Disaster agency chief to be fall-guy for federal failure

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The Independent US

The Associated Press has unearthed documents showing that Mr Brown waited hours after the storm struck before proposing to Michael Chertoff, his direct superior and head of the Department of Homeland Security, that 1,000 extra staff be sent. Part of their task, the memo said, would be to "convey a positive image" of how the government was handling the disaster. In fact, by common consent, the Government completely botched its reponse to the situation. Mr Brown was among several top officials, among them Mr Chertoff, who were assailed by lawmakers at a closed-door session on Capitol Hill on Tuesday evening.

His resignation has been publicly demanded by Senator Hillary Clinton and the House minority leader Nancy Pelosi - not to mention The Times-Picayune newspaper of New Orleans, which has called for the entire Fema management to be sacked.

Thus far the White House has avoided criticising Mr Brown. But its new-found silence about him speaks volumes - especially after last week's effusive praise from President George Bush: "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job," Mr Bush declared.

Mr Bush is loyal to appointees. But leaks against Mr Brown, about a lack of qualifications for the job - suspected of orginating in the White House, suggest he is being lined up as designated fall guy, in an attempt to save the necks of those higher up.