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September 03, 2005

Oh god. Daily Kos diary says "Red Cross NEVER allowed into New Orleans"

I made a PDF of the link on the Red Cross site (cited below) that admits WHY it isn't allowed to give food and water to the dying people unable to leave New Orleans, dying on the streets in feces and filth in evacuation areas (see second bullet point):

Download american_red_cross_not_in_no.pdf

Link: Red Cross NEVER allowed into New Orleans.

Red Cross NEVER allowed into New Orleans

by SteveRose

Fri Sep 2nd, 2005 at 18:02:05 PDT

My first diary! This whole week has been so depressing. My Red Cross donation was one bright spot. At least I had done something to help.

Then, after reading dKos and the other blogs all week and seeing over and over again comments that that FEMA and the NG were no where to be seen from the people on the ground in NO, I was wondering where the Red Cross was in all this. They were never mentioned. It was like they didn't exist. And, after yesterday's drama at the convention center, the Brown and Chertoff lies, the Red Cross was still MIA. Then, earlier today, I saw a note that the Red Cross was not allowed to enter NO. Hmm, that's doesn't make sense. This simmered for a couple hours.

So I called the Red Cross and asked them if its true....

[...]

And, to my surprise, the nice lady answering the phone said it was true and they told/asked/ordered not to enter NO. She then went right into her spiel about all the other work the Red Cross was doing across the region. I said that's nice, but I still didn't understand why they weren't in NO. To my amazement, she patiently explained it to me. I even called back to verify what she said. This time she asked if I was media, I said no, just a concerned and confused contributor.

So here goes: Homeland Security (her term, not mine) told the Red Cross DO NOT enter New Orleans and says this still now. And why, you may ask? Not Security. Not worker safety. Not lack of access. It was because people would be drawn to the Red Cross food and they wouldn't want to go to be evacuated. So I asked: "The people starving and dying at the convention center yesterday couldn't get Red Cross food and water because they would be drawn to the food at the convention center, where they were, and not want to be evacuated from the convention center where no evacuations were going on or planned and all the while they are dying". (Actually, it was a couple questions.) She went back into her spiel about all of the other good work they were doing. When I asked again, she said yes, that was true. She seem relieved to admit it.

In closing, I asked if she asked this question before since she was very familiar with the answer she gave. She said yes. And I promised another donation. Which they will get after this post.

[...]

An update on the above "Steve's Diary" Daily Kos post cites Shock's Diary claiming to confirm the story through the Department of Homeland Security:

Link: [UPDATED again] LA Homeland Security *confirms* ARC kept out!.

[UPDATED again] LA Homeland Security *confirms* ARC kept out!

by shock

Fri Sep 2nd, 2005 at 21:24:54 PDT

I just called the (Federal) Dept. of Homeland security (202-282-8000) and asked them the following question:

"Is it true what the American Red Cross has reported that they have not been allowed into the city of New Orleans by the DHS since Hurricane Katrina because their 'presence would keep people from evacuating'"?

First, they put me on hold. Then I heard 2 beeps and the click that I assume means they were recording me. Then they asked me my name. (I told them, but now I sort of regret it...) Then they transferred me to Chris at the "Law Enforcement Fusion Desk". I read my question again.

Update [2005-9-3 1:56:56 by shock]: JTML pointed out in a comment that the Red Cross FAQ actually says the "state Homeland Security department", so I just called them too. Read what I found out below. (It's more outrageous than you might think!)

Update [2005-9-3 2:40:52 by shock]: I just updated the title for clarity. (Also note, the Federal DHS would not officially confirm this yet.)

(More.)

shock's diary :: ::
Note: This isn't a verbatim transcript -- I'm paraphrasing. I wasn't smart enough to record the call. But I just called them and this is what happened to the best of my recollection.

[ed. note] This first dialog is still with the federal DHS.

He said he hadn't heard this, so I pointed him to the Red Cross FAQ page link that was posted on this diary. I directed his attention to the second bullet.

He said something to the effect that their policy is trying to help get people out and that this is why they don't want more people coming in. (***)

I said I understood that, but that it didn't make sense to let people starve or die of thirst in the meantime.

He responded that this wasn't happening. That as soon as they pick somebody up, they take them out of there.

I argued with him and told him this wasn't true, that it had been on CNN that people had been being picked up and put down at the convention center where there was no food or water.

He said that all he could tell me was that they were picking people up and taking them out of there.... that their policy was to help the people.

Then I asked who at the DHS was responsible for the policy that kept the Red Cross out.

He said that would have to be Michael Chertoff.

I asked him for his own name and position again and then asked if I could make this public that the DHS was confirming what was on the Red Cross website.

Silence.

After a few seconds I asked if he was there and he said "yeah," and then nothing else.

So I asked my question again and he said "No".

Silence.

I asked why he had said no to me, and rather than answer me, he asked me what I wanted to do with the information.

I said I wanted to email it to my friends and put it on a blog. I think I heard him scoff at this, but I'm not sure.

I asked him again why I couldn't disseminate it and he said he didn't know who I was. Then he asked me directly who I was and why I wanted to know.

I told him that I was a citizen and I wanted to know because I actually gave a fuck about the people of New Orleans. (I was pissed by now because he was patronizing me and he had already lied to me.)

He said they did too.

I said something like "so you won't confirm what the American Red Cross is reporting then?", to which he said something like "no". (It was short.)

[... good stuff snipped, but you should go read the whole thing and the comments on the diary link. I'm just documenting it here for to make sure it gets out there. ]

Update [2005-9-3 1:8:41 by shock]: (***) IMO, this is the crucial point of the dialog. I wish I had recorded it so I could tell you exactly what he said. But my recollection is strong that he actually admitted the policy here and was trying to defend it to me.

Update [2005-9-3 1:56:56 by shock]: JTML pointed out in a comment that the Red Cross FAQ actually says the "state Homeland Security department", so I just called them too. (This time I took better notes.) I called the Communications Center for the Louisianna Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness at 225-925-7500. After an operator ("that's above my pay grade") and some other "officer" (at the Operations desk, I think), I ended up at the Media relations desk talking to a really cool and helpful guy, Lt. Kevin Cowan (Public Information Officer) who said I could quote him ("that's my job"). Although I didn't get everything typed word for word (the parts in quotation marks are though), I read him my notes when we were finished, so this is now 'confirmed'. Here goes...

"As part of the disaster plan there's an agreement between the state and the Red Cross for them not to enter."

He didn't know the exact details of the agreement, but he said it had to do with "safety issues" since this is "still a disaster area and still unsafe" with things like "high water, etc."

When I asked specifically about the statement on the Red Cross webpage that said it was because their "presence would keep people from evacuating", he said this wasn't the reason.

Me: "Who on your end made this agreement with the red cross?"

He checked with the Operations desk and came back and told me it was probably a decision between the director of their agency, General Landreneau, the Governor, and Mike Brown at FEMA. He said he didn't know the exact groups in these agencies that worked out the agreement, but "ultimately, they're the ones in charge who sign off on it". He said "it's all a coordinated effort and guidelines are established." The point is they "don't want to put anyone at undue risk". (I was thinking "anyone, who? surely not the people of New Orleans!", but I didn't say anything because he was being so cool.)

Here's the kicker. He then told me that this agreement was for any and all disasters, not just the one in Louisiana!

I asked him how long this policy had been in effect, and he told me, "It's a work in progress; it's always changing."

Wow.

[more good stuff snipped... go read it!]


September 3, 2005 at 10:28 AM in Current Affairs, Democracy, Favorite Links, Media & Journalism, News to Note, Politics, Singing the Bite Me Song | Permalink

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