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Update [2005-9-12 7:36:0 by Rat]: Added links to the Gretna police barring evacuees from leaving NOLA, while FEMA would not allow the Red Cross in to force people to leave. SECOND UPDATE: Adding excellent data from "Suspect Devices" blog regarding "Hurricane Pam" among other things. This is my attempt to fight with facts the Rovian "Politics Over Duty" email that's spreading lies to whitewash Bush, Chertoff and Brownie's accountability over the Katrina response.

First off, there are literally hundreds of people here that could have written this better and more succinctly than I. I post this here before sending it out to get your feedback.

There are various timelines put together by some hardworking people that I gratefully used, but I wanted something that took this pack of lies apart point by point, using facts in a non-partisan way.

As I've worked on this tonight, I think my fatigue has allowed some snarkiness to weasel its way into the project (it's 1:30am here.) I'm afraid that it is too long for most people to read. Thanks to everyone that helped me in my previous diary, and thanks in advance to everyone that posts suggestions here!

(email begins)
This is a reply to the email "Politics Over Duty" that has been circulating on the Net. I will take the email point by point to comment on any inaccuracies.

I think all of Mayor Nagin's pomp and posturing is going to bite him hard in the near future as the lies and distortions of his interviews are coming to light.
This is opinion, but I'll note that Nagin's tune has certainly changed since his meeting with the President and as things have progressed. We'll see in the future.

On Friday night before the storm hit Max Mayfield of the National Hurricane Center took the unprecedented action of calling Mayor Nagin and Governor Blanco personally to plead with them to begin MANDATORY evacuation of New Orleans and they said they'd take it under consideration. This was after the NOAA buoy 240 miles south had recorded 68' waves before it was destroyed.

Mayfield called the governor and mayor on Saturday, not Friday.(He called Homeland Security Director Chertoff and FEMA Director Brown on Friday, warning them the levees would probably fail.)

The following quote about the call to the Governor and Mayor is from this St Petersburg Times article:

"On Saturday night, Mayfield was so worried about Hurricane Katrina that he called the governors of Louisiana and Mississippi and the mayor of New Orleans. On Sunday, he even talked about the force of Katrina during a video conference call to President Bush at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

"I just wanted to be able to go to sleep that night knowing that I did all I could do," Mayfield said." (end quote)

The National Hurricane Center did not even post a hurricane watch including New Orleans until 10 a.m. Central Daylight Time on Saturday, August 27.

The watch was upgraded to a warning twelve hours later. Moreover, Katrina's center didn't move to within 250 miles of the mouth of the Mississippi River until 7 a.m. CDT on Sunday, August 28.

A NOAA buoy 240 miles south of New Orleans therefore could not have been destroyed by a 68' wave three days earlier. There was a NHC report on the following Monday of a buoy 42040 reporting 40' waves when the storm was Category 4. It is highly unlikely that the waves dropped 28' as the storm grew much stronger.

President Bush spent Friday afternoon and evening in meetings with his advisors and administrators drafting all of the paperwork required for a state to request federal assistance (and not be in violation of the Posse Comitatus Act or having to enact the Insurgency Act).
There is a standard procedure for states requesting federal assistance in the event of natural disasters. This case that White House staffers were working on was not the ordinary procedure, but something different that was not following the Comprehensive Plan agreed upon by the federal, state and New Orleans city governments. Note that this really took place the Friday AFTER the storm hit, NOT the Friday before.

Standard federal hurricane responses are covered by the Stafford Act, specifically Section 5143 as amended after the 9/11 terrorist attacks: html

It states that any presidentially declared disaster or national emergency automatically became an Incident of National Significance and as such is the responsibility of the federal government to handle. This has been used over the last four years in dealing with all natural disasters without having to worry about the Posse Comitatus or Insurgency Act. The last time the sort of federalization of response such as what was sought in this case was the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles.

Just before midnight Friday evening the President called Governor Blanco and pleaded with her to sign the request papers so the federal government and the military could legally begin mobilization and call up. He was told that they didn't think it necessary for the federal government to be involved yet. After the President's final call to the governor she held meetings with her staff to discuss the political ramifications of bringing in federal forces. It was decided that if they allowed federal assistance it would make it look as if they had failed so it was agreed upon that the feds would not be invited in.
This conversation/argument did not begin until the Friday AFTER the storm hit New Orleans, and after both the governor and mayor had pled for federal help on national TV amid mounting criticism of FEMA's failure to help the disaster victims. That's a week AFTER when this email said this took place. On the Friday BEFORE the storm, Gov. Blanco was declaring a state of emergency, and requesting troop assistance from the Pentagon:

"At a 9/1 press conference, Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, commander, Joint Task Force Katrina, said that the Gulf States began the process of requesting additional forces on Friday, 8/26."

This is the day after Katrina hit South Florida, and three days before New Orleans is hit.

Saturday before the storm hit the President again called Gov. Blanco and Mayor Nagin requesting they please sign the papers requesting
federal assistance that they declare the state an emergency area, and begin mandatory evacuation.
As noted above, Bush did not approach Blanco about federalization of the relief operations until the Friday AFTER the storm hit and after four days of news reports on FEMA's failures. On the Saturday before the storm hit (August 27,) BLANCO contacted BUSH and asked him to declare a Federal State of Emergency for Louisiana:

"I have determined that this incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the State and affected local governments, and that supplementary Federal assistance is necessary to save lives, protect property, public health, and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of a disaster."
(end quote)

President Bush did declare a Federal State of Emergency that same day after receiving the request from Blanco:

"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...

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."
(end quote)

For some reason, the declaration of emergency EXCLUDES the parishes on the Gulf Coast, only covering parishes from the middle of the state northward. It is unknown whether there was a misunderstanding. Late the same day, (August 27,) Gov. Blanco asks again for a federal disaster declaration, specifically naming the coastal parishes, which are most at risk:

The President makes a second disaster declaration covering the coastal parishes on Sunday, August 29.

After a personal plea from the President, Nagin agreed to order an evacuation, but it would not be a full mandatory evacuation, and the governor still refused to sign the papers requesting and authorizing federal action.
The President did NOT call Mayor Nagin on the Saturday before the storm hit. Gov. Blanco called Mayor Nagin that night, urging a mandatory evacuation that was not declared until Sunday morning. A voluntary evacuation had been called on Saturday, and the mayor's staff was researching the legal liability to the city government if he called a mandatory evacuation (primarily lawsuits from hotels and tourism businesses.)

The papers sent to Blanco looking to federalize the relief efforts were sent the Friday after the storm hit, a week later than stated in this email.

In frustration the President declared the area a national disaster area before the state of Louisiana did so he could legally begin some advanced preparations.
This is totally false. The governor declared a disaster area on August 26th. The Washington Post and Newsweek, citing "an unnamed White House official" reported these claims. When they found out that this was false, the Washington Post printed a retraction hours later (see notice at top of the article):

Rumor has it that the President's legal advisers were looking into the ramifications of using the insurgency act to bypass the Constitutional requirement that a state request federal aid before the federal government can move into state with troops - but that had not been done since 1906 and the constitutionality of it was called into question to use before the disaster.
Louisiana had requested federal aid on August 27, as noted above:

Here is what Major General William A. Cugno said about Federalizing state troops when he testified before Congress, regarding an exercise called "Dark-Winter", preparation for a terrorist biological attack:

After the making of numerous time-consuming legal and factual determinations, little, if anything other than direct access to federal supplies, is gained by federalizing the National Guard for Dark-Winter operations. Federalization would effectively restructure the chain of command...
This changing of command would create additional logistics and communications problems, as well as consume valuable time. The major effect of federalizing is the removal of state control. State control is vital to operations within
a state. The vitality arises from the trust, a unique aspect of mission efficiency, developed between state officials through their regular governmental functions, activities and exercises. Moreover, the Governor
has more flexibility in the use of National Guard forces in emergency situations than federal commanders, who are constrained by federal law while conducting military/civil operations within the United States.

Here is his testimony that using Federal troops in response to natural disasters does NOT violate the Posse Comitatus Act:

The Posse Comitatus Act prohibits the use of any part of the Army, Air Force, Navy, or Marines, including their reserve components, as a posse comitatus ("armed force") or otherwise to execute the laws, except as authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress. Congress has created a number of statutory exceptions to the Posse Comitatus Act, which fall into four major categories:
(1) insurrections and civil disturbances,
(2) counterdrug operations,
(3) disaster relief,
(4) counter-terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

So you see, this is all spelled out in the law. The President taking over the state troops would make things worse, not better. FEMA is already authorized to pull supplies and manpower from any Federal agency, so there is no reason to take over National Guard and local law enforcement people except to take command away from the governor and mayor (this federalization would parish sheriffs, and state and city police.)

Note again that this is four days AFTER the hurricane hit New Orleans, and the day AFTER FEMA Director Brown says on national TV that they didn't know about the people at the Convention Center that they begin demanding the federalization of troops.

Throw in that over half the federal aid of the past decade to New Orleans for levee construction, maintenance, and repair was diverted to fund a marina and support the gambling ships.
Louisiana, like every state, has pork barrel politics, and the state has a reputation for corruption. A substantial portion of the levee budget has gone to pork, though calling it "over half" of ALL Federal aid to the state is an embellishment. The press is already publicizing the marina project that the Army Corps of Engineers was forced into by Sen. Landrieu, and she'll be answering some tough questions soon.

Toss in the investigation that will look into why the emergency preparedness plan submitted to the federal government for funding and published on the city's website was never implemented
This is the Comprehensive Plan drawn up after the "Hurricane Pam" mock drills and exercises in July of 2004. Hurricane scientists at LSU participated in the study. Here is a summary of the findings. This release is from this summer. The line "Soon, agencies will have even more storm data to utilize in their response plans", talking about another study/drill planned for this summer, now takes on an ominous foreshadowing.

This plan was not implemented at any level of the government- local, state, or federal. A second exercise scheduled for this year was to provide more data. Recommendations for supplies for "tent cities" to house the expected 300,000 people unable to leave the area due to lack of transportation were shelved by the federal government.

...and in fact may have been bogus for the purpose of gaining additional federal funding as we now learn that the organizations identified in the plan were never contacted or coordinating into any planning - though the document implies that they were.
This is conjecture, with no facts to back it up. As noted in this MSNBC article the finding of the Hurricane Pam exercise were not implemented. The firm of Innovative Emergency Management was hired by the Dept of Homeland Security in June of 2004 to develop procedures.

Another "Hurricane Pam" exercise was planned for this summer to iron out differences in the plan, but was canceled due to lack of funding. Here is a detailed explanation of the planning process and simulations from someone that worked at IEM on the "Hurricane Pam" project and comprehensive plan:
(quote) There was a certain amount of contention, a few turf wars, some loud talk. None if it consequential, in the end, because of the single greatest emollient: FEMA. The Federal Emergency Management Agency promised the moon and the stars. They promised to have 1,000,000 bottles of water per day coming into affected areas within 48 hours. They promised massive prestaging with water, ice, medical supplies and generators. Anything that was needed, they would have either in place as the storm hit or ready to move in immediately after. All it would take is a phone call from local officials to the state, who would then call FEMA, and it would be done. (end quote) He notes that there were contracts in place between FEMA and vendors, and that if FEMA had accepted donations of water, food, etc they could be held in breach of contract by the vendors. As it turned out, the supplies weren't delivered, but food and water were still turned away, and people died as a result. Everyone has seen all the news reports, and the president of Jefferson Parish on national TV talking about how FEMA denied them fuel and water for rescue efforts, so I won't crowd this with a bunch of links.

The suffering people of New Orleans need to be asking some hard questions as do we all, but they better start with why Blanco refused to even sign the multi-state mutual aid pack activation documents until Wednesday which further delayed the legal deployment of National Guard from adjoining states.
This has already been shown to be a lie. As noted above, the Pentagon admits receiving those documents three days BEFORE the storm, August 26th, not three days AFTER the storm, on Wednesday.

Or maybe ask why Nagin keeps harping that the President should have commandeered 500 Greyhound busses to help him when according to his own emergency plan and documents he claimed to have over 500 busses at his disposal to use between the local school busses and the city transportation busses - but he never raised a finger to prepare them or activate them.
The 500 buses for evacuation before the storm were supposed to be supplied by the federal government, according to the comprehensive plan. Quote from the New York Times article "Breakdowns Marked Path From Hurricane to Anarchy"By ERIC LIPTON, CHRISTOPHER DREW, SCOTT SHANE and DAVID ROHDE Published: September 11, 2005 (quote) The governor of Louisiana was "blistering mad." It was the third night after Hurricane Katrina drowned New Orleans, and Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco needed buses to rescue thousands of people from the fetid Superdome and convention center. But only a fraction of the 500 vehicles promised by federal authorities had arrived...

...Yet the federal, state and local officials who had failed to round up buses in advance were now in a frantic hunt. It would be two more days before they found enough to empty the shelters. (end quote) The mayor suspended bus service late Sunday to allow the drivers to evacuate their families. Before then, buses were moving those unable to flee due to health or monetary issues to the Superdome, the "shelter of last resort."

This is a sad time for all of us to see that a major city has all but been destroyed and thousands of people have died with hundreds of thousands more suffering, but it's certainly not a time for people to be pointing fingers and trying to find a bigger dog to blame for local corruption and incompetence. Pray to God for the survivors that they can start their lives anew as fast as possible and we learn from all the mistakes to avoid them in the future.
The only calls for "not pointing fingers" are the federal officials and their political fans. There were failures at every level of government. Everyone is going to have to step forward and explain their actions and inactions- city, state and federal. This "Politics Over Duty" email has done nothing but spread untruths in an attempt to deflect all blame from the federal government.

When FEMA and DHS leaders admit on national TV that they have no idea what is happening, they can hardly be called blameless. The people that the National Hurricane Center's Dr Mayfield called on Friday wasn't the mayor of New Orleans and Gov. Blanco (he called them the next day,) it was the Dept of Homeland Security's Chertoff and FEMA Director Brown. He warned them that the levees could fail:

By early Monday, waves were already coming over the Lake Ponchartrain levee: ml#074667
"Waves crashed atop the exercise path on the Lake Pontchartrain levee in Kenner early Monday as Katrina churned closer. Police maintained a high profile on the streets, but civilian traffic was almost non-existent."

When the President says that "no one expected the levees to fail" in the face of years of studies showing that a Category 3 storm would top the levees, and when, after days of live reporting of people drowning and starving, he tells Brown he's "doing a heck of a job" on national TV, he can hardly be called blameless.

Here is just one of many reports on what would happen if a major storm hit New Orleans.
2002 Times Picayune report: "Washing Away":
National Geographic did a story on this the same year

Did Blanco and Nagin mess up? Sure. Here is a first-hand account of visiting paramedics caught in New Orleans during the storm and Gretna sheriff deputies firing on them when they tried to evacuate across the river: Here is an update where trapped tourists confirm that this happened: Here is the official Red Cross update stating that they were not allowed into New Orleans to try and entice people to come out (but as shown above, they were shot at when they DID try to leave the city.),1096,0_682_4524,00.html (quote) "The state Homeland Security Department had requested--and continues to request--that the American Red Cross not come back into New Orleans following the hurricane. Our presence would keep people from evacuating and encourage others to come into the city. " (end quote) No one on the federal level investigated why the people weren't getting out. Even after three days of reporters at the Convention Center covering people dying, FEMA didn't know what was going on. This was a tragedy at all levels, but trying to pin all the blame on locals is wrong. EVERYBODY is to blame.

What America needs is the truth, not partisan spinning in an effort to avoid blame.

Originally posted to Rat on Sun Sep 11, 2005 at 10:48 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Saved (none)
    If I get that email I'll "Reply All" with this link.
  •  Thanks Rat (none)
    I emailed an old high school wing-nut buddy recently crowing over the news that Hackett was probably going to run for senate, and that he had a good chance of winning because of the Katrina backlash, and he sent me this email. I understood why he was so defensive, but now I know where he got his info.

    I can write him back with this response now. Good work.

    Just Doing My Small Part In Pissing Off The Religious Right.

    by chuco35 on Sun Sep 11, 2005 at 11:14:06 PM PDT

  •  Great Job! (none)
    And sorry it's a long link, but here's the National Geographic article online...

    Hope that helps!

  •  This is great work (none)
    You ought to seriously consider making this an entry in the DKosopedia.

    Wounded Warrior Project Give till it hurts. They already did.

    by soonergrunt on Sun Sep 11, 2005 at 11:42:35 PM PDT

  •  Good Job! (none)
    Don't you just love how after spending paragraph after paragraph pointing fingers at the state & local govts, the email ends by chiding others for pointing fingers??  

    Grand Hypocracy Party at its best.

    It would be nice if someday we find out who the original writers are for all of these BS emails that have been circulating for the last dozen years.  One can dream.

    BTW, send your email response to and see if they'll use it for their rebuttal.

  •  IEM Plan (none)
    ...The firm of Innovative Emergency Management was hired by the Dept of Homeland Security in June of 2004 to develop procedures.

    Check out this awesome (probably one of the discussions in the past week)diary by a participant in the PAM Exercises.

  •  Thanks to everyone! (none)
    I've updated with the links to the Gretna cops and NOPD's actions of not only not helping evacuees, but actually shooting at them and threatening them when they tried to get out of town! I'm not crafting an apologist piece for Blanco and Nagin. Everyone gets to own up for what happened. The project is to counter Bush and Co trying to weasel out of accountability.

    The reply is still weak towards the end, specifically about the buses. If anyone has a source with details about what happened, please post here. I hate having to use my personal experiences with no data to back it up. It weakens the whole reply by getting into "he said, she said."

    Remember New Orleans

    by Rat on Mon Sep 12, 2005 at 04:44:56 AM PDT

    •  Since you are doing a great job of ........ (none)
      ....tracking the false excuses, could you try to track one more?  I see you have linked to the Red Cross faq concerning their reasons for not entering NOLA right away, but when was this faq published?  I would swear that I saw a statement on their site last week that indidated FEMA prevented their entry.  There was a diary here on DKOS that linked to the site but I'm unable to "search" with the right criteria to keep it from blowing up.  Please help me set this straight in my mind. Even if I'm wrong, I'd like to know.    
      •  according to dkosopedia (none)
        According to dkosopedia, that page on the Red Cross website was created on Friday, Sept. 2nd, and the fact broke on the national news the next day. The link supplied to the news being broken leads to the wrong place, apparently.

        While looking for the actual first news accounts of the Red Cross being denied access into New Orleans, I found this:

        As federal officials tried to get some control over the deteriorating situation in New Orleans, chaos was being replaced with bureaucratic rules that inhibited private relief organizations' efforts.

        "We've tried desperately to rescue 250 people trapped in a Salvation Army facility. They've been trapped in there since the flood came in. Many are on dialysis machines," said Maj. George Hood, national communications secretary for the relief organization.

        "Yesterday we rented big fan boats to pull them out and the National Guard would not let us enter the city," he said. The reason: a new plan to evacuate the embattled city grid by grid - and the Salvation Army's facility didn't fall in the right grid that day, Hood said in a telephone interview from Jackson, Miss.

        "No, it doesn't make sense," he said.

        Remember New Orleans

        by Rat on Mon Sep 12, 2005 at 09:06:46 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Good work (none)
    Thanks for some good work & info compilation here.  The subject email & this rebuttal shows clearly the difference between "us & them".  Clearly, some of us want the truth, wherever it lies, while the wingnuts want nothing of the sort.  Ideology over accountability; politics over reason, party loyalty over truth.  They sicken me.  Thanks again, Rat.

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