Sunday, February 12, 2006

US federal gov't disregarded Katrina threat-Post

US federal gov't disregarded Katrina threat-Post

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A congressional report will show the U.S. government from President Bush down disregarded the threat of Hurricane Katrina and failed to take live-saving countermeasures, the Washington Post reported on Sunday.

The report includes 90 findings of failures at all levels of government but proposes few specific changes, the Post said, citing a summary of the report and an interview with a senior investigator.

It lays primary fault with the passive reaction and misjudgments of top Bush aides, especially Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, the Post said.

It portrays Chertoff as detached from events and says he switched on the government's emergency response systems "late, ineffectively or not at all" and delayed the flow of federal troops and supplies by as much as three days.

The U.S. military, Federal Emergency Management Agency director and FEMA field commanders set up rival chains of command, the Post said.

Bush could have but did not speed the response because he alone had the power to cut through bureaucratic resistance, the Post said.

The response to the disaster showed the government failed to learn from the September 11, 2001 hijacking attacks, the report concludes.

"Blinding lack of situational awareness and disjointed decision making needlessly compounded and prolonged Katrina's horror," the Post quoted the report as saying.

Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf coast on August 29, causing the deaths of more than 1,200 people and flooding much of the city of New Orleans.

A Homeland Security Department spokesman told the Post the government had prepared for Katrina's landfall but Brown's "willful insubordination" hampered the response.

Brown was forced out of the agency shortly after the disaster. He told Congress on Friday he had warned the White House of flooding in New Orleans shortly after the hurricane struck, contradicting White House statements that they were not aware of the flooding until the following day.

The White House is preparing its own review, a spokesman told the Post.

The 600-page report, to be released publicly on Wednesday, was produced by a committee of eleven House Republicans.

Democrats have boycotted the review and called for an independent commission.