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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The BP/Government police state

Published on 07-07-2010

Source: Salon - By Glenn Greenwald

Last week, I interviewed Mother Jones' Mac McClelland, who has been covering the BP oil spill in the Gulf since the first day it happened. She detailed how local police and federal officials work with BP to harass, impede, interrogate and even detain journalists who are covering the impact of the spill and the clean-up efforts. She documented one incident which was particularly chilling of an activist who -- after being told by a local police officer to stop filming a BP facility because "BP didn't want him filming" -- was then pulled over after he left by that officer so he could be interrogated by a BP security official. McClelland also described how BP has virtually bought entire Police Departments which now do its bidding: "One parish has 57 extra shifts per week that they are devoting entirely to, basically, BP security detail, and BP is paying the sheriff's office."

Today, an article that is a joint collaboration between PBS' Frontline and ProPublica reported that a BP refinery in Texas "spewed tens of thousands of pounds of toxic chemicals into the skies" two weeks before the company's rig in the Gulf collapsed. Accompanying that article was this sidebar report:

A photographer taking pictures for these articles, was detained Friday while shooting pictures in Texas City, Texas.

The photographer, Lance Rosenfield, said that shortly after arriving in town, he was confronted by a BP security officer, local police and a man who identified himself as an agent of the Department of Homeland Security. He was released after the police reviewed the pictures he had taken on Friday and recorded his date of birth, Social Security number and other personal information.

The police officer then turned that information over to the BP security guard under what he said was standard procedure, according to Rosenfield.

No charges were filed.

Rosenfield, an experienced freelance photographer, said he was detained shortly after shooting a photograph of a Texas City sign on a public roadway. Rosenfield said he was followed by a BP employee in a truck after taking the picture and blocked by two police cars when he pulled into a gas station.

According to Rosenfield, the officers said they had a right to look at photos taken near secured areas of the refinery, even if they were shot from public property. Rosenfield said he was told he would be "taken in" if he declined to comply.

ProPublica's Paul Steiger said that the reporting team told law enforcement agents that they were working on a deadline for this story about that facility, and that even if DHS agents believed they had a legitimate reason to scrutinize the actions and photographs of this photographer, there was no reason that "should have included sharing them with a representative of a private company."

These are true police state tactics, and it's now clear that it is part of a pattern. It's been documented for months now that BP and government officials have been acting in unison to block media coverage of the area; Newsweek reported this in late May:

As BP makes its latest attempt to plug its gushing oil well, news photographers are complaining that their efforts to document the slow-motion disaster in the Gulf of Mexico are being thwarted by local and federal officials -- working with BP -- who are blocking access to the sites where the effects of the spill are most visible. More than a month into the disaster, a host of anecdotal evidence is emerging from reporters, photographers, and TV crews in which BP and Coast Guard officials explicitly target members of the media, restricting and denying them access to oil-covered beaches, staging areas for clean-up efforts, and even flyovers.

http://bit.ly/dpPyal

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