FLOODING IN NEW ORLEANS….Last night the New York Times was trumpeting an email that “proved” the White House knew all about the levee breaks in New Orleans on Monday, August 29, but I found the evidence pretty unconvincing. The email doesn’t actually mention the levees at all and its tone isn’t exactly a call to arms. “FYI” is not a term I usually use when I want people to leap out of bed and start calling up the National Guard.

Today, however, former FEMA director Michael Brown is testifying before Congress, and he’s saying pretty specifically that he knew about the levee breaches on Monday morning and informed the White House about it on multiple occasions that day:

The storm hit New Orleans and the Gulf coast on the morning of Monday, Aug. 29. Mr. Brown said he first learned of the levee breaches from a FEMA official in New Orleans, Marty Bahamonde, who sent a report Monday morning at about 10 a.m. to report severe flooding, up to the second floor of houses in many parts of the city.

Mr. Brown, who at the time was in Baton Rouge, said he alerted FEMA headquarters, asking them to contact Mr. Bahamonde directly to confirm the information.

“I also put in a call” to White House staffers, Mr. Brown said. He said that he spoke at least twice that day to Joe Hagen, a deputy White House chief of staff, and said that he might have also spoken to Andrew Card, the White House Chief of Staff.

Is Brown telling the truth? Or trying to cover his own ass? Hard to say. But if FEMA really did know about the levee breaks on Monday morning, how is it that the only document we’ve seen so far from that day ? written a full 12 hours after FEMA knew about the breaks ? doesn’t mention them at all? There’s not much question that George Bush took his vacation more seriously than he did the Hurricane Katrina crisis, but there’s not much evidence that FEMA was taking it very seriously either. Stay tuned.

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