet.

And despite my personal belief that mitigation is good and we need more mitigation funding in this country, OMB takes a different tack: that mitigation doesn't have a great cost-benefit analysis -- which you could argue all day long; I believe that it does -- so consequently, mitigation gets cut. I don't believe that it should.

But by the same token, Senator, I think you would not respect me if I came to you in your office and sat down and said, "You know, I know the president has proposed this, but, you know, here's my personal belief."

Now, yes, sometimes I would try to make certain that people understood what my real belief was in hopes that they could maybe do something about it. But I would never try -- I would never be that -- would not want to be that disloyal.

AKAKA: Mr. Brown, Marty Bahamonde, a FEMA public affairs officer, and one that has been mentioned by other senators, was sent to New Orleans prior to the storm to be your eyes and ears on the ground because you personally trusted him, according to his testimony before the committee in October of 2005.

His description as to why he was sent to New Orleans, is it correct?

BROWN: I actually tried to send two people to New Orleans. I sent Marty to New Orleans and tried to send Phil Parr, one of our FCOs, to New Orleans, too. Marty was able to make it in, Phil couldn't. I think Phil got stuck in Beaumont or Houston or somewhere, and couldn't actually get there.

But I trusted both of those men, and I wanted both of them there because I did trust their capabilities.

AKAKA: Mr. Brown, in your interview with the committee, you stated that you didn't completely rely -- completely rely -- on Marty's Monday morning report that the levees had broken, because, and I'm quoting, "He tends at time toward hyperbole."

KAGAN: I'm Daryn Kagan at CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.

We've been listening in to former FEMA director Michael Brown as he sits in the hot seat and testifies before the Senate Homeland Security Committee. And as we continue to listen to that, we're doing that along with our Homeland Security Correspondent Jeanne Meserve, who's listening in, in Washington, D.C. -- Jeanne.


There had been great debate about whether or not Michael Brown would be asked in some way to assert executive privilege and not talk about some of his communications with top White House officials. In the past he had refused to answer questions about those things on the advice of the White House. But today it was decided that the White House had not asserted executive privilege.

There was a debate between Mr. Brown and the head of the committee, Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine. And the upshot of all of that, Mr. Brown talked more candidly than he has in the past about communications with the White House and others.

And he said that on Monday night, the night of the storm, he did have a conversation with Deputy Chief of Staff Joe Hagin, who was with the president in Crawford, Texas, and advised him about just how dire the situation was in New Orleans and in the Gulf region.

There also has been a lot of talk here by Mr. Brown about the defanging of FEMA. FEMA had been folded in the Department of Homeland Security. He has said repeatedly and very strongly here this morning that he feels that hurt the agency, that there was a divergence of mission, that the Department of Homeland Security only wanted to dwell on terrorism, where his agency was more focused on natural disasters.

He felt this had crippled the agency, it didn't have enough funding, it didn't have enough personnel, that he had asked for reforms and they had not been accomplished because he didn't have the support for from higher up. However, there were some members of the committee who didn't let him off the hook. One, Senator Norm Coleman.

Let's listen to that exchange.


SENATOR NORM COLEMAN (R), MINNESOTA: And Mr. Brown, the concern that I have is, you know, from your perspective, I'm hearing balls to the walls. But I'm looking at e-mails and lack of responsiveness on Monday on sending an e-mail about "situation past critical." This is on Wednesday at this time. "Hotels kicking people out, dying patients."

And your response is, "Thanks for the update. Anything I need to do to tweak?"

We have questions on...

MICHAEL BROWN, FMR. FEMA DIRECTOR: Senator, with all due respect, you take that out of context, because you do that on the fly, saying, "Yes, is there anything else I need to tweak?" And what you ignore is what's done beyond that, which is calling the White House, talking to the operations people and making certain that things are getting done.

And I'm frankly getting sick and tired of these e-mails being taken out of context with words like, "What do I need to tweak?" because I need to know is there something else I need to tweak, and that doesn't even include all the other stuff that's going on, Senator. So with all do respect, don't draw conclusions from an e- mail.


MESERVE: A very unbridled Michael Brown, a very combative Michael Brown. At the outset of the session, Senator Joseph Lieberman said that staffers had put together nearly 30 communications which indicated that there were people on the ground who fully understood just what was happening in New Orleans and there are going to be more questions today about who else knew, who knew in Washington, both at the White House and the Department of Homeland Security.

Daryn, back to you.

KAGAN: But Jeanne, as we are like four, five months away from another hurricane season, I think most people want to know, are these hearings going to lead to any kind of changes, or is this just a big exercise in politics?

MESERVE: Well, certainly the senators say it's their intention to improve the system. This committee hopes to have its report done by mid-March.

In addition, there's a House committee that's been investigating Katrina. Their report is expected next week.

In addition, the White House has been doing a comprehensive review. We expect that review also to come out in the upcoming days. And I'm told it has more than a hundred recommendations within it on things that should be changed.

Just how much will be accomplished before the start of hurricane season on June 1, none of us know, of course. And it's quite a situation down there in the Gulf, where you now have tens of thousands of people living in trailers, which, of course, would be much more susceptible to damage if we do have another hard hurricane season -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Jeanne Meserve in Washington, D.C.

Thank you. We'll let you go and listen in more to these hearings.

Want to go ahead and get some perspective on Michael Brown's testimony before the Senate committee. Former FEMA regional director John Copenhaver here with us in Atlanta this morning. Good morning.


KAGAN: You have been listening in, as well.


KAGAN: A Couple of points that Michael Brown has made that I would like to ask you about. First of all, he said one of the big problems that is in the Department of Homeland Security, that natural disasters, he said, like are like the stepchild of this department, that if the same thing had happened to these levees and it had been a terrorist that blew up the levees in New Orleans, that there would have been action like that.

What would you say to that?

COPENHAVER: I think there's a measure of truth in that. I think that more attention has been paid by this administration to issues of terrorism. And I think that natural hazards, natural disasters have, to some extent, gotten short shrift.

So there is a measure of truth in that. It's not the whole truth, but it's a part of the truth.

KAGAN: He also said that there is a culture clash within the Department of Homeland Security that if you're not going to -- I'm going to look at my notes here -- go of a cycle of prepare, respond, mitigation and recovery, that you're going to have a disaster like this.

COPENHAVER: And again, I think that that's probably true. But he is attempting to divert the problems and the blame to the culture clash, to the fact that the Department of Homeland Security didn't pay attention to natural disasters.

And you have issues of structure and you have issues of leadership. And I think that those are issues of structure and there are absolutely issues of leadership here, as well.

KAGAN: And that if you had a chance to be talking to Mr. Brown right now, that is what you would call him on?

COPENHAVER: On leadership, or lack thereof.

KAGAN: And what else are you hearing or not hearing? Are you hearing the kind of questions you would like from the senators?

COPENHAVER: I am hearing the kind of questions that I like. I think that we're going to have to get to a point soon where we being to explore the issues of, OK, how do we do it better? What do we do next on -- we've got hurricane season coming up, what has to change between now and then?

KAGAN: Let's see if we get some of those answers. COPENHAVER: You bet.

KAGAN: Let's listen in again. John Copenhaver, thank you for your insight this morning.

We'll go ahead and listen in once again to the Senate Homeland Security Committee talking to former FEMA director Michael Brown.

SEN. ROBERT BENNETT (R-UT), HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: And even in a department that's heavily bureaucratic, that kind of statement from you saying, I'm in the midst of the greatest natural catastrophe that we have seen, I've got a governor that's giving me information that is different, I've got a mayor that seems to be paralyzed, I've got to talk to the secretary and I want to talk to him right now.


SEN. ROBERT BENNETT (R), UTAH: definitely bureaucratic, that kind of statement from you, saying, I'm in the midst of the greatest natural catastrophe that we have seen. I've got a governor that's giving me information that is different. I've got a mayor that seems to be paralyzed. I've got to talk to the secretary and I want to talk to him right now."

Did it ever occur to you to say that within the department or was the department culture so stultifying that you felt you couldn't do that?

BROWN: The culture was such that I didn't think that would have been effective and would have exacerbated the problem, quite frankly, Senator.

BENNETT: Why would that...

BROWN: That's why my conversations were predominantly with the White House, because through the White House I could cut through any interagency bureaucracy to get what I needed done.

BENNETT: You're telling us that a face -- well, not face-to- face, but wire-to-wire conversation directly with Secretary Chertoff would not have produced any kind of worthwhile results?

BROWN: No, it would have wasted my time. And I say that not because of any disparagement of Secretary Chertoff, but because if I needed the Army to do something, rather than waste the time to call Secretary Chertoff and then have him call somebody else, and then maybe he calls Rumsfeld and then Rumsfeld calls somebody, I'd rather just call Andy Card and or Joe Hagin and say, "This is what I need," and it gets done. That's exactly what we did in Florida.

BENNETT: That is a staggering statement. It demonstrates a dysfunctional department to a degree far greater than any we've seen.

BROWN: Senator, you have copies of documents that I have brought today that I pray for the country that you will read, where I have since '03 been pointing out this dysfunctionality and these clashes within the department, and that if they are not fixed this department is doomed to fail, and that will fail the country.

BENNETT: I appreciate your opinion. If I may express an opinion, if I were Secretary Chertoff and I had a deputy secretary who would prefer to call the White House rather than talk to me, I would find that very disturbing.

Have you ever sat down with Secretary Chertoff, particularly a fresh start, a new secretary coming in, available now, and said to him, "Mr. Secretary, there's an issue I've got to discuss with you here. And I know you have plenty on your plate, but can I have 15 minutes? Can I have half an hour to discuss this with you?"

When Secretary Chertoff came here for his confirmation appointment, admittedly he was probably the most available at that point because we controlled whether or not he got appointed, he was open to all kinds of suggestions about how the department should be structured based on the information we had developed in our hearings. And I do not find him a man who would refuse to talk to you or refuse to hear your point of view.

Did you ever make any attempt to discuss this with him when he first came on board, before he got overwhelmed by all the bureaucracy?

BROWN: Two attempts. The first one occurred very shortly after he arrived. And in March of 2005 I drafted a memo, which is in your materials, dated March 2005, from me to the secretary, entitled -- the subject matter is, "Component head meeting."

Secretary Chertoff had announced that he wanted the undersecretaries to prepare for him a briefing, a very honest briefing about where we were in terms of our budget, personnel issues, and most importantly, he wanted to know what our most serious challenges were so that he could address those challenges.

So I drafted it, you can read it at your leisure, where I discussed preparedness, the national response plan, what needed to be done with it, the organizational structure, the turf battles, the cultural clash between, say, ODP and FEMA, and how that needed to be done. And he was to have those component head meetings with everybody. He never had one with me.

The second time was when the whole issue -- when they began to do their 2SR review of where things at. The issue then became whether or not to pull preparedness out of FEMA. And, again, I requested a meeting. And Deputy Secretary Jackson was able to get that meeting for me.

And I went in and made my case about why preparedness belonged in FEMA and why the way the statute was created had not been implemented the way the statute read, but it should be, and made that case to him, the same case I had made to Secretary Ridge on September 15, 2003, which is again in your materials.

And on that day, when I made that case to the secretary, people at FEMA will tell you that in the car on the way back to headquarters I was ecstatic, because I thought I had won, that I had found someone who understood that issue, had agreed with me. And indeed he had agreed that we needed to do what I had outlined in the memo.

Forty-eight hours later that decision is reversed and we're going in a different direction.

BENNETT: Well, my time is up. I think I now understand why Secretary Chertoff says he didn't know: Because you didn't feel it necessary -- you didn't feel -- "necessary" is the wrong term. You didn't feel it was efficient or proper -- that's the wrong term. Let me phrase it as correctly as I can.

He didn't know, because you didn't think it would do any good for you to tell him.

BROWN: I succeeded in Florida in 2004. I succeeded in the Columbia space shuttle disaster, the fires in California, the fires in the mountainous west. I succeeded in the tornado outbreak.

And one of the reasons why I didn't succeeded -- other than the mistakes that I've said that I made -- is that DHS was an additional bureaucracy that was going to slow me down even more. And the way I got around that was dealing directly with the White House.

BENNETT: Regardless of where you may or may not have succeeded, once again, you did not -- the reason he didn't know is because you didn't think it important to tell him.

Thank you.

COLLINS: Senator Lautenberg, my apologies for not calling on you prior to Senator Akaka...

SEN. FRANK LAUTENBERG (D), NEW JERSEY: We have a new time clock here. We're going to straighten it all out.

Thank you very much, Madam Chairman, for your zeal and your consistency on trying to get to the bottom of this.

I want to set my view clear and straight as possible.

I'm not here, Mr. Brown, to defend you. I'm not here to defend anybody who's made mistakes. And now we can distribute the mistake array and see who really made some of the worst ones.

The fact is that if I have a fire in my house, I don't insist on talking to the fire chief before I'm satisfied that I've sounded the alarm.

And if you want to convey something to the president and you can't trust his deputy secretary or the other people who the president appointed to do things, then we're in bad shape.

And the fact that we're parsing words here and trying to figure out whether you should have spoken A, B or C or retroactively trying to fit this thing -- this puzzle all together doesn't surprise anybody. That perhaps there was some panic as people were drowning and carrying not only their luggage on their heads, but their children on their heads, trying to escape the ravages of this incredible inferno -- I'll use the term -- that was enveloping us.

So whether or not you called A, B or C -- no, B or C, it had to get to A and you had to believe that there was a mechanism.

I would tell you this: that when the terrorists struck the World Trade Center, people didn't wait to get to the president to send the alarm to him that something terrible had happened and was happening.

You have been selected as the designated scapegoat. That's what I see. Because I think that we're clear on President Bush's message to you on Friday after the storm struck on Monday. And while I don't have -- yes, I do have the precise words: "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."

Now, I can't imagine the president would trivialize this situation just to be a good guy with you. Somebody must have said to him you were doing things right and you were doing your best, whether it was good enough or not. It may not have been good enough.

I served in World War II. I know sometimes no matter how hard we tried, we couldn't protect everybody that we wanted.

So keep your chin up and fight back, as you did. You're not here to be the -- I said "designated scapegoat" before -- designated target, call it whatever you want.

BROWN: Senator, thank you.

LAUTENBERG: I did it out of my conscience, not to be a good guy.

I mean, I see this all in front of me. And I've been in situations where panic struck and people react in different ways. You try to do your best. But we are, after all, human beings. And human beings make mistakes.

What I see here are mistakes on a current basis that infuriate me. In the New York Times, yesterday or today, the piece about the fact there are -- I got so much paper here trying to get it all organized, because, as can you see, I'm in a state of anxiety here.

"Storm victims" -- reported February 9 in the New York Times; on the 10th, this day, in the Los Angeles Times -- "Nearly six months after two hurricanes ripped apart communities across the Gulf Coast, tens of thousands of residents remain without trailers promised by the federal government for use as temporary shelters while they rebuild. Of 135,000 requests for trailers that Federal Emergency Management Agency has received from families, slightly more than half have been filled."

Yesterday, we were greeted way by hundreds of people who worked their way up here from New Orleans pleading for help. I spoke to the people. And what I got was, "Please, give us a place to cover our heads with, a place that we can lie down and go to sleep." They're not looking for jewels or trappings. They're looking for an ability to exist.

So Mr. Brown isn't on the payroll. Mr. Rhode's not on the payroll now. Who's responsible for not catching up with our responsibilities? Somebody. And the fingers, no matter which way they try to point them, to me, they point at the White House. That's where the responsibility belongs.

Get those trailers there. Get the homes built. We sent down lots of money that wasn't efficiently used. And that was after your departure, need I remind you?

And so when we look at this, I think the blame game is an easy one to play, but it's a hard game to win.

KAGAN: We've been listening in to the Senate Homeland Security hearing with former FEMA director Michael Brown. A rare defense of Michael Brown right there from Senator Frank Lautenberg, saying that he believes that Michael Brown, as the former FEMA director, is just the designated scapegoat for so much that went wrong in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

But another kind of astounding statement from Michael Brown just in the last few minutes where he said -- he reported to this committee that he really didn't talk to Michael Chertoff, the head of the Department of Homeland Security, saying that he believed that that was a waste of time and that it was easier just to go around him. But implications of that still to be looked at.

Meanwhile, let's get more about what is coming out of the White House today. Our White House Correspondent Suzanne Malveaux just out of the daily briefing for reporters.

Suzanne, what do you have?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Daryn, they were very angry here at the White House. Scott McClellan making that very clear, taking direct aim at "The New York Times" this morning. He even held it up and gestured a couple times reading some paragraphs that they took issues with.

A couple things here.

First, McClellan did recognize that when he talked about the levee breach, the report about the levee breach, he said Monday evening there were conflicting reports about whether those levees had actually just toppled over. The water was spilling over. If they had actually been breached, they weren't sure about the kind of information they were getting Monday evening. He said it wasn't until Tuesday morning they got official confirmation that those levees had actually been breached.

He went on to say as well that this letter that was sent from Harriet Miers, the president's counsel, to Mike Brown's attorney, that the president, as well as the administration, expressed their views that they had certainly hoped those conversations between Mike Brown and top officials would not be spilled out in public, that those kinds of discussions should be kept private. But at the same time, they did not exert executive privilege. That's something that he confirmed.

And then he took issue, of course, with a couple of the characterizations in "The New York Times," specifically the paragraph saying that this alert about the levee system did not seem to register. The president the next morning, on vacation in Texas, was feeling relieved that New Orleans had dodged the bullet.

This is something that he highlighted in the past and he went over the last 24, 48 hours in dealing with Hurricane Katrina. I was there with the president during those days, and he talked about the emergency declarations that they had issued, the calls that he made to the governors and so forth. That he had taken all the appropriate steps.

At the same time, McClellan also acknowledged there were failures on all levels of the government, and they also certainly had hoped by now to get that review out, their own administrative review from Fran Townsend, about some of the lessons learned, the mistakes.

They have not been able to produce that review yet. They say that, of course, is coming very, very soon. But I can tell you, Daryn, they are very frustrated here at the White House.

KAGAN: Well, if they don't like what they saw in "The New York Times," they're really not going to like what they're going to hear Michael Brown saying at today's hearings.

Suzanne, thank you.

If you'd like to go ahead and continue listening to these hearings of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, you just go to and Pipeline will have continuous live stream video for you. We'll also go back to our coverage in a moment, but first, a quick break here on CNN.


KAGAN: Let's take a look at what's happening right "Now in the News."

Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff told a grand jury he was "authorized" by his superiors to disclose some classified information to reporters. That is according to a letter from the special prosecutor in the CIA leak case to lawyers for Lewis "Scooter" Libby. A legal source involved in the case tells CNN Libby has never suggested that anyone authorized leaking CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity.

We'll have more just ahead.

U.S. officials are analyzing a new videotape of an American journalist taken hostage in Iraq. The tape of Jill Carroll aired yesterday on Kuwaiti television. On it, Carroll says she is fine, but she asks that her abductors be given whatever they want as quickly as possible. The kidnappers have demanded the release of female Iraqi prisoners.

The British man accused of killing his wife and baby daughter in Massachusetts agreed today to return to the U.S. to face charges. His attorney says Neil Entwistle will leave Britain within the next week, that he wants to cooperate with authorities. Entwistle is charged in the shooting death of his wife Rachel and 9-month-old daughter Lillian.

And now let's get back to the hearings on Capitol Hill. The Senate Homeland Security Committee talking to former FEMA director Michael Brown.

SEN. JOHN WARNER (R), VIRGINIA: I think it's very important that we have a full and complete record. And your willingness to do that, I think, is very helpful.

COLLINS: Senator Warner, if I could just clarify, it is possible that the White House might decide to assert the privilege, which it has a right to do, at some future time.

WARNER: Well, I understand that.

COLLINS: So I just want to clarify that.

WARNER: I'm trying to move through this...


WARNER: ... to be of some assistance to the chair.

LIEBERMAN: Madam Chairman, if I can say, I want to thank Senator Warner.

I think you make a very important point. Now that Mr. Brown has taken a different position, for all the reasons we talked about at the beginning, just to complete the record, if those questions are not all asked today, which they probably won't, I think it's a very important idea to schedule a time to come back and talk to our joint staff again.

BROWN: If I could just say, Senator, though, I'm not really taking a different position. I always wanted to answer the questions.

LIEBERMAN: Understood. I accept your amendment.

WARNER: I think it's important.

Now, my responsibilities around here -- and, coincidentally, my two distinguished leaders here all are on the military committee -- and I'm quite interested in your assessment of the performance of the uniformed individuals, both Guard and Reserve, and the active forces that were brought to bear. I think we have to keep going over this because a lot of people following don't understand. The Guard and Reserve, under a certain framework of federal statutes, as you well know, and the regular forces under others.

My understanding is that one of the series of questions in which you felt that you couldn't give a full answer related to the following issues.

You spoke to a number of White House personnel while on an airplane, probably on Friday, September 2nd, about the proposal to establish a dual-hatted commander of the National Guard and Title X forces in Louisiana.

Can you now tell us about what your views were and the situation, in your judgment, dictated -- I think quite appropriately -- a clarity of the chain of command to military personnel, be they Guard or Reserve or active?

BROWN: Correct.

General Honore had decided to deploy and come to Baton Rouge. I had a conversation with him on his way down there that said -- because we had not federalized anything yet. I think General Honore has testified before this committee.

WARNER: Yes, they did.

BROWN: If you watched television, you know he's a very commanding presence.

WARNER: Yes, I've gotten to know him. And I've known many officers in my years here.

BROWN: That's right.

WARNER: He's very impressive.

BROWN: Very impressive.

So whether General Honore and I first got on the telephone together, he already had a litany of things he wanted to do. And I had to back him down and say, "I may want all of those things done, but until we get federalized or however we work this out, I'm still in control, and you need to let me know what you want to do. And we can play this game. But I may want you to do all those 10 things on your list. But come and tell me before you do them."

And he understood that and respected that.

WARNER: Well, also, if I may say, it wasn't a game. He's a serious minded...

BROWN: He's very serious. He's was very serious.

WARNER: ... and he has handled, in his capacity as a military commander, a number of situations. He recounted some half dozen disasters in which he actively participated...

BROWN: That's correct.

WARNER: ... on behalf of...

BROWN: And so I was ecstatic to have him there, because I could now use my mil aides that were there with me at the command center to interface with them and whatever troops might show up.

There is an e-mail -- again I assume that this e-mail has been produced -- where I'm -- I believe it is Friday, September 2nd, screaming in the e-mails about, "Where's the Army? I've been asking for the Army? Where are they? I need the Army now."

WARNER: Now, let's be more explicit. Part of the Army is the National Guard.

BROWN: Right. But I was asking...

WARNER: You wanted active duty forces.

BROWN: Right. I wanted active duty forces. Because what I needed was, I needed the active duty military to take over logistics. I needed them to handle logistics. Because the civilian side had fallen and completely failed. And I needed logistical support from the Army.

We were still also having the problems about control of the areas. We had a lot of discussions, both General Honore and I did, about the whole law enforcement issue.

We both, I think, and I think Secretary Rumsfeld -- I'm not going to try to put words in any of their mouths, but we all had concern about once you federalize and bring in those active duty forces, if they're doing law enforcement, I mean these guys are trained to kill. And if some punk decides he wants to take a pot shot, that punk is probably going to end up being dead. And that raises a whole plethora of issues.

But I was pushing for federalization of National Guard troops. Let's go to the National Guard.

WARNER: That would be National Guard of the states of Louisiana, Mississippi...

BROWN: Mississippi -- I have to parse that a little bit -- particularly Louisiana, because I really felt that we needed to federalize those Guard troops, but understand that if we did it in Louisiana, we probably needed to do it in Mississippi also.

And I really began advocating for about midweek. And there is some...

WARNER: Well, I think at this point you better clearly state to whom did you advocate that. Because you've made the case that you were -- and I'm not faulting you -- circumventing DHS and going directly to the White House.

So were those requests placed directly to the White House?

BROWN: Yes, those were being discussed with, again, Mr. Hagin and Mr. Card.

And then the discussions on Air Force One centered around how could we do this? Was there a way to do this -- by "do this," I mean federalizing -- was there a way to federalize without invoking the Insurrection Act?

KAGAN: We're going to keep our coverage going on So you can go there if you want to keep listening to former FEMA director Michael Brown as he testifies before the Senate Homeland Security Committee.

We're going take a break, back with more testimony and more news after this.


KAGAN: We're going to continue our coverage of the Senate Homeland Security Committee as they have hearings and they continue to grill former FEMA director Michael Brown. If you'd like to listen in to that, just go to Pipeline,, and click on Pipeline.

Meanwhile, we're going to get into other news right now at 38 minutes past the hour. Hockey great Wayne Gretzky is saying no way, no how. Quote: "It didn't happen." Gretzky said he didn't bet on professional sports and his wife, actress Janet Jones, says she didn't do it for him. But now this revelation, reports say that federal agents wiretapped Gretzky discussing how his wife could avoid scandal. Gretzky didn't mention a wiretap last night after the Coyotes lost to Dallas.


WAYNE GRETZKY, HEAD COACH, PHOENIX COYOTES: I didn't bet, didn't happen. It's not going to happen, hasn't happened. It's not something that I've done. I felt like the last three days I've defended myself over something that is absolutely, unequivocally never happened, that I was not involved with.


KAGAN: Gretzky's assistant coach of the Phoenix Coyotes is charged with being the gambling ring's financier. Gretzky says he is going ahead with his schedule, attending the Olympics as Team Canada's director.

And speaking of the Olympics, the Winter Olympics open in Italy in just a few hours. Already, though, a hint of scandal. Eight cross country skiers, including two Americans, are out of competition for five days. All had kind of high levels of hemoglobin. That could mean blood doping. It could also be something as innocent as the body's response to high altitude. So there's no proof that the athletes did anything wrong.

CNN has learned that Zach Lund has been banned from the Torino Olympics. He tested positive in November for a banned substance. Lund is the top slider for the U.S. skeleton team. He says this chemical is an ingredient in a hair restoration drug that he takes.

And now to our "Daily Dose" of medical news. Getting a good night's sleep -- it a constant quest for many, but one that is often not attainable. There are steps you can take, though, to get more Zs.

Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta has more on that.


APOLO OHNO, SPEED SKATER: I try to get more than eight. Between eight and ten.

GRETCHEN BLEILER, OLYMPIC SNOWBOARDER: You're spinning, you're flipping, all at once. I tend to need ten hours of sleep each night.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These Olympic athletes know something many of us don't. For peak performance, getting enough sleep is critical.

Gretchen Bleiler, a champion snowboarder, and speed skater Apollo Ohno, a gold medalist four years ago, say all the training they do is wasted without enough sleep.

OHNO: It's crucial. It's everything. You know, I can only recover if I'm sleeping well. Doesn't matter how hard I'm training, if I'm not getting enough sleep, it's just wasted.

GUPTA: Yet most Americans manage their lives on less sleep than they need.

MARK ROSEKIND, ALERTNESS SOLUTIONS: Right now, our society is horribly sleep-deprived. On average, most adults need about eight hours and the estimates are that most of us are getting probably an hour and a half less than we need.

GUPTA: What these athletes know that many don't realize, sleep affects memory, learning and physical performance.

ROSEKIND: Without optimal sleep, you could boost somebody's performance by 30 percent. So when you think of even just the smallest improvement in reaction time for somebody where literally milliseconds means the difference between silver and gold, it's huge for U.S. Olympic athletes.

GUPTA: So huge. The Olympic Training Center took part in a promotion with Dr. Rose Rosekind to redo athlete's bedrooms, including bigger beds and blackout curtains to help athletes get enough Zs. And the Olympic committee sent U.S. to the games in Torino, Italy, days before their competition in part to adjust to the time shift and jet lag. STEVE ROUSH, U.S. OLYMPIC COMMITTEE: Getting their sleep pattern as close to the regular routine as possible is critical for the athlete as they travel and are competing.

GUPTA: Now, getting ten hours of sleep is no guarantee that Bleiler lands her signature upside-down crippler move in Torino. But not getting enough sleep will certainly hurt her performance, just as it will hurt yours, even if your goal isn't quite as lofty.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.


KAGAN: For continuing coverage of the 2006 Winter Olympics, just logon to That is your guide to the games.

We're going to continue our coverage of the Senate Homeland Security Committee and the testimony of former FEMA Director Michael Brown after this break.


KAGAN: Let's take a look at what's happening right "Now in the News."

The man who headed FEMA when Hurricane Katrina hit is being grilled right now on Capitol Hill. Michael Brown told a Senate committee that he knew of the levee breach in New Orleans on the day that Katrina roared ashore and he says baloney to claims that the Department of Homeland Security didn't know until the next day. We're going to get back to live coverage of those hearings in just a moment.

First, though, there were protests in Gaza against those cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammed. The protest was organized by Islamic Jihad, a group that has carried out numerous suicide attacks in Israel. Many Muslims are still angry about the cartoons that they consider blasphemous. The caricatures first appeared in a Danish newspaper, and then were reprinted across Europe.

Volkswagen says it could cut up to 20,000 jobs in the next three years as part of a restructuring plan. Today's announcement came amid strong financial figures from Europe's biggest automaker. The company is reporting a net profit of $1.3 billion in the last year. That is 61 percent more than the previous year.

Adventurer Steve Fossett has passed the halfway point on his flight aimed at setting a new distance record. He took off on Wednesday and he's now over the Pacific Ocean. Fossett's Web site says severe turbulence over India prompted him to put on his parachute just in case he had to bail. He's hoping to land outside of London tomorrow.

And now we go back to live coverage on Capitol Hill. The Senate Homeland Security Committee is talking to the former FEMA director and his former chief of staff. SEN. MARK DAYTON (D), MINNESOTA: Let me start, if I may, with you, Mr. Brown. It sounds like you have taken responsibility for the things that went wrong under your watch.

BROWN: Thank you, sir.

DAYTON: And do you feel like the designated scapegoat? That was Senator Lautenberg's quote.

BROWN: Why don't you issue a subpoena my wife and have her come in an answer that question, sir?


DAYTON: I can relate to that

But do you feel that way? Do you feel like you've been, sort of, set up to be the scapegoat, to be the fall guy?

BROWN: Yes, sir. I can't lie to you, but, yes, I feel that way.

DAYTON: Do you feel like the administration's done that to you?

BROWN: I certainly feel somewhat abandoned.


Let me ask this question about FEMA, given your role there, your experience there. In your opinion, just your opinion as a private citizen, should FEMA be in DHS?

BROWN: I don't want this to sound like a lawyer answer. How is that for a caveat?

There was a time whether I was still idealistic and was really fighting internally to make it work the way the statute intended, for EP&R to be EP&R.

I have since come to the conclusion that the cultural differences are so wide and so great that it cannot function within DHS. And the things that have been done to it now, the stripping of preparedness out into a separate directorate, whatever is going to be announced next week, response going somewhere else, is going to drive the final stake in the heart of FEMA.

The country, particularly governors, particularly mayors, will then be faced with a situation of in a disaster looking around and saying, "Who do I go to?"

FEMA suffers from this direct accountability to the president . All disasters are local. And you know if something happens in Arkansas or something happens in Minnesota or wherever it happens, that you want to know that that FEMA guy and the president are on top of it and they're in charge of it.

DAYTON: Yes. I appreciate your answer there. And I know that the previous administration had FEMA, as I understand it, as an independent Cabinet-level agency. Do you think it should be restored to that?


DAYTON: And it sounds like from your previous answer, it's the direct accountability that FEMA would have with the president that makes that important?

BROWN: What has happened -- I described it this way to both James Lee Witt and Joe Allbaugh, both friends of mine: that the job they had no longer exists.

When they were the FEMA directors, they were in charge of their budget, they made their argument directly to the president and to OMB. Now I make my case to another undersecretary and hope to work through that bureaucracy or directly to the secretary before it even gets to OMB.

And so without that kind of direct accountability, that direct kind of way to get things done, I think you marginalize FEMA to where it becomes ineffective.

SEN. MARK PRYOR (D), ARIZONA: I appreciate your candor on that.

Let me also ask: You mentioned in previous testimony today that you had had a number of phone calls throughout your time at FEMA with President Bush. And that was in a context of you couldn't remember exactly when you talked to him and exactly what was said.

How involved -- I'm trying to get a sense of how involved President Bush was with FEMA when you were there. I mean, was this a frequent occurrence where you talked to the president? Are we talking about once a month, or just every time a disaster happened? Or tell me, how involved was President Bush?

BROWN: I would say he was involved. We developed, I think, a very good relationship. Unfortunately, he called me Brownie at the wrong time. Thanks a lot, sir.


But we had a very good relationship where, whether we were on Air Force One or we were in the car together alone, that I could explain to him or express concerns or issues that I thought were important.

And I always felt like I had a very good relationship, particularly with Andy Card, because Andy had gone through Hurricane Andrew; with Joe Hagin who used to be a first responder and understands those issues.

KAGAN: We continue to listen in to Michael Brown, the former FEMA director, as he gives his take about what went wrong with government response in the days following Hurricane Katrina. There have been finger-pointing by Mr. Brown, but also a lot of tough questions from senators as well.

If you'd like to keep listening, just go to pipeline, and we'll have continuous live, streaming video coverage.

Right now, we'll take a quick break.


KAGAN: And this just in to CNN. Pictures and information about this bus crash from Westminster, Colorado, just outside of Denver. About 30 tour bus passengers are getting treatment along Highway 36 this morning. Apparently there was an accident just before 9:00 a.m. local time on the road that is commonly known as the Boulder Turnpike. We're hearing from Westminster Police that about 30 people, including several children, were onboard this Coach USA bus at the time of the crash, and it does involve other vehicles, including a UPS truck, as well. More information on that situation out of Westminster, Colorado as it becomes available.

Well, it's been a fun week, but the final day of fall Fashion Week in New York. Hollywood's Seventh Avenue invasion is being met with mixed reviews.

Our Sibila Vargas reports.


SIBILA VARGAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It looks like pure glamour, wafer-thin models strutting down the runway in the highest fashion. Makes sense that celebrities would want a piece of the action, too.

MARY ALICE STEPHENSON, STYLIST/FASHION EXPERT: Celebrities, actors and musicians are coming out with their own clothing lines. Bottom line is how long can they make hit records? Will their movies be successful? Who knows. The bottom line, money. They want to make money.

VARGAS: And amidst the trendiness of it all comes the cold, hard fact that fashion is a very serious business. Designer Carolina Herrera tells me fashion isn't as glamorous as some celebrities may think.

CAROLINA HERRERA, DESIGNER: It's a lot of work. It's not like one collection, and then that's it. You have to follow, and you have to deliver, and you have to sell, and you have to go on and on and on forever.

VARGAS: In the past year, both Jennifer Lopez and Gwen Stefani have made huge waves in the fashion world by showing their fashions this Fashion Week. But things are different this fashion week. J.Lo is having a quiet showing outside those tents, and Stefani's line is nowhere to be seen.

STEPHENSON: I don't think they realize how tough the fashion press can be. I've heard it said by Gwen, by Jennifer Lopez, that the fashion press is much tougher than the movie press or the movie press.

VARGAS: Designer Diana Von Furstenberg tell us, if a celebrity is going to create a fashion line, they've got to have talent.

DIANE VON FURSTENBERG, DESIGNER: I think the most important thing, if you have a line of clothes, is that you have a really strong point of view and to bring something that's missing. And then with a lot of work and, you know, then you make it happen.

VARGAS: Even singer Beyonce Knowles is on the verge of her big break in the fashion world. She and mom, Tina, are prepared to launch their full collection this spring. So how do designers really feel about celebrities trying their hand in fashion?

VERA WANG, DESIGNER: Don't get me started on this question. No, I think that I understand the commercial appeal of it, but I also think that there's really -- there should be a respect paid to the designers who are really artists. I think certainly our business is so large now that there is room for a lot of different contexts in which to view fashion.

VARGAS: Sibila Vargas, CNN New York.


KAGAN: We want to show you new live pictures that we're getting in from Westminster, Colorado. This is along the highway known as the Boulder turnpike. A bus accident involving a number of vehicles, including this tour bus that had as many as 30 people injured when it toppled over there, including a number of children were onboard that bus. This accident also involves a UPS truck and other vehicles, as well.

We'll continue to follow that story just as we continue to follow the hearings of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, talking to former FEMA director Michael Brown. If you'd like to listen in right now, go to the Internet,, and you can listen in.

I'm Daryn Kagan. International news is up next. Stay to tuned for YOUR WORLD TODAY, and I'll be back with the latest headlines from the U.S. in about 20 minutes.



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