Monday, October 29, 2007

FEMA spokesman's new job on hold

Intelligence Chief Delays Former FEMA Spokesman's Start, Reviewing Fake News Conference

Oct 29, 2007 - The director of national intelligence is weighing whether to hire the federal official who organized a fake Federal Emergency Management Agency news conference.

John P. "Pat" Philbin, FEMA's external affairs director, on Monday was supposed to take over the public information shop at the Office of National Intelligence Director headed by Mike McConnell. But that was put on hold so McConnell could review Philbin's record, according to DNI spokesman Ross Feinstein.

Philbin's work has come under question after he arranged a hastily-called televised FEMA news conference last Tuesday on the California wildfires. The session was announced on short notice and featured questions for FEMA's deputy administrator, Vice Adm. Harvey Johnson.

No genuine journalists attended, although they were given a conference call number they could use to listen in — but not ask questions. A half-dozen questions were asked at the event — by FEMA staff members posing as reporters.

Philbin was among the six questioners, according to The Washington Post. The questions included: "Are you happy with FEMA's response so far?"

FEMA later apologized for the phony news briefing and said it was reviewing its procedures for dealing with news organizations.

McConnell had offered Philbin the director of communications at the intelligence office prior to the FEMA event, according to Feinstein.

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