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FEMA Chief Worried About Dinner While New Orleans Starved

As part of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committees investigation into the preparation for and response to Hurricane Katrina, Chairman Susan Collins and Ranking Member Joseph Lieberman today held a hearing where they heard testimony from the first FEMA official in New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. Marty Bahamonde, a 12-year career FEMA employee, was in New Orleans before, during, and after the Hurricane and spent two nights in the Superdome along with evacuees. He provided testimony offering a first-hand account of the horrible conditions in the Superdome, as well as information about his communications between FEMA officials in Washington and outside of New Orleans.

The following e-mail exchange excerpts (from the hearing exhibits - PDF) is emblematic of the disconnect between FEMA staff on the ground in the Gulf Coast region and headquarters.

Bahamonde, the first agency official to arrive in New Orleans in advance of the Aug. 29 storm, sends a dire message to FEMA Director Michael Brown about deteriorating conditions at the Superdome - a message which Brown ignores. Just a few hours later Brown's press secretary has a critical message of her own that has to be seen to be believed.

From: Marty Bahamonde
To: Michael Brown
Sent: Aug. 31, 11:20 a.m
Subject: New orleans

Sir, I know that you know the situation is past critical. Here some things you might not know.
Hotels are kicking people out, thousands gathering in the streets with no food or water. Hundreds still being rescued from homes.
The dying patients at the DMAT tent being medivac. Estimates are many will die within hours. Evacuation in process. Plans developing for dome evacuation but hotel situation adding to problem. We are out of food and running out of water at the dome, plans in works to address the critical need.

From: Sharon Worthy (Brown's press secretary)
Cc: Cindy Taylor (FEMA deputy director of public affairs)
Sent: Aug. 31, 2:00 p.m.
Subject: FW: Scarborough
"...Also, it is very important that time is allowed for Mr. Brown to eat dinner. Gievn [sic] that Baton Rouge is back to normal, restaurants are getting busy. He needs much more that [sic] 20 or 30 minutes. We now have traffic to encounter to get to and from a location of his choise [sic], followed by wait service from the restaurant staff, eating, etc.

From: Marty Bahamonde
To: Cindy Taylor
Sent: Aug. 31, 2:44 p.m.
Subject: Re: Scarborough
"OH MY GOD!!!!!!!! No won't go any further, too easy of a target. Just tell her that I just ate an MRE and crapped in the hallway of the Superdome along with 30,000 other close friends so I understand her concern about busy restaurants. Maybe tonight I will have time to move my pebbles on the parking garage floor so they don't stab me in the back while I try to sleep.
Note: The messages are in chronological order (as shown in the PDF starting at Exhibit 17). The message from Worthy to Taylor was part of a message Taylor sent to Bahamonde, presumably to show how disconnected headquarters folks were from the situation Bahamonde was living and describing...


Comments (20)

Let them eat cake!... (Below threshold)
AndrewSpencer:

Let them eat cake!

This is a joke, right? 'Cau... (Below threshold)
Fred Z:

This is a joke, right? 'Cause if it's not a joke there ought to be some metaphysical violence happening to a former senior FEMA person and a FEMA 'deputy director of public affairs'.

He needs more time to eat? He can eat sh*t - that won't take long.

If this is true, then he ma... (Below threshold)
JD:

If this is true, then he may end up eating lead when he goes back to NOLA for his inevitable book tour.

Three wordsFederal... (Below threshold)
Jake:

Three words

Federal Government bureaucrats

What the hell? Has this si... (Below threshold)
B Moe:

What the hell? Has this site been hacked by moonbats? How do you know Brown ignored the "dire message"? And why did you edit the message about the meal, because it sounded to me like Brown just wanted to make sure he had time to eat before a TV interview. Not all the unreasonable I would think. I would also note a 12 year veteran would have been hired in 1993, probably not a Republican and maybe a bit biased. I don't like Brown and agreed with his getting canned, but this site is usually above hatchet jobs.

Interesting reading those e... (Below threshold)
Eric:

Interesting reading those e-mails. I sure would like the opportunity to smack that press secretary. But, notice something more important about these e-mails. The continuing meme is that FEMA didn't do anything for days. Here we have proof that a highly experienced DMAT team was on the ground at the SuperDome and 7 trucks of food and water were sent in by FEMA before the storm hit. FEMA was overwhelmed by the incompetence of the local government and was predicting that problem on Sunday.

"Although FEMA does not oversee evacuation and sheltering, we may feel the effects of local decisions pretty soon.... Seven trucks (5 water and 2 MREs) are less than 2 hours away from the Superdome. There were transportation
problems that temporarily stopped the convoy Police escorts now accompany the trucks." - Sent: Sunday, August 28, 2005 7:16 PM

Do a little research. ... (Below threshold)
RiverRat:

Do a little research.

Cindy Taylor is probably a GS5 or 6 career bureaucratic go-for, a Democrat, and a Federal Employee's Union Member.

Anyone Taking bets? One of the things you'll never see in this type of reporting is any background on the bureaucrat. The MainSewer Media wants you to belive Bush hired la perra estupupida.

Here are the things I notic... (Below threshold)
chad:

Here are the things I noticed:

1. Michael Brown’s press secretary did send an e-mail that could be interpreted as highly insensitive and out of touch. It however did not come from Mr. Brown personally.
2. Why did Mr. Bahamonte even get copied on this e-mail? It had no bearing on what he was doing from what I can see.
3. The e-mail with the dire warning came 3 days into Mr. Bahamonte’s time in NOLA. What prompted it? Specifically none of his other e-mails appear to have been addressed to Mr. Brown. Was it requested by Brown as a status update, therefore not requiring a response or was it sent because of a disagreement in the lower levels. Need context.
4. On a similar note the vast majority of these e-mails are responses to other e-mails without the original message to provide context. What are they supposed to be showing?
5. Given the questions in 3 and 4, how do we know Brown ignore the e-mail.

OK, Kevin, I give in, this ... (Below threshold)
epador:

OK, Kevin, I give in, this is evidence of FEMA malfeasance. Time to move on...

Thank you Kevin for NOT mov... (Below threshold)
doctorj:

Thank you Kevin for NOT moving on. The American citizens that are still living in tents or the citizens that still don't know if their businesses can be saved or the citizens that aren't sure that anybody even remembers anymore that a major American city has been devastated thank you. Epador, come down here to southern Louisiana or southern Mississippi and see with your own eyes the conditions people are living in. You would not be saying "move on".

I can't speak for epador, b... (Below threshold)
chad:

I can't speak for epador, but my thought is that when you have reached the point that you are taking e-mails out of context and editing them to make them appear worse then there is no point in continuing the argument. If Kevin had titled this "Email shows FEMA disorganized" or something similar then I wouldn't really have a problem with the post. Instead we have portions of an e-mail chain and this statement

"Bahamonde, the first agency official to arrive in New Orleans in advance of the Aug. 29 storm, sends a dire message to FEMA Director Michael Brown about deteriorating conditions at the Superdome - a message which Brown ignores. Just a few hours later Brown's press secretary has a critical message of her own that has to be seen to be believed."

To the casual reader this implies that the message was sent on the 29th as one of the first things Bahamonde did. Instead it was sent 3 days into Bahmondes time in NOLA and was an outlier in regards to the previous e-mail chain and subsequent communication. We don't have the context to know why it was sent and given the fragmentary nature of the chain we don't know the actual context or if a reply was sent. Given the time frame my bet is it was a requested update on superdome conditions for a press appearance. That would not require a response.

To sum up I am not trying to excuse FEMAs performance or Brown's tenure there. Both appear to have been horrible (although as details come out FEMAs response was not as pathetic as I originally thought). I am saying lets be fair in judging this stuff. If Brown was completely FUBARed it will come out we don't need to manufacture evidence.

All of this is of course mooted by the fact it is Kevin's site and he can post what he wants.

Sigh...I'm not sur... (Below threshold)

Sigh...

I'm not sure why an agency has to be so micromanaged by the top guy that if he takes an hour to eat, people die.

There should be a pretty broad set of people with authority to do what a guy on the ground in NO needs to get done.

FAKES !!!... (Below threshold)
Jeff:

FAKES !!!

How do I know ... ? ... (Below threshold)
Jeff:

How do I know ... ?

"crapped" would never have gotten thru the e-mail filter at FEMA ...

plus, what is the proof that these are real ... like some message headers that show server info and such ...

No, these are fakes ... (until proven ...)

Well Kevin pulled them from... (Below threshold)
chad:

Well Kevin pulled them from the same place I did an exhibit from the congressional hearings, so if they are fakes then they should have been challenged during the testimony.

If I want to read this kind... (Below threshold)
JB:

If I want to read this kind of presentation of facts and analysis, I can subscribe to the NYT.

You guys are making yourselves superfluous.

The "See no evil, hear no e... (Below threshold)

The "See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" approach of the Republican sycophants, that just can't accept how terribly bad the maladministration is, is quite hilarious and at the same time extremely pathetic. What does it take to get you folks to sit up and pay attention? A 2X4 alongside the head?

"Denial isn't just a river in Egypt...."

And kudos to Kevin for having the integrity to post these e-mails (which are real, despite any ostrich-like behaviour here).

Cheers,

Over a month ago, I wrot... (Below threshold)

Over a month ago, I wrote that the Department of Homeland Security's story that they didn't know about the levee breaks until the day after they happened was scarcely believable, and I speculated that instead the DHS simply didn't UNDERSTAND what was going on. Now the stories start to pop out...

On the Levees of New Orleans II, Update 4

Maybe if they would have go... (Below threshold)
josh:

Maybe if they would have gone outside to take a cr4p instead of sh!tting right in the hallways the conditions in the superdome wouldn't have been so bad.

Just sayin...

You know what I and many ot... (Below threshold)

You know what I and many others would like and would get a lot of links?

Could someone take each individual email out of the PDF file, provide text summaries, and link them from a linear timeline graphic? So, we could see each email on the timeline together with a brief summary and a link to the individual graphic on an HTML page.

If someone does something like that, leave a link at my incoming link.




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