Misinformation Slowed Federal Response to Katrina


One of the mysteries of the fumbling federal response to Hurricane Katrina has been why the military, which was standing by, and federal disaster agencies, which had pre-positioned supplies in the area, didn't move in more quickly and with greater force. Senior government officials now say that one major reason for the delay was that they believed they had to plan for a far more complicated military operation, rather than a straight-ahead relief effort. Accounts from local officials of widespread looting and unspeakable violence -- which now appear to have been significantly overstated -- raised the specter at the time that soldiers might be forced to confront or even kill American citizens. The prospect of such a scenario added political and tactical complications to the job of filling the city with troops and set back relief efforts by days. The misinformation raises the question of why the federal government had so much trouble gathering its own intelligence that could have provided a more accurate picture. "The devastation was so complete, so comprehensive ... that we couldn't figure out how bad it was," said Adm. Timothy Keating, chief of the U.S. military's Northern Command, which oversaw the Pentagon's Katrina effort. "On Tim Keating's list of things we need to work and to analyze very carefully, communications is at the top of that list," the admiral told reporters yesterday.
[SOURCE: Wall Street Journal, AUTHOR: Christopher Cooper [email protected]]
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