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NBC on the many Blanco mistakes

On Saturday, Lisa Myers had a segment on NBC News discussing Kathleen Blanco's various mistakes. A transcript is here:

Myers: "Though experts had warned it would take 48 hours to evacuate New Orleans, Blanco did not order a mandatory evacuation that Saturday."
...Myers: "She and the mayor waited until Sunday [Aug. 28] , only 20 hours before Katrina came ashore, to order a mandatory evacuation, the first of what disaster experts and Louisiana insiders say were serious mistakes by the governor."
...Myers: "A key criticism, the governor's slowness in requesting federal troops. She told the President she needed help, but it wasn't until Wednesday [Aug. 31] that she specifically asked for 40,000 troops. That day, in a whispered conversation with her staff caught on camera, the governor appears to second-guess herself."
Blanco: "I really need to call for the military."
Unidentified female aide: "Yes, you do. Yes, you do."
Blanco: "And I should have started that in the first call."
Myers: "Another key mistake, experts say, Blanco's lateness in getting the Louisiana National Guard, which she commands, on the streets to try to establish security."
...Myers: "And remember the chaos at the Convention Center? We now know there were at least 250 Guardsmen deployed in another part of that building. But they were engineers, not police, so they were not directed to help restore order or even to share their food and water."
Colonel Doug Mouton, Louisiana National Guard: "I think we would've hurt a lot of people if we'd tried to take that on."
Myers: "The governor would not say whether she made the decision not to use these troops, and tells NBC News that her state's response to Katrina was, quote, 'very well-planned' and 'executed with great precision and effectiveness.'"
Roy Fletcher, Louisiana Political Consultant: "How could any governor argue that they have done what they can do when people were left on an interstate without food and water for a week?"
Myers: "The governor has said she takes responsibility for what went wrong, but insists her biggest mistake was believing FEMA officials who told her help was on the way."

DHS: Katrina not a "catastrophic event"

Your eyes might feel slimy after reading this report, but this bit needs some research:

On August 30, Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff labeled Katrina "an incident of national significance." In doing so, he set into action the National Response Plan (NRP). Secrecy News, published by the Federation of American Scientists, points out that in a little-noticed maneuver, Chertoff did not designate the hurricane as a "catastrophic event," a special sub-category of emergency situation that entails the expedited deployment of emergency response capabilities. On September 8, Chris Strohm of Government Executive Daily Briefing asked if Chertoff had exercised his catastrophic-incident authority in response to Hurricane Katrina. DHS spokesman Russ Knocke told the reporter that "it was too early to make a determination." FEMA officials continued to dodge the question last week. After repeated phone calls, one FEMA official, who refused to give her name, told the Voice that on August 31 the Department of Homeland Security declared Katrina "an incident of national significance." Asked if the storm ever had been declared a catastrophic event, the woman replied, "Homeland Security did not." In another conversation, Barbara Ellis of FEMA public affairs said, "Katrina rose to the level of 'incident of national significance.' " Asked if it was ever declared a catastrophic event, she repeated that the storm was an "incident of national significance."
In short, the government made sure it would not invoke laws setting into motion an expensive federal response. Instead, the feds blamed Blanco for the slipshod handling of the affair, explaining that they were prohibited by law from acting as a first responder.

Someone needs to explain the exact difference between the two designations and give examples of how they impacted the response. And, there's the possibility that under some new rule or other they're the same or can be made to be the same.

Mike Brown, Stephen Buyer on the missing parishes

The mystery of the missing parishes deepens with today's Congressional testimony from former FEMA head Mike Brown.
From the transcript

[REP. STEPHEN BUYER (R-IN)]: ...I'd like to know why did the president's federal emergency assistance declaration of August 27th not include the parishes of Orleans, Jefferson and Plaquemines?
BROWN: Under the law, the governor makes the request for the declaration and the governors of the states specify what areas, what counties they want included in that declaration.
And, based upon the governor's request, that's the recommendation that we make to the president. So if a governor does not request a particular county or a particular parish, that's not included in the request.
BUYER: All right.
Orleans Parish is New Orleans. I was listening to my colleague, Mr. Jefferson's, questions about when they talked about, you know, they asked for this assistance for three days and then president responded the very next day, not the day that it was made -- the request -- but the governor of Louisiana actually excluded New Orleans from the president's federal emergency assistance declaration?
BROWN: Again, Congressman, we looked at the request. The governors make the request by...
BUYER: Let me ask this. Since you went through the exercise in Pam, was that not shocking to you that the governor would excluded New Orleans from the declaration?
BUYER: When that request came in excluding these three parishes, did you question it?

At this point, you might want to take a look at the PDF file I believe Brown is referring to:
That does list all three parishes that are refered to above as missing... So, either Brown is wrong, or he's lying, or that's a "later version" of the document he received, or that's not the document he's refering to. Note that that document refers to the Stafford Act, mentioned further on:

BROWN: We questioned it. But I made the decision that we were going to go ahead and move assets in regardless because we have the ability to add those parishes...
BUYER: Regardless. Define regardless to me. What does that mean?
BROWN: Well, under the Stafford Act, once that declaration is made under the delegation of authorities, the director of FEMA can add counties on.
And so I just made the decision regardless of what the governor did, that if we needed to add counties on, we would do that.
[...Louisiana's emergency manager is under indictment...]
BUYER: ...I am really bothered that the governor of Louisiana would ask the president to declare an emergency so things could happen and she would exclude New Orleans and the parishes which are going to be hit by this hurricane.
BUYER: I'm really stunned by that. So I'm glad that you were also equally stunned.

Missing parishes still missing

As previously discussed in "Some LA counties missing from White House emergency declaration" and the later "The strange incident of the missing parishes", the various press releases and emergency declarations from various agencies seem to be missing some of the affected parishes.
For instance, a White House emergency declaration listed the parishes in the north of the state, and not those most affected.
This matter still remains a mystery, and here are some more links for any doughty researchers who want to try to come up with an answer.
A comment left at this post refers to "Winston Smith games", but the promised follow-up is not provided...
If your tinfoil is snugged down tight, enjoy yet another DU thread on this.
And, it turns out that "Is Blanco Trying To Rewrite History?" might not be correct, for the reason listed.
That links to LA press release #976 from Aug 27 and to a PDF file from Aug 28.
The first describes the parishes and requests an emergency declaration. The second requests a disaster declaration:

You correctly noted President Bush's same-day response to the Aug. 27 Blanco letter. What you missed is that on Aug. 29, President Bush responded to the second letter and made the disaster declaration. It's right there on the White House website, six documents above the one you posted.

That second link lists all the parishes in one way or another.
Here are some press releases from FEMA:
Aug 27: "Emergency Aid Authorized For Hurricane Katrina Emergency Response In Louisiana" (does NOT list Orleans, Plaquemines, etc.)
Aug 29: "Designated Counties for Louisiana Hurricane Katrina" (lists all counties in one way or another)
Aug 29: President Declares Major Disaster For Louisiana (ditto)
UPDATE: Here's yet another attempt to figure this out.

Will Michael Chertoff be the new scapegoat?

You're going to need a map and a large sheet of paper to follow the article "Conflicting accounts from top on Katrina response", which tries to figure out who exactly dropped the ball (if any), and whether it was DHS head Chertoff.
Apparently it happened like this:

  1. On the night of Aug. 27, the White House issued a statement on Katrina [That's the same statement discussed and linked in "Some LA counties missing from White House emergency declaration"].
    That did several things:

    1. it initiated the National Response Plan..
    2. it authorized DHS and FEMA "to coordinate all disaster relief efforts" under the Stafford Act...
    3. the NRP says that if the Stafford Act is used, the incident is a matter of "national significance".
  2. The NRP references a "principal federal official" who will lead the federal government's response, and the Stafford Act requires a "federal coordinating officer". (I'm confused over what they do, but apparently those aren't the same roles.) Sometime on Aug. 27, Bush named William Lokey as the FCO. In any case, Bush did not name Brown of FEMA as the PFO or the FCO.
  3. Aug. 29: Katrina hits
  4. Aug. 30: Chertoff names Brown as the PFO and declares Katrina an "incident of national significance".

The latter had apparently already been done three days prior by the White House, and perhaps Brown should have been the PFO from the beginning...
Can someone check these acronyms please?

At first it was Brown who took the brunt of the criticism for the federal response to Katrina and he resigned under pressure on Monday.
But some congressional aides involved in the investigation are now questioning why Chertoff waited until Aug. 30 to designate Brown as the "principal federal official" and to declare the storm an "incident of national significance."
...But it is unclear why Chertoff did not immediately designate Brown as the "principal federal official" with oversight over Lokey and other federal and state officials...
...But under the National Response Plan, Chertoff could hold off. "Depending on the magnitude of the disaster, a principal federal official may not always be designated, in which case the federal coordinating officer will provide the federal lead," the plan says.
Knocke said Chertoff did not hold off designating Brown as the "principal federal official" because he doubted the severity of the storm. Chertoff was working from home on Aug. 27 and kept in touch with officials by phone, he said.
Knocke said Brown already "was in fact the lead federal official in the field before and after (Chertoff's) declaration. ... Everyone knew their roles and responsibilities."

New Orleans officials never intended full evacuation

From "The Steady Buildup to a City's Chaos" comes this Sunday, August 28 news that should give some slight pause to the race-baiters:

Minutes earlier, Blanco had been pulled out to take a call from the president, pressed into service by FEMA's Brown to urge a mandatory evacuation. Blanco told him that's just what the mayor would order.
Nagin also announced that the city had set up 10 refuges of last resort, and promised that public buses would pick up stragglers in a dozen locations to take them to the Superdome and other shelters.
But he never mentioned the numbers that had haunted experts for years, the estimated 100,000 city residents without their own transportation. And he never mentioned that the state's comprehensive disaster plan, written in 2000 and posted on a state Web site, called for buses to take people out of the city once the governor declared a state of emergency.
In reality, Nagin's advisers never intended to follow that plan -- and knew many residents would stay behind. "We always knew we did not have the means to evacuate the city," said Terry Ebbert, the sharp-tongued city director of emergency management...

WaPo retraction on emergency declaration

Paul Craig Roberts offers "From Federal Failure Arises More Federal Power", which makes the following claims:
- funding for the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project (SELA) was cut...
- likewise with the work of the US Corps of Engineers on the New Orleans levees
- FEMA didn't undertake "normal advance preparations"
- "FEMA took no action until 3 days after the hurricane"
- money for preparedness was spent on Iraq
And, this:

...A senior Bush administration official planted on the Washington Post the disinformation that FEMA could not act because the Louisiana governor had not declared a state of emergency. Hours after printing this disinformation, a red-faced Washington Post issued a retraction, which reads: "A Sept. 4 article on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina incorrectly said that Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D) had not declared a state of emergency. She declared an emergency on Aug. 26."
Nevertheless, the disinformation was widely spread by Brit Hume and other Bush shills who operate out of Fox News (sic), and it continues to be spread via rightwing talk radio and pro-Bush Internet sites. Fox News (sic) host Bill O'Reilly spread similar disinformation. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff added to the disinformation against Gov. Blanco. Most Republicans cling tightly to the orchestrated disinformation as it coddles their state of denial about the failure of leadership in the White House...

Here's the retraction:

A Sept. 4 article on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina incorrectly said that Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D) had not declared a state of emergency. She declared an emergency on Aug. 26.

The strange incident of the missing parishes

The DUmmies try to sort out the missing parishes first discussed here in Some Louisiana parishes missing from White House emergency declaration. They point to this LA press release, saying in their charming way:

Governor Blanco has to issue a second letter, explicitly listing the Parishes for George.

But, there's no parishes listed at the link. Google's cache is too recent. However, this page seems to have an original copy of that press release (No. 48 KBB 2005), but there's no list there either.
Are the DUmmies mistaken? No, that can't be, can it? It doesn't seem like Blanco's proclamation has been modified since issued, since the Bayou Buzz post says it's from 8/26, the day of the press release.
The leftie page "Bush orders FEMA to protect Upsidedownland" started trying to find the answer to these questions the same day as I did, with no apparent luck so far. He's even got a nice map of the parishes. His third update says:

My inbox has received many dozens of emails from people pointing to August 29th (post-storm) documents, which supposedly fill in the blanks but are entirely off the point. We're looking for a pre-storm explanation. Please check your dates carefully.

On a perhaps related note, here's the August press releases. You'll note that some post numbers are missing, for instance 975. I'm not familiar with whatever system they're using, so perhaps they're elsewhere on their site, or perhaps they were deleted for innocent reasons. Or...

A Snopes timeline

Snopes says this is false:

New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin and Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco refused President Bush's pleas to declare an emergency in Louisiana before Hurricane Katrina struck.

The timeline they provide... isn't in temporal order, so I've corrected the below (assuming they have their facts correct that is):

- On Friday (26 August), Governor Blanco did indeed declare a state of emergency for the state of Louisiana in advance of Katrina's making landfall in the Gulf Coast.
- On Saturday (27 August), Governor Blanco asked President Bush to declare a state of emergency at the federal level for the state of Louisiana.
- The White House responded to Governor Blanco's request that same day (Saturday) by declaring the emergency and authorizing FEMA "to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency."
- According to the St. Petersberg Times, Max Mayfield of the National Hurricane Center contacted government officials in Louisiana and Mississippi on Saturday night (27 August), not Friday night. [he apparently requested a mandatory evacuation due to Katrina's strength]
- According to the New Orleans Time-Picayune, President Bush's first communication with Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco occurred on Sunday morning (August 28), just before a 9:30 AM press conference called by Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin to announce the latter's mandatory evacuation order for New Orleans.

They have links at their page, so feel free to put any corrections or additional information in the comments.
9/19/05 UPDATE: Unfortunately, I didn't save off Snopes' page when I posted this, since it seems to have changed.
The current version has this as the assertion:

Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco refused President Bush's pleas to declare an emergency before Hurricane Katrina struck.

Note that Nagin has been removed from what's above. And, note that the file was originally called "nagin.asp" but now it's "blanco.asp." They also appear to have added some text to the end.
There are copies of the original version here and here if anyone would care to do a diff. Note that the current version says its mod date is 9/9, but the first has a 9/8 mod date at the end of the excerpt.

Some LA counties missing from White House emergency declaration

On August 26, the White House issued a "Statement on Federal Emergency Assistance for Louisiana", which is provided below. That statement contains a list of parishes.
Oddly enough, only 39 parishes are listed, yet Louisiana has 64 parishes. One of those that's not on the WH list is... Orleans. Here's the full list of the ones that are missing from the White House list:
Jefferson Davis
St. Bernard
St. Charles
St. James
St. John The Baptist
St. Martin
St. Mary
St. Tammany
West Baton Rouge
Here's the declaration:

The President today declared an emergency exists in the State of Louisiana and ordered Federal aid to supplement state and local response efforts in the parishes located in the path of Hurricane Katrina beginning on August 26, 2005, and continuing.
The President's action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, authorized under Title V of the Stafford Act, to save lives, protect property and public health and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in the parishes of Allen, Avoyelles, Beauregard, Bienville, Bossier, Caddo, Caldwell, Claiborne, Catahoula, Concordia, De Soto, East Baton Rouge, East Carroll, East Feliciana, Evangeline, Franklin, Grant, Jackson, LaSalle, Lincoln, Livingston, Madison, Morehouse, Natchitoches, Pointe Coupee, Ouachita, Rapides, Red River, Richland, Sabine, St. Helena, St. Landry, Tensas, Union, Vernon, Webster, West Carroll, West Feliciana, and Winn.
Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency. Debris removal and emergency protective measures, including direct Federal assistance, will be provided at 75 percent Federal funding.
Representing FEMA, Michael D. Brown, Under Secretary for Emergency Preparedness and Response, Department of Homeland Security, named William Lokey as the Federal Coordinating Officer for Federal recovery operations in the affected area.



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