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FEMA Meets the Press, Which Happens to Be . . . FEMA

"If the worst thing that happens to me in this disaster is that we had staff in the chairs to ask questions that reporters had been asking all day, Widomski said, "trust me, I'll be happy."

Heck of a job, Harvey.

He's Leaving, Not Quitting

David Denehy, a.k.a. "The $75 Million Man," who headed a controversial program to dispense that amount to promote democracy in Iran, is leaving his job today at the State Department to go private-sector as head of a small company.

In a recent e-mail, Denehy said that "my decision to leave the administration is due, in part, to my belief that I am better able to serve the goals of the President's Freedom Agenda from outside the government. While there have been many challenges to the work we have done together, the rewards have been equally great."

More than two dozen Iranian American and human rights groups said the Iran program, which began last year, was "counter-productive" and led to wider repression of activists who were accused of being foreign agents or traitors. Four Iranian Americans were jailed for "crimes against national security," the groups said in appealing to Congress to eliminate the program, and continuation of the program would only further endanger democracy efforts by giving the Iranian government "a pretext to harass its own population."

But Denehy, in an e-mail to us yesterday, said he's not leaving because of criticism of the effort. "I continue to enjoy the support of my leadership," he said, and "from Congress and more importantly from those within Iran who participate in our programs. . . . I don't back away from a fight."

All the Same?

April 8, 2004: Then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice told the Sept. 11 commission that "terrorism is terrorism is terrorism -- in other words, you can't fight al-Qaeda and hug Hezbollah or hug Hamas."

"We don't make a distinction between different kinds of terrorism. And we're, therefore, united with the countries of the world to fight all kinds of terrorism. Terrorism is never an appropriate or justified response just because of political difficulty."

Wednesday: Army Maj. Gen. Richard Sherlock, a senior member of the staff of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a news briefing: "There are over 45 different organizations on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations, and you can't look at all of them the same way.

"If you look at all of these as nails, then all of the solutions you have all of a sudden suddenly start to appear like a hammer, and a hammer's not always the right answer."

Hmmmm. . . .

Don't Forget Where You Came From

In June, Paul McNulty left the No. 2 job at the Justice Department -- and the hassle being called to Capitol Hill to answer questions about whether politics played a role in the firing of U.S. attorneys -- for a big-bucks partnership at Baker & McKenzie in Washington.

He told the audience at an American Bar Association conference in Washington yesterday that he's still getting the hang of his new job. Talking about criminal-fraud investigations of big companies, McNulty referred to himself as part of the government, then laughed and told the crowd: "I have to get the 'we' out of my vocabulary," our colleague Carrie Johnson reports.

Maybe he needs to remember who's signing his paycheck. At the conference, McNulty staunchly defended a DOJ policy that allows prosecutors to strong-arm companies to comply with the feds.

Resourcefulness at the FAA, Cont'd

The Federal Aviation Administration calls to say that the poker table and other furnishings bought for the Atlanta air traffic control center did not cost $3,500 by itself, as we had written Wednesday, but only $795. And it's a "de-briefing table for trainees," FAA spokeswoman Diane Spitaliere said, although you "could flip over the top for the checkerboard on the other side," which folks could use to relax during downtime.

Of course, they could play poker on it. And since the FAA can't get around to spending a few bucks to fix the chronically leaky roof at the center, the controllers could put their equipment under the table so it's not damaged when it rains. Beats using the umbrellas that they have to hold over the stuff now.

"It could be used for other purposes," Spitalieri conceded.

Research editor Alice Crites contributed to this column.

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