With the all-but-corporate death of the UPI, the AP is the main American source for news in the United States. Associated Press articles are mindlessly quoted by newspapers across the nation. Many local radio and TV stations rip and read either directly from the AP, or indirectly from local newspapers which use the AP.
Therefore, it’s reprehensible that the AP, three weeks after Hurricane Katrina hit, has not found out that there WAS an Evacuation Plan for New Orleans and southern Louisiana which was not followed. The Plan is on the Internet and available to anyone who can push a few buttons.
Yet here is the lede of an AP story today (17 September) by Rita Beamish:
“As far back as eight years ago, Congress ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency to develop a plan for evacuating New Orleans during a massive hurricane, but the money instead went to studying the causeway bridge that spans the city's Lake Pontchartrain, officials say.”
The article noted that “Congress... ordered ‘an evacuation plan for a Category 3 or greater storm, a levee break, flood or other natural disaster for the New Orleans area.’ The $500,000 that Congress appropriated for the evacuation plan went to a commission that studied future options for the 24-mile bridge over Lake Pontchartrain....”
The entire article is about this particular fraud in using public money for the wrong purpose in New Orleans. That subject is hardly news; it is so ordinary that it’s barely worth mentioning. However, the reporter ignored the existing Evacuation Plan, and by implication suggests there was no Plan. That was, at best, journalistic incompetence by the reporter and her editors.
To review the existing Evacuation Plan, and consider whether New Orleans Mayor Nagin should be prosecuted for manslaughter for failing follow it, go here: (You will then be far better informed than the AP and all who depend on it.)
While we’re on the subject of FEMA and corruption in New Orleans, I received an e-mail at 2:42 a.m. this morning from Terry L. Hildebrand, writing for James Lee Witt and responding to a prior Newsbusters article, “James Lee Witt, Governor Blanco’s Paid Liar,” 4 September, found here: http://newsbusters.org/node/927
Mr. Hildebrand represented that, “According to Witt's spokesperson, James Lee Witt Associates continues to be fraudulently listed on IEM's web site as a team partner for the over $500,000 FEMA contract work. The IEM press release that contains the erroneous information has been disappearing and reappearing, another sign of something suspicious with IEM.... IEM, which is an 8-A minority-owned firm, apparently used Witt's name as a ‘buy in’ ploy to lock in the FEMA contract.... After IEM began the work on the FEMA contract, it never once used Witt's company and did not pay it one cent.”
If these statements are true, then James Lee Witt is aware of a half-million dollar fraud on FEMA that he has not reported to any authorities for investigation and prosecution. While this e-mail refers to Witt as “likely America's most effective FEMA Director,” it calls this Witt-FEMA story “an oobscure (sic) fact few people know or care about.”
I disagree. If Witt was involved deliberately or fraudulently, in a half-million dollar fraud on FEMA concerning New Orleans, I’d think an enterprising reporter would ask a question or two of Mr. Witt. I understand he can be reached care of Governor Blanco of Louisiana.