Monday, January 30, 2006

Why is this only being reported now?

CNN's big headline this morning read "FEMA's big kiss-off?"; it was positioned above a picture of a stranded Katrina victim captioned "Some loss of life 'might not have occurred,' senator says."

While I appreciate that CNN is covering the story about turned-away Katrina aid, it makes me wonder why that headline and provocative quote weren't present in the weeks after the hurricane (when, for instance, I was able to easily collect more than 20 unique reports of denied Katrina aid; see this post for the full list).

The CNN article appears to have been spurred by the investigations of a congressional committee into the response to hurricane Katrina (the committee is summarized here, and its hearings are detailed here). The CNN article does have some new information in it; for instance, the committee has uncovered evidence that FEMA even rejected offers of aid that came from within the US government.
The Interior Department offered FEMA 500 rooms, 119 pieces of heavy equipment, 300 dump trucks and other vehicles, 300 boats, 11 aircraft and 400 law enforcement officers, according to a questionnaire answered by a department official.

Interior law enforcement officers included special agents and refuge officers from the department's Fish and Wildlife Service.

"Although we attempted to provide these assets, we were unable to efficiently integrate and deploy these resources," an Interior Department official wrote the Senate committee investigating the government's response to Katrina.


[Within three days of the hurricane landing,] the Interior Department had offered FEMA hundreds of law enforcement officers trained in search-and-rescue, emergency medical services and evacuation, according to the documents.

"The Department of the Interior was not called upon to assist until late September," the Interior official writes.
The hurricane made landfall on August 29.

The chair of the investigatory panel (Senator Susan Collins) seems to be (understandably) outraged:
"Now, you might be able to understand if it came from outside government," she said. "But this is another federal agency, an agency that was offering trained personnel and exactly the assets that the federal government needed to assist in the search-and-rescue operations."

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