Charges from a former cleanup worker that the supposed cleanup of British Petroleum has been merely cosmetic, complaints about the lack of cleanup efforts by local Gulf residents, and negative media coverage have elicited an interesting response from British Petroleum and its enablers in government. They are trying to hound the press away or even criminalize attempts to cover the story.
The efforts to criminalize news coverage by the Obama Administration have gotten so bad that a Freedom of Information Act request has been made on the subject on behalf of Seize BP. (From Seize BPs 7/8/10 press release sent via email)
The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, on behalf of SeizeBP.org, has filed a Freedom of Information Act request demanding the underlying documents that purport to substantiate the Coast Guard’s new ban on media access to areas affected by BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil catastrophe.
“This attempt to muzzle the press on behalf of BP is just the latest in a series of actions that indicate collusion between the federal government and a giant corporate entity that has created an environmental disaster due to criminal negligence,” stated Carl Messineo, a spokesperson for Seize BP and public interest attorney who filed the records demand.
In a July 1, 2010 news conference, Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, the national incident commander for the oil spill, explained that the new restrictions were initiated on the basis of his receipt of complaints from county commissioners that, absent access restrictions, damage could theoretically occur. Allen did not identify the sources of such complaints or the unnamed commissioners.
The penalty for reporters or journalists who may enter the new exclusion zones without permission is up to a $40,000 fine and potentially a class D felony conviction.
This Freedom of Information Act request demands: “disclosure of copies of all complaints or requests that formed the basis for, or which prompted, the new exclusion zones. To the extent that such complaints were made verbally, the request seeks disclosure of any documents memorializing or summarizing or logging or otherwise recording such complaints.”
This request also demands “disclosure of all communications with BP and its agents regarding restrictions or limitations upon media access.”
A lot of us on the left give Anderson Cooper for his usual lack of substantive news reporting, but he deserves a lot of credit for covering this press censorship when many in the corporate media have kept silent on the subject.
The press harassment and censorship extends to the local level to another British Petroleum catastrophe in Texas. (From Democracy Now! 7/9/10)
JUAN GONZALEZ: We now turn to look at a story about the oil giant BP that has received nearly no national attention. Just over three months ago, thousands of pounds of toxic chemicals began spewing into the skies from BP’s massive oil refinery in Texas City. The release began on April 6, two weeks before the explosion on the deepwater horizon oil rig, but it took BP weeks to even realize there was a problem. BP now estimates 538,000 pounds of chemicals and escaped from the refinery over 40-day period.
AMY GOODMAN: Well I wanted to go to the issue of the difficulty of reporting this. I want to bring in Lance Rosenfield, the freelance photographer hired by ProPublica to take pictures of BP’s Texas City refinery. While on assignment, he was followed by BP security, then detained by local police. He joins us now from Austin, Texas. Lance Rosenfield, welcome to "DEMOCRACY NOW!" Describe what happened to you.
LANCE ROSENFIELD: Simply put, I was hired by ProPublica to augment the story that’s Ryan Knutson is speaking of, and I was taking photographs. It was a two-day assignment so I had various parts to cover, including, basically giving a portrait of the town itself. So I’d found a decorative ‘Welcome to Texas City’ sign on a public highway south of town near the refinery. And, simply put, I was taking pictures of that sign. I pulled off the shoulder like I would normally do, of the public street, walked over to the median, took the pictures, and then walked back to my car. And I was going to go back to my hotel to file the pictures and I noticed I was being followed by security truck.
So I needed gas anyway. I did not feel like going—letting this guy, you know, follow me to my hotel. So I pulled into the gas station. He continued on, so I thought really nothing of it. Then police pulled in and essentially, you know, blocked me in as if I was gonna to try to go anywhere. And, got out, asked who I was. They had got reports that I was taking photographs. And I said, ‘Yes, I’m a photojournalist.’ And they said, ‘We need to see your pictures.’ I said, well, you know, ‘Without a warrant, I don’t feel like I need to show you the pictures.’ And he said, ‘Well, we can, we can – you can show ‘em to us now or we can do this later with Homeland Security.’ It seemed to me like a, some sort of additional threat.
So because I was on deadline, I made the decision to show them the pictures. I just wanted to get this over with, I knew I had nothing, you know, threatening on my photographs. I showed them the pictures and he took my information. At this time the, the security guard that was following me had turned back around, pulled into the parking lot. He was a BP security guard. And the BP security guard asked for my information as well. And I, I declined because he’s a corporate security guard. So he turned to the police officer who had just taken my information, including my Social Security Number, and gave—I’m not sure exactly what of the information that the police officer took—what of that he gave to the BP officer, but he gave him whatever he needed.
And, so I protested. I said I didn’t understand why that was happening. I didn’t – I was never on BP property. And, and so I asked, ‘Under what, what grounds he was able to share my information with a private corporation?’ And basically, I didn’t get a straight answer. I just got, ‘Well, this is Homeland Security procedure. We can call Homeland Security agent Tom Robison down here, you know, if you have a problem with it.’ And I said, ‘Well, I’m just trying to understand what legal grounds you have to do this, because I was never on BP property.’ So he said, ‘Well, I’ll just call Tom Robison.’
So he called Tom Robison, who at time I didn’t know who he was, of course. I’ve found out since that he’s, he’s a local police corporal who is a liaison to the FBI and Homeland Security. So—and he heads the local joint terrorism task force there in Texas City, and I guess, maybe the region. So, but at that time I did not know who he was—they just referred to him as FBI and Homeland Security.
They called Tom Robison. He actually gave me the phone, which I thought was a little unusual, but my natural reaction is to take the phone. Tom Robison got on the phone and asked what my problem was. And I said, ‘I’m just kind understand why this is happening with BP getting my information.’ He said, ‘You’re staying there. Don’t go anywhere until I get there.’ So I gave the phone back to the police officer. He said, you know, ‘You need to stay.’
And at that point, I felt like, you know, the police officer had looked at my photographs on my camera, he had determined that there was no threat. And at this point, why was I being detained? It wasn’t clear to me, other than the fact that Tom Robison wanted to come down. So he showed up and basically approached me in a very antagonistic and aggressive manner. Um, he was shaking, he was worked up, he was loud, he was boisterous, he asked what my problem was. He said his main concern was my attitude. And, you know, all I was trying to do was find out why BP was getting my information. And, you know, it was his antagonistic behavior that I had a problem with. I felt like he was harassing me. The BP security guard stepped in and they both, you know, were trying to relate my activity as a photojournalist to terrorist activity—
The Obama administration and corrupt local officials in the South are covering up British Petroleum's crimes against this country. This is absolutely disgusting and unpatriotic. This is inexcusable. Barack Bush is absolutely heinous.
Meanwhile, British Petroleum's incredibly evil CEO Tony Hayward is building an expensive villa in Spain to get away from the problem.