Last night we noted the new Knight-Ridder article which shows DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff waiting some 36 hours to make the determination that Katrina was an ‘Incident of National Significance’. Before that, Chertoff, not Michael Brown was in charge. And before Chertoff did that, Brown — who’s taken the big drubbing — actually had little power to act.
This ‘incident’ finding is part of the new National Response Plan, which is supposed to govern federal responses to domestic disasters. Yet the plan appears to have been largely disregarded with Katrina.
But a TPM Reader pointed something out to me that suggests that Knight-Ridder might have gotten one detail wrong (or at least missed one) — one which if anything makes the administration seem even more disorganized.
If you click here you can see a copy of the Chertoff memo which invoked the ‘incident’ finding.
But the reader points out that on page 7 of the Plan, it says quite clearly that “while all Presidentially declared disasters and emergencies under the Stafford Act are considered Incidents of National Significance, not all Incidents of National Significance necessarily result in disaster or emergency declarations under the Stafford Act..”
And if you go back to August 27th, this is just what President Bush did. He declared a state of emergency in the state of Louisiana under Title V of the Stafford Act.
Ergo, Katrina became an Incident of National Significance on August 27th — two days before the storm. But Chertoff apparently didn’t realize this and waited till a day after to make the determination on his own, one that according to the flow chart had already been made.
Lawyers and DHSers will know more about whether I’ve construed these sections correctly. (I certainly haven’t read all 400+ pages of the document.) But they at least seem pretty clear.