So, Bush is proven the liar by his OWN party. Now that's justice.


Republicans' Report on Katrina Assails Response

WASHINGTON, Feb. 12 — House Republicans plan to issue a blistering report on Wednesday that says the Bush administration delayed the evacuation of thousands of New Orleans residents by failing to act quickly on early reports that the levees had broken during Hurricane Katrina.

A draft of the report, to be issued by an 11-member, all-Republican committee, says the Bush administration was informed on the day Hurricane Katrina hit that the levees had been breached, even though the president and other top administration officials earlier said that they had learned of the breach the next day.

That delay was significant, the report says, rejecting the defense given by the White House and the Department of Homeland Security that the time it took to recognize the breach did not significantly affect the response.

"If the levees breached and flooded a large portion of the city, then the flooded city would have to be completely evacuated," the draft report says. "Any delay in confirming the breaches would result in a delay in the post-landfall evacuation of the city." It adds that the White House itself discounted damage reports that later proved true.

The report, by the select House committee examining the government's response to Hurricane Katrina, is the first of three major investigations into the subject; the others, for which reports are expected within one or two months, are being conducted by a Senate committee and by the White House.

The House report blames all levels of government, from the White House to Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco of Louisiana to Mayor C. Ray Nagin of New Orleans, for the delayed response to the storm.

"Our investigation revealed that Katrina was a national failure, an abdication of the most solemn obligation to provide for the common welfare," the draft says. "At every level — individual, corporate, philanthropic and governmental — we failed to meet the challenge that was Katrina. In this cautionary tale, all the little pigs built houses of straw."

A White House spokesman said that President Bush was now focused on the future, not the past. A Department of Homeland Security spokesman said that Michael D. Brown, the former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, was partly to blame for failing to make timely reports to his superiors.

The response to Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, in which about 1,400 people died along the Gulf Coast, raises troubling questions about the nation's ability to react to other threats to domestic security, the draft report says.

"If this is what happens when we have advance warning, we shudder to imagine the consequences when we do not," the draft says, referring to the potential for a terror attack. "Four and a half years after 9/11, America is still not ready for prime time."

Democrats declined to appoint members to the committee, raising concerns that the group would produce a whitewash, though several House Democrats participated in committee discussions. After the Republican report was prepared, Democrats praised it in a written response for being comprehensive and detailed, though they complained that it did not hold enough individual officials accountable and continued their call for an independent commission.

What is most disturbing about the hurricane response, the draft report says, is that the entire catastrophe was so easily foreseen — given the weather reports and the precarious position of New Orleans as a below-sea-level city in a major hurricane zone — yet still the response was so flawed.

"It remains difficult to understand how government could respond so ineffectively to a disaster that was anticipated for years, and for which specific dire warnings had been issued for days," the report says. "This crisis was not only predictable, it was predicted."

The homeland security secretary, Michael Chertoff, and President Bush's own staff of White House domestic security advisers drew some of the most scathing criticism in the report, some of the contents of which were first reported Sunday in The Washington Post.

Mr. Chertoff, the draft report says, should have moved two days before Hurricane Katrina hit — when the National Weather Service issued dire predictions about the storm — to set up a special interagency leadership team to ensure that emergency supplies and rescue squads would be in place ahead of the storm. His department also should have done more to help evacuate the Gulf Coast, the report says.

The Homeland Security Department, the draft report says, "failed to anticipate the likely consequences of the storm and procure the buses, boats and aircraft that were ultimately necessary to evacuate the flooded city prior to Katrina's landfall."

These critical prestorm mistakes were only compounded, the draft report says, when the department failed another vital challenge: to determine rapidly whether the storm had breached a major levee.

A staff member from the department's Federal Emergency Management Agency who was on the ground in New Orleans learned on Monday morning, Aug. 29, the day the storm hit, that a major section of the 17th Street Canal levee had collapsed. He confirmed that report by Monday evening when he flew over the collapsed levee in a Coast Guard helicopter.

Between 10:30 p.m. and midnight, news of the finding reached Mr. Chertoff's top deputy, the White House and the Homeland Security Operations Center, or H.S.O.C., which is the Washington-based nerve center for domestic incidents.

The House investigators were told by Kenneth Rapuano, the deputy homeland security adviser to President Bush, that the administration did not immediately act on the report because it had other dispatches suggesting that such a breach might not have occurred.

"We weren't going to repair the levees overnight, and search and rescue was already operating in full gear, regardless," Mr. Rapuano told the committee, according to the draft.

But the draft says the failure to act on this report did apparently slow the response.

"Because the H.S.O.C. failed to confirm the levee breaches on Monday," the draft says, the first federal decision to line up buses needed to evacuate the city did not happen until Tuesday, when the federal disaster relief worker in New Orleans "saw the water reaching the Superdome and realized it would become an island."

Allen Abney, a White House spokesman, said President Bush had "full confidence" in his homeland security team and was involved in the storm response from beginning to end.

"The president is less interested in yesterday and more interested with today and tomorrow," Mr. Abney said, "so that we can be better prepared for next time."

The White House declined to provide copies of e-mail messages or other correspondence by senior advisers to the president, limiting the House investigators' ability to understand fully the White House's role in the response, the report says. But with the information the committee collected, it says, it is clear that the president's office is also to blame.

"The White House failed to de-conflict varying damage assessments and discounted information that ultimately proved accurate," the draft says. "The president's Homeland Security team did not effectively substantiate, analyze and act on the information at its disposal."

The draft's plainly worded criticism extends to the administrations of Governor Blanco, a Democrat, and Mayor Nagin of New Orleans.

Mr. Nagin, the report says, waited far too long to issue a mandatory evacuation order. The city and the state also had no reliable system to ensure that people in nursing homes or hospitals, or the estimated 100,000 residents without transportation, could get out of harm's way.

"Failure of complete evacuation resulted in hundreds of deaths and severe suffering for thousands," the draft report says, adding that individuals who remained in the city deserved part of the blame.

The response to Hurricane Katrina, the report says, ultimately was a failure of leaders to take action.

"If 9/11 was a failure of imagination," it says, "then Katrina was a failure of initiative."