Saturday, March 04, 2006

What did Bush Know?

Interesting clarification from AP on their widely picked up report on the discussions ahead of Katrina. AP concedes President Bush was not told before Hurricane Katrina hit land that the storm might cause a "breach" of New Orleans' levees. Instead there was talk of an "overrun."

Now in some ways this reminds me of law school, where every little word matters. And I think it does in this case, too. Merriam Webster defines breach as "a broken, ruptured, or torn condition or area... a gap". Their definition of overrun is "to flow over". The crucial distinction, I would imagine, would be the amount of water that would get through and the kind of disaster it would cause. AP: "The story should have made clear that Bush was warned about flood waters overrunning the levees, rather than the levees breaking."

Of course, I don't dispute the fact that both the governments at all levels displayed all kinds of incompetence that has exposed incredible vulnerabilities to disasters and other potential problems, including possible mass terrorism attacks. But we do have to be careful about not introducing inaccurate information to muddy the water even more.

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