The Times has a piece tomorrow about the back and forth between Blanco and the White House around the time of the Katrina’s landfall. A look at the sourcing suggests it comes mainly, though not exclusively, from administration sources from DOJ, DOD, DHS and the White House. Despite that, it really doesn’t put things in a particularly good light.
I’m still not completely clear from reading the article precisely what the ins-and-outs were of how or why the president would have needed to invoke the Insurrection Act (see the article). I got the sense from the article that by the time lawlessness really started breaking out, the White House wanted to run the whole show or basically not get involved.
Whether that’s true or not, the whole process seemed to amount to a lot of not-particularly-urgent brainstorming about how federal law and state control over the Guard would interact, how the Governor would react, what the politics would be — basically a lot of thumb-twiddling by mid-level appointees while the whole situation spun out of control. And I don’t see how you could read the piece and not think: why weren’t any of these questions hashed out in advance?
Assuming the key points in the story are accurate, you can sorta see how one development led to another, and so forth. But the big picture just seems like these guys didn’t have their act together.
Which, when you think about it, is pretty much what it seemed like in real time.
And one other point. A short way into the piece there’s this graf …
The debate began after officials realized that Hurricane Katrina had exposed a critical flaw in the national disaster response plans created after the Sept. 11 attacks. According to the administration’s senior domestic security officials, the plan failed to recognize that local police, fire and medical personnel might be incapacitated.
That’s quite a flaw when you consider that most of the really bad terrorist scenarios would almost by definition knock out local first responders. A dirty bomb? A small nuclear device? A bioweapons attack? Several hundred first responders were killed on 9/11. And the only reason New York City’s police and fire departments remained functional is that, for all its horror, the 9/11 attacks were highly localized in one section of downtown Manhattan.
We’ve heard for four years how we’re in a war on terror, how we live in a new world where the nexus of fanaticism and technology can inflict unimaginable horrors on us in our very cities. And they never figured anything could happen bad enough that it might knock the cops and fire departments off the feet for a day or so?