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Context of ' (5:30 am) August 27, 2005: FEMA Update Warns of Katrina Threat to New Orleans; Update Again Silent about Louisiana Response'

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The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), known best as a relief agency for victims of natural disasters, is secretly dedicated to the highly classified Continuity of Government (COG) program, which is meant to ensure the survival of the federal government in times of national emergency. Upon its establishment, FEMA absorbs the Defense Civil Preparedness Agency (DCPA) and the Federal Preparedness Agency (FPA), which were previously responsible for the top-secret plans (see April 1, 1979). During the 1980s and into the early 1990s, FEMA’s budget and workforce are overwhelming geared towards the COG program (see 1982-1991 and February 1993). FEMA remains in charge of overseeing the government’s continuity plans up to present day. According to FEMA’s website, the agency’s Office of National Continuity Programs (NCP) is currently the “Lead Agent for the Federal Executive Branch on matters concerning continuity of national operations under the gravest of conditions.” [fema.gov, 6/4/2009]

Entity Tags: Office of National Continuity Programs, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Defense Civil Preparedness Agency, Federal Preparedness Agency

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) issues a report warning of the three most likely catastrophes facing America. One of these is a terrorist attack on New York City. (The other two scenarios are a massive San Francisco earthquake and a hurricane hitting New Orleans.) FEMA managers compiled the list of potential disasters at a training session. [Houston Chronicle, 12/1/2001; Salon, 8/31/2005; Independent, 9/4/2005; New Republic, 9/26/2005]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

FEMA’s National Situation Update once again leads with Katrina, noting that the Mississippi and Louisiana governors have declared a state of emergency, due to the threat posed by the hurricane. The Update warns, in bold type, that “New Orleans is of particular concern because much of that city lies below sea level,” and then continues: “[I]f the hurricane winds blow from a certain direction, there are dire predictions of what may happen in the city.” According to the Update, Department of Defense and Rapid Needs Assessment functions “are being activated,” while Region 4 (which serves Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi, among others) remains at Level 2 operations. Curiously, the Update does not mention the status of Region 6, which serves Louisiana. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 8/27/2005] Leo Bosner, FEMA Emergency Management Specialist (and president of the union representing FEMA staff), will later state that FEMA staff issues this Update at 5:30 this morning, and that they pointedly focused on New Orleans: “We used good, heavy black type. We said there’s a storm going toward New Orleans and it’s a Force—I think it was a Force 3, expected to strengthen into a Force 4 at that point. And we let them know this is a very serious situation. There were some resources being mobilized but really not quite enough for that kind of a scale. They get these things in person. They go to their office computer and to their BlackBerry.” According to Bosner’s later recollection, “We sent the information up and we’d expected that by the time we come in, everything would be swinging into action. We got there, and there was the sounds of silence.” [National Public Radio, 9/16/2005 Sources: Leo Bosner]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Congress, stung into action by the Bush administration’s poor response to Hurricane Katrina and particularly the ineptitude of Michael Brown, the former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA—see Early September 2001), passes a law saying that President Bush must nominate a replacement who has “a demonstrated ability in and knowledge of emergency management,” and “not less than five years of executive leadership.” In a signing statement, Bush says that only he, the head of the executive branch, can decide who to appoint to offices. Therefore, he states, he is ignoring the prohibition. [Savage, 2007, pp. 239-240]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), George W. Bush, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

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