Big Easy in Big Trouble as Feds Investigate Levees
FEDS WILL INVESTIGATE NEW ORLEANS LEVEE BREAKS,
LOOKING INTO POLITICAL & BUSINESS DEALINGS REGARDING THE LEVEES,
Federal investigators made it clear that the Feds will not be looking into design and poor construction but into the business and political dealings of the levee maintenance. Louisiana State officials are conducting a separate investigation into the design and construction of the levees.
The Federal Government will conduct a criminal investigation into the new Orleans levee failures:
Federal prosecutors are conducting a criminal investigation into the levee failures that swamped New Orleans, looking into the possibility of corruption in the design, construction and maintenance of the flood barriers.
U.S. Attorney Jim Letten said Wednesday that his office began the investigation the week after Hurricane Katrina.
“The scope of our interest is very broad,” he said.
He said some officials were found to have undisclosed conflicts of interest, and “we’re extremely concerned about those.” He would not give details.
James Bernazzani, FBI agent in charge in New Orleans, said agents have received numerous tips about possible malfeasance.
In Katrina’s wake, Louisiana politicians and other critics have complained about paltry funding for the Army Corps in general and Louisiana projects in particular. But over the five years of President Bush’s administration, Louisiana has received far more money for Corps civil works projects than any other state, about $1.9 billion; California was a distant second with less than $1.4 billion, even though its population is more than seven times as large.
Much of that Louisiana money was spent to try to keep low-lying New Orleans dry. But hundreds of millions of dollars have gone to unrelated water projects demanded by the state’s congressional delegation and approved by the Corps, often after economic analyses that turned out to be inaccurate. Despite a series of independent investigations criticizing Army Corps construction projects as wasteful pork-barrel spending, Louisiana’s representatives have kept bringing home the bacon. . . .
This could be more than embarrassing for Louisiana officials. It is no wonder that the state is conducting its own investigation into the “construction and design” of the levees. Do you suppose they are hoping to divert some of the blame for the state and local government’s malfeasance elsewhere.