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CNN Security Watch: Lessons of Hurricane Katrina

Aired September 10, 2005 - 20:00   ET


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. I'm Carol Lin. Lessons of Hurricane Katrina coming up in just a moment, but first, these are the latest developments in "Mission Critical."
Today, National Guard troops went door to door in New Orleans, searching for survivors as well as bodies. And when a corpse is found, its location is recorded with a global positioning device and paint on the outside of the houses.

And they're beginning to clean up the destruction among the waterfront casinos in Mississippi. Thousands of people worked at the dozens of casinos and hotels along the coast. The rebuilding process is picking up steam. Mississippi's governor has appointed a commission to get elected officials and business leaders and developers talking to one another.

And this is a precious commodity right now among hurricane evacuees. FEMA says the $2,000 debit cards it's been handing out to storm victims are in short supply. They are now only available to people staying at major shelters in Texas, and even that will end today.

Other evacuees who found their own housing can get the money in the form of a check or a direct deposit to a bank account but they've got to fill out a lot of paperwork.

Now, while the Gulf Coast tries to cope with the effects of Katrina, parts of the Southeastern U.S. are under a new hurricane watch. CNN meteorologist Jacqui Jeras standing by the CNN Weather Center. Jacqui?

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Carol, it'll probably still be a couple of days before Ophelia likely makes landfall. It's been kind of drifting away from the coast, believe it or not. Today it is now about 255 miles away from Charleston, South Carolina. We do expect that she'll be taking a turn back towards the coast. That probably won't happen maybe for another 24 hours or so.

Here is the watch that you mentioned from the Savannah River extending up towards Cape Lookout. That means hurricane conditions are possible within 36 hours. Forecast track has it making landfall sometime on Tuesday, likely near the North Carolina/South Carolina state line.


LIN: All right, thanks very much Jacqui. Those are the headlines. I'm Carol Lin.

Now to the premiere of "CNN Security Watch: Lessons of Hurricane Katrina."


ANNOUNCER: This is a special edition of CNN PRESENTS. Hurricane Katrina slams into the Gulf Coast, leaving in its wake chaos, indiscriminate devastation and many unanswered questions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Help us, man. Come on, now.

ANNOUNCER: Tonight, an examination of America's response to catastrophe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Breathe, man, live.

LEE HAMILTON, 9/11 COMMISSION VICE CHAIRMAN: The plans were on paper. The plans were not understood, and most of all, the plans were not executed.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There will be ample time for people to figure out what went right and what went wrong. What I am interested is helping save lives.

ANNOUNCER: What were the missteps and will they happen again?

JANE BULLOCK, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF, FEMA: Fundamentally, nobody pulled the trigger on the resources that could have been there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is the government ready for civil disorder in the midst of tragedy?

JOHN BREAUX, FORMER SENATOR: You have to come in with a show of force as quickly as you can.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got a lot of problems with people firing at us at night and trying to loot.

ANNOUNCER: What's the plan if there is another national disaster?

CAPT. JAMES MCDONALD, U.S. COAST GUARD: If there is a threat to our assets, deadly use of force is authorized.

ANNOUNCER: Tonight, in this "CNN Security Watch" special, "Is America Prepared? Lessons of Hurricane Katrina."

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening. I'm Jeanne Meserve. Four years after 9/11, after the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, this country is in the midst of yet another incomprehensible catastrophe. Not at the hands of terrorists, but nature. What Hurricane Katrina did to coastal Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, is a nightmarish calamity, compounded by what critics call a sluggish response full of missed opportunities that could have saved lives. Some say emergency preparedness models often go to extremes, but are officials learning what they should? With recovery efforts expected to take years if not decades, the aftermath of the storm and the debate about the response to it will reverberate for a long time. Katrina's fury was expected. There were blunt warnings about the storm's strength and power from the beginning.

(voice-over): The drowning of New Orleans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Their house completely torn apart.

MESERVE: The death and displacement of its people.


MESERVE: The disorder.

VIRGINIA KEYS (PH), HURRICANE KATRINA SURVIVOR: We can't live out here with no lights and no security.

MESERVE: The danger, all of it forecast years before Katrina was.

IVOR VAN HEERDEN, LSU HURRICANE CENTER: There is no pride in predicting something like this. It is just a lot of sadness and now a lot of anger because I personally feel we from academia told everyone it was going to happen. It was based on hard science, good science, and it seems to have been ignored, and as a consequence, probably thousands of people have lost their lives.

MESERVE: As Katrina swirled like a dervish across the Gulf of Mexico, sucking strength from the warm water and zeroing in on New Orleans, alarm did escalate.

MAX MAYFIELD, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: This is a very, very dangerous hurricane and capable of causing a lot of damage and loss of life if we're not careful.

MESERVE: Lives were clearly at risk. The president heightened the sense of urgency by declaring a state of emergency in Louisiana and Mississippi.

BUSH: These declarations will allow federal agencies to coordinate all disaster relief efforts with state and local officials.

MESERVE: The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced the pre-positioning of seven of its 28 urban search and rescue teams, 23 of its 56 disaster medical assistance teams, as well as ice, food, water, tarps and cots.

MICHAEL BROWN, FEMA DIRECTOR: We're ready to respond in every possible way because we do anticipate this being a very significant event.

MESERVE: Some localities called for mandatory evacuations on Saturday. New Orleans did not.

GOV. KATHLEEN BLANCO (D), LOUISIANA: That is not going to come right away. We're going to evaluate the effect of the voluntary evacuation. MESERVE: Though New Orleans' own planning document estimated it would take 72 hours to get everyone out of the city, Mayor Ray Nagin did not order a mandatory evacuation until Sunday morning, just 24 hours before Katrina was expected to make landfall.

MAYOR RAY NAGIN (D), NEW ORLEANS: The storm is now a Cat 5, a Category 5 with sustained winds of 150 miles an hour with wind gusts of 190 miles per hour. The storm surge most likely will topple our levee system.

MESERVE: Shuttle buses took some who could not find a way out of town to the Superdome for shelter. But tens of thousands stayed in their homes, many simply because they had no transportation of their own and the city did not deploy the resources it had.

RANDALL LARSEN, INSTITUTE FOR HOMELAND SECURITY: Did they not have a plan to evacuate that one sixth of their population? Or did they not execute the plan? It has to be one or the other.

MESERVE: A former FEMA official says overall the preparations did not measure up to the threat by a long shot.

BULLOCK: My personal feeling is it was a lack of leadership, a lack of understanding of how and how quickly you need to move in a disaster and fundamentally nobody pulled the trigger on the resources that could have been there.

MESERVE: Officials had brainstormed about this kind of catastrophe. Hurricane Pam, a fictional Category 3 hurricane, was the centerpiece of an exercise just last summer.

VAN HEERDEN: It was paid for, it was funded by FEMA. It had a lot of federal agencies participating. There was at least one representative of the White House. They were all there. We discussed it for 12 days. How do we deal with a flooded New Orleans?

So for anybody to say, oh, this caught us unawares is nonsense.

MESERVE: The Hurricane Pam exercise involving a storm weaker than Katrina envisioned a million evacuees, a half a million buildings destroyed and flooding, massive flooding.

After Pam, officials said they had a search and rescue plan. But after Katrina, for days there were not enough boats, helicopters and amphibious vehicles.

After Pam, officials said they had plans to provide medical resources. But after Katrina, there were dire shortages.

After Pam, officials projected a need for 1,000 shelters to hold evacuees for 100 days. And yet after Katrina, the Superdome, the refuge for an estimated 20,000 people, was not well-stocked with essentials.

COL. TERRY EBBERT, USMC: We're not in here to feed people. We're in here to see that when Tuesday morning comes that they're alive. MESERVE: Early Monday morning, Katrina, her teeth bared, gnawed her way through the Gulf Coast, chewing up and spitting out entire communities. In New Orleans, as experts had long predicted, the levee system failed. One storm was over, but another about preparedness and response was already dark on the horizon.

ANNOUNCER: Up next, floodwaters rise, chaos reigns, as a city falls into crisis.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Too many people in there. They got dead bodies in there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dead bodies in the Superdome?



MESERVE (on camera): Failures in deployment, breakdowns in communications, thousands of people left behind to fend for themselves. So many painful lessons are being learned from Hurricane Katrina. Could government officials have been better prepared to cope and will they be better prepared in the future?

(voice-over): Fort Apache, New Orleans. City cops crippled by failed communications, forced to commandeer supplies and siphon gas simply to protect themselves.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just want to tell my wife I love her.

MESERVE: When a chemical explosion illuminates the night, the first responders cannot respond. Three days after Katrina, how did New Orleans come to this and this and this.

MESERVE (video clip): I told you earlier today I didn't think that this has turned out to be Armageddon. I was wrong.

MESERVE: Despite early reports and images that signaled impending disaster, FEMA Director Mike Brown and others believed the situation was contained.

BROWN: Let's say that right now you're on the road to recovery.

MESERVE: Quite the opposite was true. The water was rising. Rescuers were overwhelmed and under-resourced. Survivors plucked from rooftops were plopped on roadways without food, water or shelter. The Superdome, long designated as a refuge from hurricanes, had no plumbing, insufficient food and little emergency power. It festered with filth and depravity.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Too many people there. They got dead bodies in there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dead bodies in the Superdome?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah. MESERVE: Dead bodies, too, at the Convention Center. Dead bodies and desperation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I blame you Ray Nagin, because you should have helped some people. Your people out here need you.

MESERVE: The mayor, enraged, turned around and pointed the finger at the federal government.

NAGIN: Now get out your asses and let's do something and let's fix the biggest god damn crisis in the history of this country.

MESERVE: But it wasn't fixed, not for days. And for years emergency officials will ask why not as they studied this sobering textbook case.

Lesson one, listen to the warnings of experts. Federal officials said they were startled by Katrina's carnage.

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: This is really one which I think was breathtaking in its surprise.

MESERVE: No it wasn't. Everyone, from journalists to geologists, had long predicted the possible catastrophic effects of a hurricane on New Orleans.

Lesson two, quick response is essential. When the city needed a tourniquet, it got Band-Aids.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Breathe and live! Breathe!

MESERVE: The result, frustration, fear and fatalities.

Lesson three, know what you're dealing with. It was painfully apparent the president's man on the ground did not know what was already being widely reported.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Sir, you're not telling me you just learned that the folks at the Convention Center didn't have food and water until today, are you? You had no idea they were completely cut off?

BROWN: Paula, the federal government did not even know about the Convention Center people until today.

MESERVE: Lesson four, figure out who is in charge. Two days after the storm, when local and state officials turned to the president, he said the role of federal officials was only to assist.

BUSH: I have instructed them to work closely with state and local officials as well as with the private sector to ensure that we are helping, not hindering recovery efforts.

MESERVE: Over time, the president's position changed, but then Louisiana's governor resisted his efforts to federalize the National Guard. BLANCO: I was very concerned about giving up law enforcement authority.

MESERVE: It left the mayor of New Orleans fuming.

NAGIN: What the state was doing, I don't freaking know. But I tell you I am pissed, it wasn't adequate.

MESERVE: Lesson five, maximize available resources. People and equipment poised to help went untapped. Helicopters used by the federal government to fight fires were ready to move people and supplies but sat unused. Vital equipment sat in boxes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We carried 200 radios, self contained breathing apparatus, automatic defibrillators ...

MESERVE: This $2 million cache of critically needed communications and firefighting gear owned by the federal government was not deployed for a week.

RAY WILKINSON, DHS PREPOSITIONED EQUIPMENT PROGRAM: You can't just turn on a light switch and have thousands and thousands of responders showing up. There needs to be an incident command structure and an organization in place.

MESERVE: The question is why wasn't that done?

HAMILTON: The plans were insufficient. The plans were on paper. The plans were not understood. And most of all he plans were not executed.

MESERVE: More assets are finally rolling into New Orleans. The situation is stabilizing and the Congress and the president are promising investigations.

BUSH: I'm going to find out over time what went right and what went wrong.

MESERVE: In any exploration of this tragedy, there will likely be one central and critical issue.

BREAUX: I think that what you have to learn is how do you coordinate all the great forces we have in this country -- local government, state governments and the federal governments. I think there has to be a clearer line on who does what and when.

MESERVE: But even before the investigations and studies, one sad truth is already evident. Hundreds, if not thousands, have lost their lives to floodwaters and to bungling, bickering and bureaucracy.

ANNOUNCER: Coming up next, drills for terror attacks and plans for natural disasters, but nobody seemed ready for the mayhem Katrina stirred up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I begged a cop to stay here and help us, don't leave us alone. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MESERVE (on camera): Instead of help arriving in the aftermath of Katrina, New Orleans plunged into lawlessness, while looters took anything they could carry, desperation for survivors to steal food and water. Many wonder why there was no security.

CNN's special correspondent Frank Sesno asked why officials were not ready for civil disorder.

FRANK SESNO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Chicago. Ripped by a biological terror attack. People dying from plague. New London, Connecticut, an explosion unleashes mustard gas. Seattle, a radiological device, a dirty bomb.

Each scenario, a simulation, gruesome in its implications but an important run-through for officials who might have to deal with the real thing.

But none of these scenarios, none, included the kind of civil unrest we saw in New Orleans or the disappearance of about a third of its police force, events so dramatic that for a time lawlessness and anarchy framed the Katrina story around the world. And of course, in New Orleans itself.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They got rapist in there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I begged a cop to stay here and help us. Give us some spotlights and help us. Don't leave us alone.

SESNO: The city's police chief seemed as powerless as he was frustrated.

EDWIN COMPASS, CHIEF, NOPD: We had to use so much of our manpower to fight this criminal element.

SESNO: It's hard to know how bad and how widespread the unrest was, but this much is clear. It was not predicted, it had not been drilled and it badly complicated rescue efforts.

SUSAN NEELY, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY ASSISTANT SECRETARY: A big concern is the huge diversion of first responder resources to contain the civil unrest.

SESNO: Susan Neely was assistant secretary for public affairs at Homeland Security under Tom Ridge.

NEELY: That's the main thing that we say to people when something happens. Help the first responders help you.

SESNO: But that didn't always happen in New Orleans.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People need help. We tried to help them. We don't get there fast enough.

SESNO: New Orleans is forcing many in the homeland security and emergency management business to rethink how they train, plan and prepare.

ELLEN GORDON, NAVAL POSTGRADUATE SCHOOL: Having the disaster victims themselves turn on the first responders isn't necessarily something that we've discussed and talked about in the past at any length.

SESNO: Ellen Gordon is a former emergency management director from Iowa. She led the state's efforts to recover from the disastrous floods there in 1993. Now she travels the country as part of a team from the Naval Postgraduate School, teaching governors, homeland security officials and first responders.

She says there's not been a lot of focus on how social breakdown plays out in a disaster.

GORDON: But I believe now that there will be many of us that will say we've got to take time out and discuss this and say, are we prepared to respond to this type of situation in the future.

SESNO (on camera): Still, the training manual itself may need rewriting. The Department of Homeland Security's own 15 planning scenarios from nuclear terror attack to Category 5 hurricane barely mentions serious civil unrest or the possibility that significant numbers of first responders can't or won't respond.

(voice-over): In New Orleans, the chief says 500 police officers simply never showed up.

GORDON: It's very difficult to perform in any situation let alone a high stress situation and in the conditions that they've been performing if you're worried about your family.

SESNO: Seventy percent of the city's police reportedly had homes damaged or destroyed following Hurricane Katrina. Former Louisiana Senator John Breaux has seen hurricane damage before in his state.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... at the corner of Fourth and Brainard.

SESNO: Law and order, he says, is the first step toward recovery.

BREAUX: You have to come in with a show of force as quickly as you can. And you have to be strong, you have to be affirmative from the very beginning.

SESNO: But officials weren't prepared for this disaster.

The scenarios Ellen Gordon uses often involve mock newscasts shown to a room of top state officials.

BOB BARBER, FAKE NEWSREADER: When terrorists exploded a truck bomb, hearing high explosives at the ...

SESNO: The scenarios are likely to get grittier and nastier. A biological attack, for example, where thousands are falling sick and dying may now put more emphasis on violence and criminal behavior. GORDON: So you can build it into a scenario that you start having unrest and some rioting and violence because the people are upset because they are not receiving the pharmaceuticals in a timeline that they should be receiving them.

SESNO: The Department of Homeland Security says it's conducted 440 scenario drills since 9/11. If the training is to be worth the time and the money spent, it has to be realistic and bring officials face to face with the kind of disaster they may really face, including a breakdown of social order.

GORDON: Hurricane Katrina was certainly a wakeup call for all of us. It is definitely something that we're going to have to look at closely and analyze and try to better understand human behaviors in times of crisis.

ANNOUNCER: Next, fighting the Battle of New Orleans. Will it mean a new role for the military?

LT. GENERAL RUSSEL HONORE, U.S. ARMY: We're not stuck on stupid. We're stuck on a tough problem.

Hey, weapons down. Weapons down, damn it. Put the weapons down.


LIN: More about the lessons of Hurricane Katrina in just a moment, but first the latest developments in "Mission Critical".

Today National Guard troops went door to door in New Orleans searching for survivors as well as the bodies of victims of Hurricane Katrina. And when a corpse is found, they record the location with a global positioning device.

The Army Corps of Engineers says it's draining the water out of New Orleans faster than expected as well. They think they'll be able to finish next month ahead of the 80 days originally forecasted. Now dry weather and increased pumping capacity are helping.

And Vice President Dick Cheney visited Hurricane Katrina evacuees in Austin , Texas, today. Hundreds are taking shelter at the city's Convention Center. Cheney said the evacuees he talked to today were uniformly positive, and no one complained about the federal response to the disaster.

Now the Red Cross says it needs 40,000 new volunteers. It has 36,000 volunteers on duty, but their three week rotation is about to expire. Four thousand Red Cross volunteers are working in Louisiana.

Those are the headlines. I'm Carol Lin. After a break, more of "CNN's Security Watch: Lessons of Hurricane Katrina".


MESERVE: Many have complained that the rescue efforts in the wake of Katrina were slowed by red tape. Any time U.S. troops are engaged in any endeavor there are rules. Complicating the lines of authority this time, the decisions of local, state, and federal officials. But when a take charge general hit the scene and more boots on the ground followed. And our Barbara Starr was with them.


HONORE: Get those god damn weapons down.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Friday, September 2, four days after Katrina hit, the cavalry has arrived.

HONORE: Hey. Weapons down. Weapons down, damn it. Put the weapons down.

STARR: Lieutenant General Russel Honore leads the military's humanitarian relief effort in America's largest natural disaster.

HONORE: Put that weapon down on your back. You're delivering food.

STARR: On this day, directing National Guard troops and a convoy of food of water to the Convention Center. Thousands have been on the streets for days. The suffering is growing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I lost everything.

STARR: City and state officials, apparently,unable to get these desperate Americans help.

HONORE: Hey, buddy. Let's go.

STARR: Honore doesn't just rescue these babies. He has a clear strategy and the tools to make it happen. There are thousands of lives to save.

(on camera): What's going to start happening now, getting aid into the Convention Center?

HONORE: If you look two streets down, you'll see the cargo trucks moving the aid in. They'll come in behind the National Guard and behind the police, and they'll put the aid on the ground, and we'll start distributing it.

STARR (voice over): The Army general doesn't command National Guard troops. They report to the governor. Federal law prohibits his active duty troops from taking part in law enforcement activities. But the reality is that four days into the crisis, the general is the only official providing clear leadership on the street. He succeeds in evacuating 60 thousand people from the Superdome and the Convention Center.

Honore shapes his battlefield. He builds a coalition with federal, state and local authorities. Officially he is only giving advice. In reality, he tells them what they must do.

HONORE: And we got to do some screaming -- STARR: He tells them to fight. He meets with the mayor almost daily.

NAGIN: So what do you -- how do you recommend we handle this.

STARR: Behind the scenes, Honore counsels the governor to present a tougher face to the public. He arranges a military briefing, and then a press conference for her.

BLANCO: They're going to rebuild. I'm going to help. We are all going to work together. We're going to be a massive team.

STARR: Honore's ability to get things done makes some wonder if the law should be changed, so the military can take charge in disaster relief. Are they the only ones that can do this job?

What the military brings to the hurricane zone is sheer manpower -- thousands of troops, helicopters, ships, vehicles -- and the ability to rapidly move supplies the stricken area.

Honore is constantly on the phone in the early hours issuing orders, planning his next steps.

HONORE: We're not stuck on stupid, we're stuck on a tough problem, is the challenge.

STARR (on camera): If you think assistance has been slow in coming to New Orleans, consider this. Days after the disaster struck, there is still no electricity, no communications. The military has taken over the city.

(voice over): Not everything on the military side has gone quickly or smoothly. The lack of communications is as frustrating for the military as everyone else. For the first several days, Honore commands this operation with his only phone, a cell phone with a dying battery.

The 82nd Airborne Division is ordered into New Orleans by President Bush. Major General Bill Caldwell puts his elite combat forces into a place no one could have imagined.

MAJ. GEN. BILL CALDWELL, COMMANDER 82ND AIRBORNE DIVISION: If you go out in the old French Quarter right now, at any given time, you'll see 200-300 American paratroopers in groups of seven or eight just constantly walking around talking to folks. Making sure everything's OK, checking on things.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're surviving.

STARR: Even so, there are problems. The 82nd is ordered to establish a grid and search the city house by house, block by block, in cooperation with civilian officials. But FEMA has a different set of maps. First, they must pause and coordinate efforts.

At Honore's headquarters at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, twice a day the command team meets to review the entire operation. All military and civilian agencies are included. It looks like a war room.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For instance, just the status on the pumps, you can see right now we're red on all the pumps --

STARR: Already the military is looking at what lessons may be learned. How can it all be done better next time?

At least one general in the Louisiana National Guard reminds everyone that when all is said and done, Mother Nature has the final vote.

BRIG. GEN. GARY JONES, LOUISIANA NATIONAL GUARD: We've learned a lot about the things that we have to do to make sure that something like this doesn't happen again. The problem with it, of course, is that a storm like this comes along about once every 180 years. And 180 years is a long time to maintain institutional knowledge.

STARR: And a week into the relief efforts, Task Force Katrina is already tracking another storm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So this starts days ahead. It could be a tropical depression --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can track them off the coast of Africa.

STARR: A reminder that the next time may come sooner than anyone expects.



ANNOUNCER: Coming up, planning for disaster. What if a natural gas tanker blows up in Boston Harbor?

CAMERON HARRINGTON (ph), JENNY'S PIZZA CUSTOMER: If the thing blows up, most likely we're all dead.



MESERVE: Homeland Security officials prepare for disasters in many forms. Here are just some of the scenarios they envision and plan for. An anthrax attack on a handful of cities delivered by a truck using a concealed sprayer. The contamination would be extensive, some 300,000 would be exposed, resulting in more than 13,000 deaths. The economic impact would be in the billions.

Another scenario from Homeland Security planning, an earthquake along the fault line affecting several states over hundreds of miles. Fourteen thousand lives could be lost with another 100,000 people injured. Up to a million buildings could be damaged or destroyed. It would take hundreds of billions of dollars to rebuild.

Federal officials have also prepared for a scenario involving radioactive materials smuggled into the country and used to make dirty bombs detonated in three cities. Winds as light as three miles-an-hour could carry contaminants 36 blocks, killing nearly 200 people. It would cost billions to clean up, the federal planners say, and it would take years to recover.

Our Randi Kaye looks at a fourth scenario involving the explosion of a tanker loaded with liquefied natural gas in the Port of Boston.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): For the mayor of Boston this is a floating time bomb, an LNG tanker, 30 million gallons of liquefied natural gas in its belly, winding its way through the Boston Harbor, past the airport, past the historic north end, up the Mystic River, past waterfront neighborhoods alongside Bunker Hill.

If terrorists should attack a tanker like this and blow it up, a recent federal report warns a fireball could reach out a third of a mile in every direction.

(on camera): How many people do you think live within a third of a mile?

MAYOR THOMAS MENINO, BOSTON: Roughly about 100,000 people.

KAYE: And you think those neighborhoods would be wiped out?

MENINO: Good possibility. Good possibility they could be wiped out.

KAYE: That's a frightening thought.

MENINO: That's a very frightening thought.

KAYE (voice over): The Coast Guard surrounds each arriving tanker with gunboats. It has armed personnel aboard the ship, helicopters overhead, police watching for snipers on shore. If this departing tanker were not empty, no sail boat, no other vessel, would be allowed this close.

MCDONALD: If there's a threat to our assets, deadly use of force is authorized.

KAYE: In a way, Coast Guard Captain James McDonald is the man in charge of the fate of the city.

MCDONALD: It's very, very unlikely that any incident would be successful. And, frankly, that's what we're all about, is preventing bad things from happening in the first place.

KAYE (on camera): The natural gas tanker industry feels safe, because in its history of nearly half a century never has it had a disaster. Of course nothing like the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire had ever happened before, nor the drowning of the city of New Orleans or the attack that brought down the World Trade Center. (voice over): Almost once a week an LNG tanker will glide through the harbor on its way to a terminal on the Mystic River in nearby Everett. That's one way New England stays warm in the winter.

The ships pass as close to the Boston's skyline as this, they go right by the north end, home of Paul Revere, charming old streets, gleaming new waterfront condos. No other city in America has an LNG terminal in its midst.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Steak and cheese with extra cheese, please.

KAYE: Right across the river is Jenny's Pizza shop.

JOEY LACEY, OWNER JENNY'S PIZZA: If something were to happen, it's like, we're in the front, so, it's like, I might not be around to know what happened.

KAYE: Thirteen-year-old customer Cameron Harrington.

HARRINGOTN: If the thing blows up, most likely we're all dead.

KAYE: A Department of Energy study last winter described a worst case scenario of a city with a narrow harbor with national landmarks and people all around.

(on camera): This area they're describing sounds a lot like Boston.

MENINO: It's Boston to a T.

KAYE: Paint a picture for me, if you can, of what you think we would see here in the Boston area in the waterfront area if indeed there was a successful attack on one of these tankers.

MENINO: What would happen is a cloud would rise and sail, you know, move across downtown Boston. It would engulf the area. Buildings would catch on fire. People would try to flee. We'd have chaos in the city. Be just chaotic situation. And you know, the fire department doesn't have the equipment to prevent this. Nobody has the equipment to prevent it.

KAYE (voice over): The nearby airport has one fireboat. The city has another. And there are water cannons on the tugs, that's all. The only real plan for disaster is prevention. Each tanker does have a double hull and a double skin on the containers holding the LNG. The Coast Guard inspects each tanker before it leaves for the United States. It boards the vessel five miles outside the harbor. Cameras like these watch the ship move into port.

Airplanes are diverted away from it. This bridge is closed to traffic whenever a tanker passes underneath. To keep anyone from dropping a bomb off it.

MCDONALD: What we've done to address the issues of risk associated with LNG movements means that we can move LNG safely and securely. KAYE: That's not enough for Mayor Menino who wants the tankers unloaded out at sea away from the city.

MENINO: Why can't we off load this outside the harbor? And bring it in -- in pipeline. Run a pipeline, that's where it should be happening.

KAYE: Until then, what could be done in the face of an attack? Evacuation, suggests that federal report.

(on camera): Tell me how on Earth you could evacuate in a fire like this?

MENINO: How do you put an evacuation plan in, when a LNG tank gets hit? How long do you have to evacuate the city? Matter of minutes. Can you move 100,000 people out of -- not just Boston, Chelsea, Everett, East Boston, in a matter of minutes? I dare tell you, I don't believe so.

KAYE (voice over): Back at Jenny's Pizza, no one has ever talked to Butch Gordon about any city escape plan. His own plan?

BUTCH GORDON: Run like hell. You know, if you knew ahead of time.



ANNOUNCER: Coming up next, leading through times of crisis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's been a leadership vacuum up and down the line. Local, state and national government.

ANNOUNCER: Is there a model for success?



MESERVE: There will be many investigations into the response to Katrina, but some have already concluded that the primary failure was one of leadership. Our Candy Crowley focuses on the importance of a strong guiding hand in times of tragedy.


MAYOR RUDY GIULIANI, NEW YORK: The situation is that two airplanes have attacked, apparently --

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In the uncertainty of 9/11 the surest thing was his honor, the mayor, Rudy Giuliani -- tough, uncompromising, fully competent.

GIULIANI: I'd ask the people of New York City to do everything that they can to cooperate, not to be frightened. CROWLEY: Bill Doyle lost a son at the World Trade Center. He became a leader, a spokesman, for 9/11 families, attending countless meetings with Mayor Giuliani.

WILLIAM DOYLE, WTC UNITED FAMILIES: Any problem that we had, every agency, or charity, or organization were in those rooms with us. He's jump up and, you know, point fingers. And there were a lot of red faces, because, I mean, he was embarrassing and he was just tough. And he says, I want this done yesterday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It been three hours and nobody --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where's the mayor? Mr. Nagin, where you at? You said you'd help us, man. Come on, now. This is your people.

CROWLEY: For many reasons foreseeable and not, Katrina is a different story. It lacks a leading man or lady.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I blame Kathleen Blanco, because I think they're not doing the job for everybody.

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: We want somebody to fill the screen and tell us what to do, and go for it -- someone who's decisive. And Rudy Giuliani had all of those qualities. They were almost Churchillian.

BUSH: And the people who knocked these buildings down, will hit all of us soon.

CROWLEY: The president tapped into both national anger and pride atop a pile of rubble after 9/11. An iconic picture they yearned to see on the streets of New Orleans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- the powers of politicians. One of the first things I would have done was got out of my car, got out of my tie, and come among the people with a bullhorn to assure them that you are not lost. You have not been forgotten.

CROWLEY: But the president seemed remote from the air, uncomfortable and out of tune on the ground.

BUSH: And Brown, you're doing a heck of a job. The FEMA director is working 24 --

CROWLEY: Even fellow Republicans say the president has yet to put Katrina into perspective for a nation that can't believe what it's seeing.

MIKE DEAVER, FORMER REAGAN ADVISER: One of the things that's needed in a situation like this is for somebody to sit down with, us and tell us and reassure us, and help us sort of fathom it and tell us that it's going to be all right eventually. That hasn't happened . That's sort of the leadership quotient that we haven't seen yet.

CROWLEY: Also not seen, the kind of Giuliani command of details that help steady his city. GIULIANI: Used Kleenex, cigarette butts, chewing gum. If they have items like that, where a person would be likely to have left cells of their body, hair, a remainder of hair, like in a brush, then if you bring that with you, we will collect it -- the medical examiner will collect it, and that will aid in the identification process if that's the way it turns out.

CROWLEY: By contrast, the governor of Louisiana has seemed tentative about basics.

BLANCO: I wouldn't think it would be toxic soup, right now. I think it's just water from the lake, water from the canals. It's, you know, it's water.

CROWLEY: And where Giuliani brought calm to chaos and poetry to the unspeakable --

QUESTION: Do we know the number of casualties at this point, sir?

GIULIANI: I don't think we really want to speculate about that. The number of casualties will be more than any of us can bear.

CROWLEY: New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin had heated frustration.

NAGIN: I don't know whether it's the governor's problem. I don't know whether it's the president's problem. But somebody need to get their ass on a plane, and sit down, the two of them, and figure this out, right now.

CROWLEY: To be sure, leadership comes in many temperaments and circumstances.

PROF. RONALD WALTERS, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: He was, I think, reflecting the frustration of the people who were there. He was reflecting, I think, a sense of being cast aside, a sense of not being responded to immediately, and strongly, and forcefully.

CROWLEY: It is not an exact comparison. The terror of Osama Bin Laden versus the furor of Katrina. Five square miles, a part of one big city, versus 90,000 square miles of Gulf Coast across three states and countless jurisdictions. An horrific but finite attack versus a 102-hour hurricane spawning flood, fire and disease.

But 9/11 was supposed to be the catastrophe that helped us deal with other catastrophes.

THOMAS KEAN, 9/11 COMMISSION CHAIR: I think you've got to compare it, because this won't be the last major catastrophe we have in this country. And we've got to learn from this in ways that we -- maybe we haven't learned enough from 9/11.

CROWLEY: And the sense that comes through the TV screen is of a multi-state, multi-city, multi-government crisis in which everyone is in charge and no one is in control.

HAMILTON: I don't think it's so important what particular official is in charge, but that someone should be in charge.

CROWLEY: Of all the things found wanting in the wake of Katrina, the most glaring space is the spot Rudy Giuliani occupied four years ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got babies here suffering, man. The senator let us down. Governor Blanco let us down. the mayor let us down, the president let us down, congressmen let us down. We tax payers, man.

CROWLEY: The truth is the story of Katrina has many heroes. What it's lacked is a leader.


MESERVE: That's it for this special edition of CNN SECURITY WATCH. The recovery process from Hurricane Katrina is just beginning. There is a long difficult road ahead. I'm Jeanne Meserve. For my colleagues at CNN, good night.


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