Thanks to a post at Buzzflash by the incredible journalist Greg Palast (if there was just one Greg Palast at the NYT, WaPo, and the three major networks the world could be saved - alas there is only one)
I learned two amazing things about New Orleans today.
1. Federal helicopters witnessed damaged levees and knew they were going to fail but told no one. Local emergency centers were not told. They were not told on purpose because it is the federal governments' responsibility to rebuild if a federal levee breaks. It happened in 1992 in Westhampton Dunes and the government rebuilt the million dollar homes along the seashore. They even trucked in sand.
The charge is devastating: That, on August 29, 2005, the White House withheld from the state police the information that New Orleans was about to flood. From almost any other source, I would not have believed it. But this was not just any source. The whistleblower is Dr. Ivor van Heerden, deputy director of the Louisiana State University Hurricane Center, the chief technician advising the state on saving lives during Katrina.
I'd come to van Heerden about another matter, but in our talks, it was clear he had something he wanted to say, and it was a big one. He charged that the White House, FEMA, and the Army Corps hid, for critical hours, their discovery that the levees surrounding New Orleans were cracking, about to burst and drown the city.
Understand that Katrina never hit New Orleans. The hurricane swung east of the city, so the state evacuation directors assumed New Orleans was now safe -- and evacuation could slow while emergency efforts moved east with the storm.
But unknown to the state, in those crucial hours on Monday, the federal government's helicopters had filmed the cracks that would become walls of death by Tuesday.
Van Heerden revealed: "FEMA knew at 11 o'clock on Monday that the levees had breeched. At 2 p.m., they flew over the 17th Street Canal and took video of the breech."
Question: "So the White House wouldn't tell you the levees had breeched?"
Dr. Van Heerden: "They didn't tell anybody."
Question: "And you're at the Emergency Center.'
Dr. Van Heerden: "I mean nobody knew. The Corps of Engineers knew. FEMA knew. None of us knew."
2. There are NOLA residents who have been locked out of their public housing since the storm even though these public housing units were NEVER damaged in any way by the storm.
Here are the links:
Greg Palast editorial
Greg Palast video