The 9/11 Commission’s responsibility

[See correction below]

The 9/11 Commission bears some responsibility for the disaster that American disaster relief has become.

As the nation and its politicians and media machers rushed to embrace and enforce the findings and instructions of the commission, I was one of the few who resisted because I feared that due diligence would not be excercised. That is what happened and I believe we are seeing the fruits of it now: The Homeland Security department was formed and huge pieces of the government were reorganized around one goal: terrorism. Of course, that’s a good goal but it’s not the only one and I fear that other jobs of government — such as keeping us safe from and recovering from natural disasters — got short shrift. Indeed, FEMA was demoted and denuded of power, talent, and resources. And, because it was no longer a cabinet-level agency, it could be headed up by a doofus of a political crony.

I’ve been trying to find how exactly FEMA’s reorganization plan came: Were the details laid out by the commission or by Congress? Doesn’t matter, really. Both bear responsibility. And in July, Chertoff announced plans to reorganized and cut up FEMA yet again.

There’s a reason that legislation and politics take time. The deliberative process can be frustrating but it tends to extrude the wisdom of the public if we give it a chance and if it is not overtaken by political urgency. But there was no deliberation after the commission issues its report and browbeat Washington into doing what they said. So Washington did. And FEMA is a mess. And New Orleans is a mess.

Among the lessons we need to learn from the tragedy of Katrina, this is one.

: CORRECTION: I got this wrong, as commenters have been nice (and not nice) to point out: Fema wasintegrated into DHS before the 9/11 Commission report. Wrong is wrong. I wrote the post from memory, which was clearly wrong, and when I tried to find links to the details and couldn’t find them, I stupidly thought it was because I was looking in the wrong places. No, I was just wrong and I should not have gone ahead with the post or should have been making a broader point about the prioritization of DHS under Congress — but I didn’t and now I’ve messed that up. So I’m just wrong. I apologize. (I killed the comments by those masquerading as others.)

: I tried to confess my error under the Kos post that properly if enthusiastically took me to task but their comment system is harder to get into than New Orleans for FEMA.

  • Mike NYC

    Interesting post, Jeff. I hope the Katrina Commission will examine what the 9/11 Commission could have done.

  • Maria Fernanda

    NO is a mess not because of Fema sir, NO is a mess because May(jor) Disaster, Ray Nagin, and the utterly incapable Governor of LA failed to act. I follow this blog and frankly you are not addressing the most obvious.

  • Bat One

    Sadly, your observation is right on target. FEMA was always intended to be the federal agency tasked with responding to exactly this sort of situation. To have lumped it in with the new Department of Homeland Security was a catastrophic mistake (pun intended).

    In the wake of the Able Danger revelations, the “factual” conclusions of the 9-11 Comission are crumbling like a category 3 levee in a category 5 storm, all of which calls the rest of the Commission’s Report, and its other, structural recommendation into question as well. It is no denigration of either Porter Goss or John Negroponte to observe that the very last thing we needed was one more layer of bureacracy between those who develop and evaluate our intelligence, and those who formulate national security policy based on that intelligence.

  • Gunther

    1. The DHS was created before the 9/11 commission even started.

    2. FEMA was included in the DHS before the 9/11 commission even started.

    3. The first “doofus” to run FEMA under Bush was his former campaign manager, Joe Allbaugh. He had zero experience that would qualify him for this position, and became the head of FEMA before 9/11 even happened.

    4. The current “doofus” running FEMA used to be Joe Allbaugh’s roomate in college. That appears to be his only qualification.

    5. The best organization in the world is not going to work if you have weak, careless leadership at the top. Bush was strumming a guitar in California on the same day that people in New Orleans were drowning.

    Putting FEMA under DHS was a bad idea. Focussing exclusively on terrorism was a bad idea (although from what we’ve seen this last week, I doubt the response to a terrorist attack would have been any better). Appointing unqualified political hacks to run FEMA was a bad idea. Trusting the security of the country to a sociopath like Bush was a bad idea. None of this has anything to do with the 9/11 commission.

  • FEMA was the crown jewel of successful Federal government in the 1990’s, which is why it became Public Enemy Number One to the neocon ideologues, who have made a name for themselves by punishing success and rewarding failure.

    Chertoff and Brown in 2008, baby! How could they possibly lose?

  • roger tang

    “NO is a mess not because of Fema sir, NO is a mess because May(jor) Disaster, Ray Nagin, and the utterly incapable Governor of LA failed to act.”

    Nagin, probably. But what I don’t get is why FEMA was playing jurisdictional games with the governor of LA before Katrina made landfall. Why deny helicopters, manpower, food and water in the name of jurisdiction?

  • FEMA was the crown jewel of successful Federal government in the 1990’s, which is why it became Public Enemy Number One to the neocon ideologues, who have made a name for themselves by punishing success and rewarding failure.

    Neocon ideologues punish success and reward failure? (Sounds like a clear case of projection)

    FEMA was Public Enemy Number One for neocons? Is there a shred of evidence to support this? And could we see the words of some actual neocon saying “I hate FEMA” as opposed to getting the usual laundry list of liberal bloggers and liberal reporters asserting that what they simply want to believe is actually so?

  • Chertoff and Brown in 2008, baby! How could they possibly lose?

    Unlike Nagin, who you guys want to run for president (punishing success and rewarding failure), you’re not going to find many big fans of Chertoff and Brown.

    You and others are confusing disdain at your political gamesmanship with being blanket apologists. Your failure — well, not your failure, but the fact that your elected leaders these days *share* that failure — to distinguish between common sense and blind partisanship is one of the reasons the Democratic party finds its power and support slipping away more and more with every election.

    If you really want to impress your fellow citizens, stop trying to “gotcha” everybody else and try being human beings for a while.

  • j swift

    The 911 Commission had investgative powers for the most part and no powers to reorganize any part of the federal government. (Public Law 107-306, Section 605). So just how was that the Commission accomplished this sabotage?

    By the way the re-organization plan is dated November 25, 2002.

    The 911 Commission did not hold public hearings or file reports until 2003 or later. The final report of course came out in 2004. Just what findings or evidence did the Commission point to in order to influence the structure of the Dept of Homeland Security?

    Was its insistent requests for information so onerus that the entire Bush Administration and the Republican Congress was pestered to the point of distraction? Was our President so worried about looking bad that he could not formulate a cogent reorganization scheme? Did it drive him to drink? Drive the Congress to go on a partying binge, (I mean beyond the hot tubbin and golf that DeLay enjoys)? I am talking about a full out despondent, drunken, self pitying pub crawl. No?

    Come on surely you can up with some causal link other than you say so.

  • There’s this convenient thing called “memory” — we clearly remember the drumbeat from the left and the press to enact everything the 9/11 commission demanded. When it seemed that Bush wasn’t going to do it fast enough, the heat was turned up.

    So nooooow the excuse is that, well, the 9/11 commission and the loud left can’t be held responsible because they couldn’t *force* anybody to follow their recommendations? That’s mighty lame.

    Bush obviously shares responsibility for bending. But that’s something that many of us who voted for him *know* he does, and aren’t happy about to begin with. From day one, he’s been to happy and glad to reach across the aisle in effort to be a “uniter and not a divider”. Yet still we keep hearing the howls that he’s an inflexible hardliner!!!

    He’s also been a big spender. We know that, too. In fact, some on the left like to taunt us about that. Yet they spin right around at a moment like this and tell tall tales about how Bush is starving the system. Huh??? For the umpteenth time, try to get your stories straight, if not at least somewhat aligned with reality.

    I voted for Bush twice, and I’d vote for him again. But I can imagine many people I’d be far happier with. But that doesn’t mean I’d be happier with somebody picked out by the lunatic fringe, simply because Bush isn’t everything I want him to be.

  • Carson Daly

    “Carson Fire,” man, for somebody who is mouthing off about “There’s this convenient thing called ‘memory,'” you seem oddly unable to remember that FEMA was folded into DHS before the 9/11 Commission started. Bush combined folded FEMA into DHS. End of story.

  • erasmus

    Carson Fire: “I voted for Bush twice, and I’d vote for him again.”

    Proof positive of the abject stupidity of Republicans.

  • aldorossi

    “I’ve been trying to find how exactly FEMA’s reorganization plan came: Were the details laid out by the commission or by Congress?”

    Wow, must not have been trying very hard. The details were “laid out” by the Bush administration before the Commission even started. I didn’t even have to do any research, I remember that going down in ’02 off the top of my head.


  • Well done Gunther and Lucy/Roger. Only leaves me to add one thing:

    Jeff, since you’re already in the position, might as well check yourself for polyps.

  • Mike

    # Carson Fire Says:
    I voted for Bush twice, and I’d vote for him again.

    Of course you did, flamingbushista, he is everything you admire in a president: Big spender, big governent, huge deficits, engendered hatred against American around the world, wastes America’s military might in an illegal war he doesn’t know how to fight, win, or withdraw from, corrupt, dishonest, partisan hack, crony capitalist, and best of all the most incompetent American president in history.
    On his watch America lost one skyscraper complex, one illegal war, and now one mid-sized American city.

    New Orleans, RIP
    Founded: 1718 by Jean Baptiste Le Moyne, sieur de Bienville
    Destroyed: 8/29/2005 by George W. Bush
    Laissez les bons temps rouler

    Proud vulture of the venomous left

  • BB

    Uh, dear Mensa members, Jarvis has not one clue he is talking about. Anyone READ Gunthers post? HELLO? Jeff, how much more non credible can you get?

  • Ralph Malph

    Jeff, someone once told me you are actually a journalist or something. I’m still waiting for proof of that, especially after reading this article, since I see no proof here. Try working more on that “fact checking” thing and less on that “spewing whatever brain-dead drivel comes to me when I first get up in the morning” approach. At least it’s cheaper than actually going to journalism school.

    As for Carson Fire, I fart in your general direction.

  • Matt


    I trust you’ll be responding to everyone who pointed out that DHS and FEMA were reorganized BEFORE the 9/11 commission, and as such, cannot logically be responsible.

    To not respond would be to ignore the “grassroots power” of the Internet that you love so much, and to ignore “your bosses” as you refer to in another post.

    Sorry to be snarky about it, but I really want you to respond, and I’m attempting to goad you into it.

    At the very least, people who read the comments will get to see how wrong you are, particularly if you don’t respond — us commenters get the last word, no? =)

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  • Tom Anderson

    Don’t be silly. DHS acted as if it was incompetent. Incompetence is the best interpretation we can make of the actions that killed a large number of people by dehydration, starvation, drowning, heat stroke &c. Incompetence is the best interpretation we can make of the failures by the Republican administration to respond.

    Similarly, the interpretation of the failure of the Republican administration to do it’s job before, during and after 9/11/2001 as incompetence give it the benefit of the doubt, and is the best reading that can be made. Not to investigate that failure openly would have been a terrible thing. To have blocked that investigation at every turn, as the Republican party did, was an attempt at getting away with incompetence *again, at best.

    Had the Republican party understood the need for the investigation and made it honest, complete and above-board, they would have seen the need to do real oversight of a totally incompetent executive, they would have worked to get competent and honest people in charge, they would have undone the secrecy and cronyism and greed of the Republican administration, and fewer people would have died, fewer children would have suffered terrible torments, and we could be proud of our government.

  • earl

    dKos hard to get into? What in the world are you talking about? Easiest site I’ve been to.

  • Jesus, no wonder the neocons think you’re all expendable. You people are amazing at your ability to chase your own tails with Karl Rove red herrings. Someone said “turn your sound up on your TV” in response to this ridiculous neocon talking point of blaming the victims for not leaving and the local officials. I say keep the sound off and look at the scenes they’re showing you. This is an exact modern copy of the 3rd Reichs rise to power. Intelligent Design? A new FBI arm whose initials are “SS”? Shall I go on or will you keep trembling under the neocon blanket?

    As ex Bush cabinet member Paul O’ Neil writes in his book The Price of Loyality two years ago…

    “In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn’t like about Bush’s former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House’s displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn’t fully comprehend – but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

    “The aide said that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.’ I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ‘That’s not the way the world really works anymore,’ he continued. ‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality – judiciously, as you will – we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.'”

    This was not a “natural” disaster. This was premeditated genocide. Why do you think the Pentagon and FEMA contracted a Southern California company(MAD) to build percussive microwave sonic blasters to transport to New Orleans for “crowd control” a whole week before Katrina came?

    Jesus you people are stupid. This is a wicked depopulation plan. The same eugenics plan that George Herbert Walker funded with tens of millions of dollars during Hitlers rise to power. Look it up before you spew lies and garbage from the corrupt mainstream media. Nothing but brownshirt disinformation.

  • This was NOT “imcompetence”. They purposefully want you to believe that because the truth is too evil to comprehend. These neocons love to see us arguing about nothing and intellectualizing endlessly while they rub it in our faces. Do you really think the most secretive Whitehouse in history would release all those guitar strumming, cake eating photos without knowing full well the ramifications? Come on people. Do your f’in research! This is very typical in Skull and Bones, the Grove, Bilderberg, etc.

    One of the topics at the Bilderberg meeting this year was how to deal with “American patriots”. Meaning us right now. Do you think it’s an accidet that rightwing op-eds have been talking about arresting people that talk bad about Bush? Tom Friedman actually wrote that article saying we need “Thought police”. Hello!? Now that we see their social engineering with these shelters which are nothing more than internment camps, Do you think it’s an accident that 100’s of New Orleans teenagers are missing and were seperated from their families? Do you not know that during Bush 41’s term there was a huge scandal with midnight tours of the WHitehouse? Do you not know that the Bush’s ship these children to Saudi Arabia for their masters the Royal Family? Do you not think they will destroy the economy? Why do you think they put Chris Cox at the SEC? Come on people. For once, admit what I’ve been trying to tell you for 3 years is true. So many things have happened that I warne you all about only to be flamed. Now we can see I was exactly right.