Former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, half the duo responsible for the lack of Hurricane Katrina preparation that ultimately led to the drowning of New Orleans, has forged an alliance with Mark Penn’s Burson-Marsteller.
Hauled before Congress following Katrina, Chertoff testified Sept. 3, 2005 that government planners had not anticipated such a powerful hurricane could destroy New Orleans. He called Katrina a disaster “breathtaking in its surprise.”
That was news to the people in the Big Easy. The New Orleans Times-Picayune ran a five-part series in `02 about the vulnerability of New Orleans to a massive hurricane. Reuters reported that more than 40 state, local and volunteer organizations ran a drill in `04 and determined that a massive hurricane would breach the levees and cause the evacuation of a million people.
Chertoff told Congress a month later that he didn’t travel to New Orleans the Saturday before the storm made landfall on Monday because he had a previously scheduled trip to Atlanta. He dubbed Michael Brown, then-Federal Emergency Management Agency chief, his “battlefield commander,” with whom he stayed in contact via phone.
Chertoff’s strategic partnership with B-M covers counsel to clients “at each stage of the security process with a focus on prevention, preparedness, response and recovery,” according to its press release. The release credits Chertoff with “protecting the U.S. homeland from terrorist attacks and responding to natural disasters.” That doesn’t sit well with the City of New Orleans and family members of the more than 1,000 people lost to the storm and ensuing flood.
Penn holds the "highest regard for former Secretary Chertoff and his work in helping to keep this country safe and looks forward to working with him."