The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has released FEMA documents showing yet another series of lapses in their response. "Hundreds of available trucks, boats, planes and federal officers were unused in search and rescue efforts immediately after Hurricane Katrina hit because FEMA failed to give them missions".
The ever-dependable DHS spokesman Russ Knocke says:
Katrina "pushed our capabilities and resources to the limit - and then some."
FEMA also called off their search and rescue operations three days after the storm hit, apparently because they were concerned for the safety of the rescuers. However, that might have just been a temporary suspension and Knocke says which it was will be determined later. From the email sent before the suspension:
"All assets have ceased operation until National Guard can assist TFs (task forces) with security."
Responding to a questionnaire posed by investigators, Interior Department Assistant Secretary P. Lynn Scarlett said her agency offered to supply FEMA with 300 dump trucks and other vehicles, 300 boats, 11 aircraft and 400 law enforcement officers to help search and rescue efforts.
"Although the department possesses significant resources that could have improved initial and ongoing response, many of these resources were not effectively incorporated into the federal response to Hurricane Katrina," Scarlett wrote in the response, dated Nov. 7.
Scarlett added: "Although we attempted to provide these assets through the process established by the [National Response Plan], we were unable to efficiently integrate and deploy those resources."
At one point, Scarlett's letter said, FEMA asked U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services to help with search and rescue in New Orleans, St. Bernard Parish and St. Tammany Parish but that the rescuers "never received task assignments." The agency, a branch of the Interior Department, apparently went ahead anyway, according to the letter, which said that Fish and Wildlife helped rescue 4,500 people in the first week after Katrina.
Other Interior Department resources that were offered, but unused, included flat-bottom boats for shallow-water rescues. "Clearly these assets and skills were precisely relevant in the post-Katrina environment," Scarlett wrote.
Knocke, the Homeland Security spokesman, said up to 60,000 federal employees were sent to the Gulf Coast to response to Katrina. However, "experience has shown that FEMA was not equipped with 21st century capabilities, and that is what (Homeland Security Secretary
Michael Chertoff) has committed as one of our top priorities going forward," he said.
They're always looking forward, and getting control over things, aren't they? Of course, competent administrations would actually try to get things right the first time.
A set of emails released by Congress show Blanco's aides offering wardrobe and image advice:
...In a Sept. 4 e-mail exchange, top Blanco aides bristled at Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff's remark that the federal government "is in control of New Orleans."
"Our answer is the National Guard is in charge of security under her direction," Blanco chief of staff Andy Kopplin wrote. "The mayor is in charge of the city. The governor is in charge of the state and the guard and security. The federal government is now meeting important missions that it has."
The next day, two Blanco press staffers appealed to other senior aides to stop travel that would have had the governor leaving the state on a day when President Bush was scheduled to be there.
"Reinforces the notion that she's not in charge and LA (Louisiana) needs to be federalized," wrote Blanco press secretary Denise Bottcher in a Sept. 5 e-mail.
Agreed Blanco communications director Bob Mann: "White House will be thrilled that she left the state. They will eat us for lunch. She cannot snub potus [Bush]."
...Their ideas, according to the e-mails, included having Blanco "put a few bags of ice in the hands of the citizens who need it" and stop "doing too many 'first lady' things."
... "You send that many black folks out of state, we will have a perception problem," Blanco assistant chief of staff Johnny Anderson wrote in a Sept. 2 e-mail.
"Word is already that we are only sending blacks out of this state," Anderson wrote. We are make (sic) a strategic error. FEMA will not have to answer to the people, we will."
Another part of the emails was discussed in Kathleen Blanco is MOVING MOUNTAINS
Shortly after noon on Wednesday, Aug 31, Karl Rove used Senator David Vitter to convey a message to governor Kathleen Blanco: she should announce that she's voluntarily turned control of the evacuation of New Orleans over to the feds, and she should:
explore legal options to impose martial law "or as close as we can get," Vitter quoted Rove as saying, according to handwritten notes by Terry Ryder, Blanco's executive counsel.
For the next three days, the White House tried to get Blanco to do what they wanted, except:
Blanco rejected the administration's terms, 10 minutes before Bush was to announce them in a Rose Garden news conference, the governor's aides said.
As others speculated at the time, Blanco had no clue on how to deal with the legalities of this:
Blanco's top aides relied on ad hoc tutorials from the National Guard about who would be in charge and how to call in federal help. But in the inevitable confusion of fast-moving events, partisan differences and federal/state divisions prevented top leaders from cooperating.
A Blanco aide, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the people around Bush were trying to maneuver the governor into an unnecessary change intended to make Bush look decisive.
"It was an overwhelming natural disaster. The federal government has an agency that exists for purposes of coming to the rescue of localities in a natural disaster, and that organization did not live up to what it was designed for or promised to," the aide said. Referring to Bush aides, he said, "It was time to recover from the fiasco, and take a win wherever you could, legitimate or not."
Vitter, in an interview, disagreed but acknowledged the clash.
"In my opinion, they [Blanco aides] were hypersensitive. . . . They seemed to feel there was some power play, which I don't think there was," he said. "The fact that it was [Rove] -- might that have fueled the governor's hypersensitivity? It may have, I don't know."
...The colonel in charge of the National Guard at the Louisiana Superdome in the days after Katrina said the shelter of last resort was a miserable place to be but that the behavior of the residents was misrepresented.
Colonel Thomas Beron said there were no murders and that the people were receiving food and water.
"There were no homicides," he stressed. "There were six fatalities. I'll tell you, I helped load every single body onto the FEMA trucks after the superdome was cleared."
Beron told members of the New Orleans City Council that he wants to set the record straight. He says there were some deaths in the dome, but they resulted from natural causes, an apparent suicide and a drug overdose.
Beron also said that most of the 35,000 evacuees were orderly, and though it wasn't gourmet, they weren't starving.
"The facts were we were fed twice a day, an MRE and a bottle of water, and after Wednesday, when we got more water, an MRE and two bottles of water in the morning and in the evening..."
As for me, I'm still quite a bit skeptical. Feeding that skepticism is the fact that everyone involved would like things to be as he describes, yet there were many early reports from different people appearing in different sources, and it doesn't seem possible that all of those could be so wrong...
[...911 is a joke...]
"We just don't have enough police officers to handle the calls we're getting," said New Orleans Councilman Jay Batt, who has received calls from more than 100 other residents with similar concerns...
The streets of New Orleans are patrolled now by a much-reduced force.
The National Guard whose uniformed soldiers and Humvees were a daily fixture in the weeks immediately after Hurricane Katrina now has 2,361 people in New Orleans, down from more than 6,000 after the storm struck Aug. 29, said a spokesman, Lt. Col. Pete Schneider.
Some see the absence of such patrols today as a sign of progress, but others say it increases the strain on the city's already-fractured police force.
About 300 federal, state and out-of-state officers remain on the streets, [NOPD spokesman Capt. Marlon Defillo] said, as little as one-tenth the level after Katrina hit. The city's police force is said to number about 1,500, down about 200 officers from before the storm...
But, what about the phantom NOPD cops?
The active-duty military has 257 people in Louisiana, but all but a dozen are medical support personnel. That's in contrast to just under 20,000 active-duty personnel right after Katrina...
Joint Task Force-Katrina has been shut down and Lt. Gen. Russel Honore has returned to his previous assignment as commander of the 1st Army.
[Paul McHale, the assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense] denied that President Bush ever proposed to Gov. Kathleen Blanco of Louisiana or Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi that Honore take charge of all military forces in those states, including the National Guard. Instead, Bush proposed that Honore be "dual hatted," McHale said putting Honore in direct charge of the federal troops while also having him command the National Guard troops under the direction of the governors.
Both governors resisted that approach. Honore ended up commanding only the federal troops, while the adjutant generals of Louisiana and Mississippi retained command of National Guard forces under the governor's control. McHale said this arrangement worked well.
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."
Please post links to scanner transcripts, videos, etc. etc. in the comments.
These are four links to very large, raw log files. Save to disk and open in notepad or similar:
There are several links here
This interview downplays the charges of violence at the Superdome.
[nofollow policy in effect]
The Defense Dep't commissioned an "independent and critical review" of the response to Katrina to be conducted by "Stephen Henthorne, a former professor of the US Army's War College and an adviser to the Pentagon who was a deputy-director in the Louisiana relief efforts."
The Independent UK says it's seen a copy of the report:
It charts how "corruption and mismanagement within the New Orleans city government" had "diverted money earmarked for improving flood protection to other, more vote-getting, projects. Past mayors and governors gambled that the long-expected Big Killer hurricane would never happen. That bet was lost with Hurricane Katrina."
The report concludes that although the US military did a good job in carrying out emergency missions, there were some serious shortcomings.
The report states that Brigadier General Michael D Barbero, commander of the Joint Readiness Training Centre at Fort Polk, Louisiana, refused permission for special forces units who volunteered to join relief efforts, to do so. General Barbero also refused to release other troops.
"The same general did take in some families from Hurricane Katrina, but only military families living off the base," the report says. "He has done a similar thing for military families displaced by Hurricane Rita. However, he declined to share water with the citizens of Leesville, who are out of water, and his civil affairs staff have to sneak off post in civilian clothes to help coordinate relief efforts." The report says deployment in the Iraq war led to serious problems. "Another major factor in the delayed response to the hurricane aftermath was that the bulk of the Louisiana and Mississippi National Guard was deployed in Iraq.
"Even though all the states have 'compacts' with each other, pledging to come to the aid of other states, it takes time, money and effort to activate and deploy National Guard troops from other states to fill in"...
Then, it goes on to advise against the plan of Bush and others to weaken Posse Comitatus.
However, according to this:
This statement is not supported by the facts. 3,000 of 11,000 members of the Louisiana National Guard and 4,000 of 13,000 members of the Mississippi National Guard were deployed to Iraq, leaving more than 17,000 National Guardsmen for hurricane relief efforts. This does not constitute the "bulk" of troops as they said the report stated.