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Hannity

Were Lessons of 9/11 Applied to Katrina Disaster?

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," Sept. 16, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: First, Hurricane Katrina has crated a political storm that may dramatically alter the government's policies on Homeland Security. The 9/11 Commission suggested a number of major changes to the nation's emergency preparedness. Could they have made for a more coordinated federal response to Katrina? Joining us, former 9/11 commissioner, former senator, Slade Gorton.

Senator, thank you for coming on tonight.

SLADE GORTON, FMR. 9/11 COMMISSIONER: Thank you.

COLMES: I'm curious to know, what did the 9/11 Commission that was not enacted that had it been enacted could have made a difference here?

GORTON: The 9/11 Commission demanded in every community a single unified command structure so that you knew instantly who was in charge. And of course the same thing should be true for the federal government. FEMA's failures were the fact that there wasn't a clear command structure, and there wasn't a strong commander at the top. But if you look at the two states that were most affected, you saw in Mississippi that there was a good command structure and there was a prompt response. You saw in Louisiana in New Orleans that exactly the opposite happened. No one was in charge.

COLMES: Why the difference in the two different states?

GORTON: I think the difference is in the leadership of the two different states. Mississippi and -- the governor, paid a great deal of attention to what we said, Louisiana, apparently did not.

COLMES: So you're puttering the blame squarely on the state authorities?

GORTON: Well, there's blame to go around. The federal authorities didn't respond quickly enough, decisively enough, either. But the first responders are always going to be the people on the ground.

COLMES: As I understand it.

GORTON: They're going to be the state and local people.

COLMES: But Governor Blanco.

GORTON: Look at the difference.

COLMES: Yeah, go ahead.

GORTON: Look at the difference in 9/11, with what happened in New York City. You know, with the mayor who took charge instantly.

COLMES: But the major had telecommunications center, he had the ability to communicate, he had a 10 block radius it wasn't the entire city out. The entire city wasn't under water, 80 percent, like New Orleans. And Governor Blanco issued an emergency on 26th of August and then begged the president on 27th to come in and couldn't get the federal response that she begged for.

GORTON: The -- there is -- you know, of course there is a difference. Although communications were very bad in New York City at the time of 9/11, and that does lead to the second of our recommendations, which so far has been ignored. You know, the first responders, the police, the firefighters, and the like, need far more spectrum so that they can communicate with one another. When wires were blown down, you know, where there was no cell phone service, all kinds of people in Louisiana, all kinds of law enforcement agencies were unable to communicate with one another.

RICH LOWRY, GUEST CO-HOST: Senator, let me ask you another aspect of the commission's work. You know, one thing that annoys me to no end, we are going to see Congress involved in this finger pointing game, you know, for weeks and months and maybe years after this hurricane. But no one within congress points fingers at themselves. One of the things they've been doing that's scandalous since 9/11 is using the Homeland Security money as pork. Do you think that's a mistake and can anything be done to fix it?

GORTON: Absolutely. And that is another of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. It's been very much a pork barrel project. And at this point, the house has passed a bill that is more risk oriented. The senate has passed a bill that is somewhat less risk oriented but is better than what we have now. But the point is neither of them have finished the action that is need so that the money goes where it's actually can be of use.

LOWRY: Senator, let me get you on another topic that you've been involved with. This controversy over "Able Danger," a pentagon program that some people say identified Mohamed Atta prior to 9/11. Congressman Curt Weldon says the program did I.D. Mohamed Atta. The 9/11 Commission says basically, no. Curt Weldon the other day said basically your word cannot be trusted on this matter. Would you like to respond to that tonight?

GORTON: Well, Curt Weldon as you know, because you have already examined what he did, first said that he learned about this and gave a chart showing all of this previous to 9/11 material on Mohamed Atta to the president's deputy national security -- had right after, you know, right after 9/11, but didn't keep a copy of it. Never told the 9/11 Commission about it, never told the joint operating committee about it, never said anything about it until he published a book. Now he says, "No, no, no, I must have been mistaken. I learned about it sometime just before my book was published this summer." Which of course is a long time after our report came out.

LOWRY: Do you know if anyone.

GORTON: And the bottom line is no one told the 9/11 Commission about Mohamed Atta or about any of these people. Except one man, a week before we came out with our report, who said he thought he had seen a picture

COLMES: Senator, we.

GORTON: and thought he had seen a date, but the date was totally inconsistent with we already knew.

COLMES: We're just out of time, sir. Thank you so much for being with us tonight.

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