Video refuels Katrina debate

first_img “If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video must be worth a million,” he said. “Six months after Hurricane Katrina destroyed the homes and livelihoods of millions along the Gulf Coast, the truth about what the president knew and when he knew it has come to light.” The videotape captured a briefing, one day before Katrina stuck on Aug. 29, involving then-Federal Emergency Management Agency head Michael Brown, Bush, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and other officials. Brown and others warned that the storm could breach levees, endanger lives in the New Orleans Superdome and overwhelm rescuers. Five days after the briefing, with most of New Orleans underwater, Bush said, “I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees.” White House and Homeland Security officials urged the public not to read too much into the video footage. “I hope people don’t draw conclusions from the president getting a single briefing,” presidential spokesman Trent Duffy said Wednesday, citing a variety of orders and disaster declarations Bush signed before the storm made landfall. “He received multiple briefings from multiple officials, and he was completely engaged at all times.” During the videotaped briefing, Brown expressed concern that there weren’t enough disaster teams to help evacuate the Superdome. “I’m concerned about … their ability to respond to a catastrophe within a catastrophe,” Brown told his bosses the day before the hurricane hit. Later, Bush reassured federal, state and local disaster relief officials, who were participating by teleconference, “We are fully prepared.” R. David Paulison, who replaced Brown as head of FEMA in the aftermath of Katrina, said Thursday that he would not second-guess the administration’s response to the hurricane. “I don’t know what else the White House could have done,” he said. “I think as soon as everybody recognized there was a big problem, stuff started flowing in within a couple of days.” 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! WASHINGTON – Lawmakers from both parties said Thursday that a newly disclosed videotape of a pre-Katrina briefing for President George W. Bush and top administration officials raises new questions about government response to the storm that flooded New Orleans and killed more than 1,300 people. The video “makes it perfectly clear once again that this disaster was not out of the blue or unforeseeable,” Sen. David Vitter, R-La., said. “It was not only predictable; it was actually predicted. That’s what made the failures in response – at the local, state and federal level – all the more outrageous.” The video, obtained by The Associated Press, “confirms what we have suspected all along,” said Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, charging that Bush administration officials have “systematically misled the American people.” Reid and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California renewed their calls for an independent commission to investigate the federal response to the hurricane. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECasino Insider: Here’s a look at San Manuel’s new high limit rooms, Asian restaurant The House and Senate have conducted separate investigations of the federal response, and the Bush administration did its own investigation. House Democrats for the most part refused to participate in the House probe, insisting since last fall that an independent commission should be created to handle the probe. “I try not to get angry, but I am plenty frustrated that we’re not getting answers” from the administration, said Rep. Charlie Melancon, D-La., one of the few Democrats who participated in the House investigation. “If nobody was hiding anything, why did the committee not get the documents it requested? We need to use subpoenas if necessary to get those documents.” A spokesman for Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., who headed the House investigation, said there was nothing new in the tape and accompanying transcripts. “Top federal, state and local officials failed to process and act on information at their disposal,” said David Marin, the spokesman. “We already knew that.” But Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., the ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, disagreed. last_img

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