This is very sad, and should point out a fatal flaw in the process of information dissemenation at FEMA under Michael Brown…

WASHINGTON, Feb. 9 � In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Bush administration officials said they had been caught by surprise when they were told on Tuesday, Aug. 30, that a levee had broken, allowing floodwaters to engulf New Orleans.

But Congressional investigators have now learned that an eyewitness account of the flooding from a federal emergency official reached the Homeland Security Department’s headquarters starting at 9:27 p.m. the day before, and the White House itself at midnight.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency official, Marty Bahamonde, first heard of a major levee breach Monday morning. By late Monday afternoon, Mr. Bahamonde had hitched a ride on a Coast Guard helicopter over the breach at the 17th Street Canal to confirm the extensive flooding. He then telephoned his report to FEMA headquarters in Washington, which notified the Homeland Security Department.

“FYI from FEMA,” said an e-mail message from the agency’s public affairs staff describing the helicopter flight, sent Monday night at 9:27 to the chief of staff of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and recently unearthed by investigators. Conditions, the message said, “are far more serious than media reports are currently reflecting. Finding extensive flooding and more stranded people than they had thought â€â€? also a number of fires.”

Now, the NY Times talks about the White House knowing about this information, but ultimately it’s up to FEMA to respond. Sure, Bush appointed the ineffectual Brown, but does this justify any sort of criticism of the administration?

According to what they said, the answer appears to be “yes.”

But investigators have found the e-mail message referring to Mr. Bahamonde’s helicopter survey that was sent to John F. Wood, chief of staff to Secretary Chertoff at 9:27 p.m. They have also found a summary of Mr. Bahamonde’s observations that was issued at 10:30 p.m. and an 11:05 p.m. e-mail message to Michael Jackson, the deputy secretary of homeland security. Each message describes in detail the extensive flooding that was taking place in New Orleans after the levee collapse.

Given this chain of events, investigators have repeatedly questioned why Mr. Bush and Mr. Chertoff stated in the days after the storm that the levee break did not happen until Tuesday, as they made an effort to explain why they initially thought the storm had passed without the catastrophe that some had feared.

Sadly, the chain of information obviously broke down. I don’t believe for a second that Bush willfully ignored this threat. I simply think he wasn’t informed properly.

But in the end, when you appoint those who aren’t qualified to handle the tasks given to them, aren’t you ultimately responsible?

Your thoughts are welcomed and appreciated.

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