Constant's pations

If it's more than 30 minutes old, it's not news. It's a blog.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Uncovered documents reveal President acting outside authority in Katrina investigation

FEMA Memo sheds more light on bungling, despite Rove spin and Cabinet PR.

Every time we turn around, there's more spin cycle. Supposedly, "it was the locals fault," but that tune doesn't resonate. The Smoking Gun now reveals the opposite.

Rove attempted the spin, but the DHS memo now on shows otherwise: FEMA workers were deployed to portray a favorable image, yet DHS actions show their real weaknesses and cause for alarm.

If the Governor had failed to act, then FEMA would not have a memo directing Federal Action. But the facts are opposite: Blanco put the request in writing, the White House confirmed the request. It's even on the White House website, August 28, 2005:

This morning I spoke with FEMA Undersecretary Mike Brown and emergency management teams not only at the federal level but at the state level about the -- Hurricane Katrina. I've also spoken to Governor Blanco of Louisiana, Governor Barbour of Mississippi, Governor Bush of Florida, and Governor Riley of Alabama Ref
Blanco requested assistance on 27 August, and Bush responded, putting the FEMA and DHS on notice three days before Katrina hit: Coordinate, not find excuses.

The President was very clear before the storm hit that he knew that FEMA had an organizing role:
These declarations will allow federal agencies to coordinate all disaster relief efforts with state and local officials. Ref
. . . Meaning: Not some, but all Federal efforts were to be coordinated with the local officials.

The President also explicitly stated that all efforts would be taken to achieve these objectives:
We will do everything in our power to help the people in the communities affected by this storm.Ref
Also, the Conyers memo shows us the Governor did make the required requests, others relied on those requests, and those requests were clear.

Accept assistance

Section 5149 says that the assistance may be accepted:

"authorized to accept and utilize the services or facilities of any State or local government, or of any agency, office, or employee thereof, with the consent of such government."
This doesn't mean that the Federal Government has to wait to use Federal resources; nor does it mean that the Federal Government has to re-request permission to do what has already been requested: Coordinate resources.

FEMA may use the Red Cross:
In providing relief and assistance under this Act, the President may utilize, with their consent, the personnel and facilities of the American National Red Cross. . . Ref
This doesn't mean that the Federal Government has to request the Governor do anything above and beyond the original request.

There is nothing that says the Governor has to "approve" the President coordinating federal efforts. Rather, the statute says the opposite:
"The President is authorized to enter into agreements with the American National Red Cross. . .
The Governor is theoretically, out of the picture: No longer was she required to "approve" or "endorse" what the President was already authorized to do: Coordinate federal resources with the Red Cross.

Look at the White House Spin, via Fox

The White House and others are hoping to divert your attention from What the FEMA statutes say.

The FEMA statutes clearly say that the President has the power to coordinate with the Red Cross.

Let's look at some of the spin coming out:


Hugh Hewitt: Now Major Garrett, let's turn to the convention center, because this will be, in the aftermath...did the Red Cross have ready to go into the convention center the supplies that we're talking about as well?

Major Garret: Sure. They could have gone to any location, provided that the water wasn't too high, and they got some assistance.

HH: Now, were they utterly dependent upon the Louisiana state officials to okay them?

MG: Yes.

HH: Because you know, they do work with FEMA. But is it your understanding that FEMA and the Red Cross and the other relief agencies must get tat [stet, read="that'] state's okay to act?

MG: As the Red Cross told me, they said look. We are not state actors. We are not the Army. We are a private organziation. We work in cooperation with both FEMA and the state officials. . . .

[there's more]



The above comments are totally at odds with the FEMA statutes and the relationship the President has with the Red Cross in organizing Federal responses.

Further Garrett has major credibility issues, via Media Matters.

Also, you'll notice the above comments fail to cite the FEMA statutes, and fail to cite by name any Red Cross Officials.

Who will you believe: What you can read with your lying eyes in the FEMA statutes or Fox's Garrett?

The real issues:

  • 1. If there's any roadblock to providing Federal Assistance, why didn't the President remove it;

  • 2. If the Red Cross wasn't going in, who in the White House informed the Red Cross that "it wasn't safe" for them to be around the SuperDome;

  • 3. If there were National Guard troops in Louisiana, not Iraq, wouldn't we have solution to the security issue;

  • 4. If there were "truly enough National Guardsmen," why did the President then deploy 7,800 active duty forces to complement the National Guard?

    Some might be quick to suggest the ball is back in the FEMA-Rove-Bush-DHS court and rhetorically ask, "What will Rove come up with next?"

    But not so fast, the act does not specifically authorizes the President to investigate his own organizations. The statute specifically designates Presidential responsibility to conduct the audit, but only for non-Federal activities.

    Section 5161 applies to "single audits":
    (18) ''single audit'' means an audit, as described under section 7502(d), of a non-Federal entity that includes the entity's financial statements and Federal awards
    In other words, the President is using part of the statute to say that he's going to do the audit.

    However, the President fails to address how his "audit" is going to review DHS or FEMA. Both agencies are explicitly outside a "single audit" and outside the umbrella of the President's unilateral investigation, fact finding, or auditing.

    By acting outside his authority, the President appears to be interfering with an investigation. Even if you ignore the raw sewage from New Orleans, the stench continues to swirl around the White House.

    The FEMA memo on the SmokingGun website clearly shows that the DHS and FEMA personnel were fully engaged in the relief effort before the hurricane hit. There was nothing which anyone in the Federal Government had to "wait on" or "get permission" from the local authorities in order to act.

    Wait for it: Iraqi non-sense applied to Louisiana

    The Bush Administration is asking the world to embrace the Iraq "self-government" non-sense, then apply it to Louisiana: If you can convince the locals that their "self government" is real, you pretend the American government will only act when it fully coordinates with the local government.

    The Iraqis have been sold the illusion of democracy by the US deferring back to the local officials: "We're not occupiers, were guests of the elected government of Iraq." This same "defer back to the local government" may work in Iraq [ as evidenced by the agreement by the insurgents, satire], but this approach fails in New Orleans. Louisiana and Iraq do not have the same legal relationship with Washington.

    However, in Louisiana unlike Iraq, the President's power and ability to act is not conditional on local government as the world is asked to embrace. Rather, in the case of Louisiana, the President is already vested with this power through the FEMA statutes, and does not require additional local government concurrence with each successive act. Only one notification is required in Louisiana.

    Once the President, FEMA, and DHS confirmed they received the request, there was nothing in their way to fully mobilize and coordinate all federal resources to assist. But this President, as he has done in Iraq, wants to shift responsibility from his failed planning/oversight and find "someone else" to blame.

    In Iraq, those who stood up to unlawful occupiers are painted as crazy; in Louisiana, those who point to the self-evident White House failure to coordinate the Federal relief efforts are painted with the broad "they're being political" brush.

    What use is Washington?

    If the federal resources are not available after the request, why do we have a Federal Government, why are we paying taxes, and what is the "benefit" of this "more perfect union" when it is clearly imperfect, unresponsive, and ineffective?

    Rove, Bush, and the rest of the Republicans have no answer, yet they move quickly shut down the discussion, photographs, and public challenges of failed leadership. We've seen the same in with the Downing Street Memo, fixed facts in Iraq; and with Sibel Edmonds and 9-11.

    In the case of Katrina, we aren't dealing with the ruse of Iraq or the illusion of democracy. We're dealing with American citizens, at home, and fully under the reasonable expectation that the President would exercise his command authority to the best of his ability, using the power he has been vested.

    Clearly, this President's "best" is no better than what we've seen in re 9-11, Iraq, or the subsequent cover-up and threats against whistleblowers like Sibel Edmonds.

    Culture of intimidation

    How many people in FEMA and DHS have been intimidated like Valerie Plame? You only have to go to the Vice President's son in law to find out: He's the General Counsel at DHS and former Latham and Watkins associate.

    "We're doing out best" is an old tune. Remember what Cheney said after 9-11, words to the effect of, "If we mess this up again, we're in real trouble." They've screwed up again and the distractions, excuses, and Republican blaming is starting again. It is a political statement to say, "You cannot criticize, that is being political."

    Relationship to impeachment

    Yes, it gets better. Here's how it all fits.

    The White House is in trouble. Again. Their strategy is to convince the country that "whatever happens" is the divine will of the Almighty. George Bush hopes to hide from the media, sending Karl Rove to Crawford Texas for more photo ops and distractions.

    The country has put up with this non-sense from day one in 2000. It's time to throw this into the pool with the Fitzgerald grand jury and see how this squares with the lessons learned of the Downing Street Memo investigation.

    They fixed facts to justify war crimes in Iraq. They're doing the same to avoid a civil uprising directed at the Republican Party.

    The funds sent to Louisiana are payoffs to keep the country from acting on what is on their television screens: Self-evident failure of democracy to credibly respond despite the chance to learn from 9-11.

    There are many people to pay off. The cost of incompetent leadership is high. It is much higher when the price is accountability, freedom, and the Constitution.

    What you can do

    I urge you to closely follow the Conyers memo and the Katrina FOIA into this matter. Beware the FOIA request may get narrowed by design.

    The key will be to compare three things:

  • A. What DHS, FEMA, and the White House provide in writing [assertions, representations, illusions]; then compare it with

  • B. What they were supposed to do under the statutes, as outlined in the FEMA statutes [requirements, standards]; then compare those with

  • C. What they actually did. [evidence, reality]

    [If you want to read more about comparing evidence, illusions, and standards, go here for more].

    Conyers and CREW are asking the right questions. Your comments are welcome here.