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PRESS
July 27, 2007

CREW Releases Report Detailing International Assistance Offers in Wake of Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane KatrinaWashington, D.C. – Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) released the most comprehensive matrix available to date detailing all offers of assistance from around the world in the wake of the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

CREW’s matrix is based on 25,000 Department of State (DOS) documents it received as a result of a lawsuit filed under the Freedom of Information Act in December 2005 for records relating to the federal government’s handling and acceptance of international offers of aid after Hurricane Katrina.

The matrix includes all international offers, whether they were rejected or accepted and the reasons why, if available. The documents reveal a number of disturbing responses to offers from 145 countries and 12 international organizations from around the world.

For example, an email from Jeffrey Goldstein, a U.S. Embassy official in Estonia, to several DOS officials, states:

It is getting downright embarrassing here not to have a response to the Estonians on flood relief. And now I see from the staff meeting notes that the task force may disband soon. We know that what the Estonians can offer is small potatoes and everyone at FEMA is swamped, but at this point even “thanks but no thanks” is better than deafening silence.

Another email responding to an offer from Argentina to DOS officials reads “All, The (sic) word here is that doctors of any kind are in the 'forget about it' category. Human assistance of any kind is not on our priorities list....It’s all about goods, not people, at this point.”

Another email describes how the transport of Israeli relief supplies loaded on a C-130 aircraft was delayed for over 48 hours on the tarmac while Israeli officials waited for clearance from the U.S. government. The unidentified author states: “I’ve been on the phone with the [Israeli] attache every couple of hours since noon . . . they’re patient, but not amused by our delay, obviously.” The documents do not reveal if or how the issue was resolved.

Melanie Sloan, CREW’s executive director said today, “A review of the State Department documents reveals distressing ineptitude. Countries were trying to donate desperately needed goods and services, but as a result of bureaucratic bungling and indifference, those most in need of these generous offers of aid never received it.”

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is a non-profit legal watchdog group dedicated to holding public officials accountable for their actions. For more information, please visit www.citizensforethics.org or contact Jordan Libowitz at 202.408.5565 or jlibowitz@citizensforethics.org.

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