CBSN

Katrina Questions Intensify

Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff pauses during remarks to the National Emergency Management Association on Monday, Feb. 13, 2006 in Alexandria, Va.
AP
Government at all levels took only an indifferent stance toward disaster preparations after the 2001 terror attacks, leaving the Gulf Coast unnecessarily vulnerable to Hurricane Katrina, a House inquiry has concluded.

Finding fault with the White House down to local officials, the House investigation determined that authorities failed to move quickly to protect people, even when faced with warnings days ahead of the storm last Aug. 29.

The final report, written by a Republican-dominated special House committee, was obtained by The Associated Press on Tuesday night, ahead of its scheduled release Wednesday. Parts of the report were released Sunday.

"Passivity did the most damage," concluded the 520-page report by the committee, chaired by Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., charged with investigating the sluggish response to Katrina. "The failure of initiative cost lives, prolonged suffering, and left all Americans justifiably concerned our government is no better prepared to protect its people than it was before 9/11, even if we are."

"The preparation for and response to Hurricane Katrina should disturb all Americans," the report said.

The House report is the first to be completed in a series of inquiries by Congress and the Bush administration about the massive failures exposed by Katrina, which left more than 1,300 people dead, tens of thousands homeless and billions of dollars worth of damage in her wake. Despite President Bush's accepting full responsibility for the federal government's shortfalls, the storm response continues to generate finger-pointing.

In Senate testimony last week, former Federal Emergency Management Agency Michael Brown singled out the Homeland Security Department and its chief, Secretary Michael Chertoff, as a muddled bureaucracy that slowed relief to the Gulf Coast. The White House and Homeland Security hit back, describing Brown as a renegade who failed to follow a chain of command.

The House report also finds fault with Chertoff, for failing to activate a national plan to trigger fast relief, and Homeland Security, for overseeing a bare-bones and inexperienced emergency response staff.

It also concludes that Mr. Bush could have speeded the response by becoming involved in the crisis earlier and that he was not receiving guidance from a disaster specialist who would have understood the scope of the storm's destruction.

Meanwhile, a Homeland Security Department analysis shows fewer than half of the 50 states say they are prepared to respond to a catastrophic disaster like Hurricane Katrina and many are still struggling to meet federal guidelines for evacuations.