Katrina: Wardriving occupied New Orleans on 9/11.

Image: a New Orleans resident who remains in the city, and says he will not leave. Behind him, code markings left by rescue and/or disaster mortician teams. Shot in NOLA today by Jacob A., Link to his photostream (contains graphic images of dead).

Jacob Appelbaum and Joel Johnson are in the New Orleans area, helping with communications reconnect efforts and documenting what they witness. They have connectivity, a solar-powered backpack, iChat capabilities, and the ability to do live streaming video.

This morning, I woke up to my cellphone ringing with Jacob on the other end. He and Joel were on foot inside NOLA, seeing corpses in the streets. Jacob was trying to decrypt the markings spray-painted on a trash dumpster by DMORT (disaster mortician teams).

"What does '9705 CF' mean? Does CF mean corpses found?" asked Jacob. From what I could figure out, still half-asleep, the markings meant that a team visited this spot on Sep. 7 and observed that there were dead at this location. Four days later, the body (or bodies) had not been removed from the road.

"I gotta hang up," he said, "the death smell is too much, we have to get away from this spot now. This place is a perfect example of duality in response. Some parts of the city are heavily guarded and under repair, other parts of the city are flooded and full of locked, unsearched houses."

On the phone with another friend who's there with a television news network — my friend says, "This place looks a lot like Iraq. Only in Iraq, when there's a dead body, it's never on the street for more than an hour — someone, Iraqi or US forces, rertrieves it right away. Here, they're just sittiing out there for days, weeks, rotting."

Jacob blogs:

We're heading into the [New Orleans] city center for various reasons. I'm bringing a gps unit, a laptop with a 200mw 802.11b card and a laptop on the car power inverter. We're going to log and then make maps tonight. If I provide kismet logs with GPS information is anyone interested in making a google maps hack? It's certainly possible to make this a once a day operation.

Snip of an earlier post from Jacob last night, when he and Joel were visiting the home of Malik Rahim (his portrait is below.):

As I'm sitting here, the only light I can see is the light of my laptop illuminating my fingers. My cell phone would light up if people could call in. Only rarely does that work, no one has left voicemail but when they do get through they tell me they've rung for hours, upwards of two dozen times.

We didn't have to pass through a single check point to enter the city, we simply went around them. There was much debate about the amount of danger we would be in by coming here and so far I feel pretty safe. We didn't bring a gun, partly because we didn't want to believe it would be so bad that we would need one and because it was probably impossible to get one at such short notice. I don't think that was a mistake, we don't need firearms. I do find it pretty surprising that the American government has recently hired Blackwater security forces to patrol the streets here. At the same time they're removing firearms from citizens who rightfully feel they need them. It's a strange future we're living in and have no doubt about it, we're living in the future. It's too bad that we're living in that other future, the dystopian one. The one with terrorists, murderers, corruption at the highest government levels, global wars and a world with an environment being destroyed by serious pollution. A world where people are now literately drowning in it.

(…) We recently got video streaming working from one of our laptops. Some of the best hackers on the planet decided that our neo-gonzo journalism was worth some bandwidth, I'm pretty flattered and I hope I don't let them down. I hope they're ready to watch Joel and I cook food, build computer networks, scout antenna locations and otherwise talk about the current state of New Orleans.

There's that light again, the patrol seems to be pretty frequent. The helicopters are flying overhead again. I wonder if they have thermal imaging gear? Certainly they're working overtime to patrol the skies but I wonder what they're collecting data on and what they plan to do with it.

The people on the ground here, Malik being the main man, are really righteous people. They're getting ready to help the citizens of this parish to live, to eat, to be clean, to sleep safely, to communicate with the world.

(…) Hopefully all the plans we have will actually work out, hopefully we will be able to get more fuel into the generators, hopefully we'll get more generators on the ground. Hopefully we'll be able to get better uplinks without having to resort to using the cell network but it seems doubtful. I haven't heard back from the people at DirectNIC. I suppose they're busy with something else, hopefully someone else can supply these people with uplinks to the real world.

It's late and I have to be up in the morning because the military is going to march down the road here in some sort of security exercise. I want to photograph it because I can't believe it's happening in an American city.

Image: Corpse at a school in the Algiers region (15th Ward). "It has been there for probably 10 days," says Joel Johnson, who shot this photo, "but despite the neighborhood informing the police, it has not been removed… we asked two federal officers about it and they were unconcerned." Link to his photostream (contains graphic images of dead.)

Joel blogs about the damage to New Orleans, and gear requests:

Jacob was kind enough to write up an updated list of equipment. If you can ship this stuff to Baton Rouge, we can probably use it. No worries if you can't, but the more we have, the more we can deploy. We expect to deploy everything we brought with us from Houston, save perhaps the big Wi-Fi antenna (but you never know). Also, Verizon, if you'd like to loan me an activated Samsung i730, I can give it back to you when I'm done.

Joel also blogs about allegations that a volunteer nurse named Bobby Lee Huss was apprehended just outside of NOLA by armed Homeland Security forces, who seized all of the medical supplies from his truck at the request of the Red Cross. Anthony Lappé has more details on GNN:

According to Huss, he was given over $25,000 worth of medical supplies by the Red Cross in Covington. He claims he was given all the necessary credentials and Red Cross workers helped him load up his 1989 Dodge Caravan. But not less than 10 minutes later, he found himself staring the barrel of a gun at a Homeland Security checkpoint on the north side of the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway. According to Huss, a state police officer told him the Red Cross had requested he be detained.

Shortly after a Red Cross official showed up and said he wasn't authorized to have the supplies (The Red Cross is officially mandated by FEMA to act as their on-the-ground medical and relief agency). Huss says his van was ransacked and the supplies were confiscated. He says he was interrogated for hours by state police officers, who asked him about his entire background, and even accused him of being a child molester because he had baby supplies in the van. Huss said he had just went through an FBI background check.

Huss said he wasn't released until 12:40 AM Sunday morning, after 11 hours of detention. He says he was only given one bottle of water and was held for most of the time in the back of a police cruiser. He was given his van back, but the supplies were confiscated. "They are keeping supplies from people who are in need," Huss told me. Huss also accused the Red Cross of hoarding much-needed supplies. Huss is now on his way back to Texas, demoralized and angry. "Tell the people of Algiers I'm sorry," he said.

Link to the full text of Anthony's post.

Joel blogs about confrontations with armed private security contractors from Blackwater:

We got yelled at some by police and official-types who wanted us out of areas where they were operating. Herding media isn't really their job, but they weren't rude about it (just brusque). The Blackwater employees, on the other hand, were phenomenally unpleasant. Jake has a lot more to add soon, I'm sure, but there's a serious question as to the authority of these mercenaries.


Bloggers Joel and Jake visit NOLA for geek aid

Blackwater gets carte blanche.