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FEMA's external affairs director loses his job at National Intelligence Office

The man who staged a fake Federal Emergency Management Agency news conference won't take up the post of National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell's top public information officer.

John P. "Pat" Philbin, FEMA's external affairs director, who had been scheduled to move into the new job on Monday, will not be getting it after last week's phony news conference. The staged question-and-answer session was harshly criticized by both the White House and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, whose department oversees FEMA.

"We do not normally comment on personnel matters," DNI spokesman Ross Feinstein said Monday. "However, we can confirm that Mr. Philbin is not, nor is he scheduled to be, the director of public affairs for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence."

Feinstein said earlier that Philbin's job change had been put on hold while McConnell reviewed his record.

Philbin 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?"

"I think it was one of the dumbest and most inappropriate things I've seen since I've been in government," Chertoff said later.

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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