Blame Game Intensifies

The slow response to the disaster left behind by Hurricane Katrina has raised many serious questions about our nation's ability to deal with major catastrophes and terror attacks.

As CBS News correspondent Thalia Assuras reports on The Early Show, there's no answer to the critical question of who's at fault, but plenty of possibilities.

She says the blame game is being played by everyone from political leaders to emergency response agencies to individuals. The questions have been building for days.

One evacuee complained last week, "(I have a) 3-week-old baby out here. They don't have no formula, no diapers. And they want us to survive out here. Where's FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency)? Where's the mayor?"

Cries of anguish and anger cascaded. A 12-year-old girl exclaimed, "We are gonna die out here if they don't send somebody out here right now!"

New Orleans Times-Picayune Editor Jim Amoss typified the frustration and finger pointing that abound, asserting, "The top officials at FEMA should be fired."

Massive breakdowns led to the slow, stumbling response, Assuras points out. State and local officials are blaming Washington, and vice versa.

But former FEMA Chief of Staff Jane Bullock says the entire system is broken: "This is a systemic problem that goes from the very top to the very bottom."

Bullock says that part of the problem is that after Sept. 11, the Department of Homeland Security absorbed FEMA, diminishing its power and changing it priorities.

And, says Bullock, no one at the top of either agency is up to the task: "At the federal level, unfortunately, we have leadership that has no experience with emergency management, and a disaster, even a small one, is a logistical nightmare."

  • Brian Dakss

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