FEMA's Press Briefing Without The Press

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, front left, California Gov Arnold Schwarzenegger, front center, and FEMA chief David Paulison, second row center, tour Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2007. The stadium is being used to shelter wildfire evacuees.
AP/San Diego Union-Tribune, Howard Lipin
This column was written by CBS News Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith.

This story is making me nuts and I can't keep quiet about it.

Reading my Washington Post today, way back on page 19, Al Kamen's In The Loop column. Kamen reports that Tuesday, as the wildfires raged out of control in Southern California, FEMA decided to hold a press briefing. But, news outlets were only given a 15 minute warning which basically made it impossible for reporters to attend.

FEMA went on the air at 1:00 pm. Vice Admiral Harvey E. Johnson gave an overview of FEMA's response and then took a few questions.

This is FEMA now, so you might imagine there was some tough grilling about the performance of the famously inept agency. But Al Kamen says surprisingly it was softball after softball.

The briefing that was carried in part on FOX and MSNBC looked like the real thing. The Admiral pointed, took questions but the questions came from FEMA staffers, not real reporters. Transparency and accountability are such cumbersome concepts; better, I guess, to simply cut out the middle man.

Harry's daily commentary can be heard on many CBS Radio News affiliates across the country.