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Hillary: Independent Probe Needed

The storm of criticism over the slow federal response to Hurricane Katrina continues to swirl.

Some members of Congress say the Federal Emergency Management Agency needs to be independent again, as it was before Sept. 11, 2001.

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D, N.Y.) is co-sponsoring a bill to pull FEMA out from under the umbrella of the Department of Homeland Security and restore its independent status.

Clinton, who met with evacuees in Houston's Astrodome over the weekend,

The Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm Wednesday that those evacuees want answers.

"They asked me question after question about what (went) wrong," she says. "Right now, we have guesses. We're getting some good information from the press, but we don't know. And people, not only in New Orleans and the surrounding parishes ... in Mississippi and Alabama, deserve answers. All of us deserve answers.

"And so I hope we will have an independent commission. The president says he wants to investigate. Obviously, the Congress is going to investigate. I don't think either the president or the Congress can conduct the kind of objective independent investigation we need."

Clinton says that the federal coordination of the disaster response "didn't happen. There were so many problems, and the local and state authorities were overwhelmed by the immensity of this disaster. The federal government was slow to respond. They didn't really inspire any confidence in the people they were working with.

"We've seen so many examples of state and local officials saying, 'We thought they were coming. We thought they were coming.' They didn't come. We need to know what went wrong.

"I have also said, however, that FEMA worked very well during the Clinton administration as an independent agency with someone in charge who understood how to respond to emergencies, had a lot of experience."

When asked whether FEMA Director Michael Brown should be fired, Clinton hedged.

"That's up to the president and up to the people in this administration," she says. "I would never have appointed such a person, I would imagine. I don't think anybody would. You would appoint somebody who has experience. James Lee Witt, who was the director during the eight years of the Clinton administration, had years of experience responding to disasters. … (The administration) is gonna hafta make the decisions (about firing Brown), and people will judge the decisions they make."

Clinton says the best rule in politics is the Golden Rule.

"We need to help these people as we would want to be helped if something disastrous happened to us," she says. "That's going to take money and the generosity of the American people who are once again giving in record amounts. But it's going to take our government."

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