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Monday, July 5, 2010

Photographer detained by police, BP employee near refinery

A photographer taking pictures of a BP refinery in Texas was detained by a BP security official, local police and a man who said he was from the Department of Homeland Security, according to ProPublica, a non-profit news organization in the U.S.
The photographer, Lance Rosenfield, said he was confronted by the officials shortly after arriving in Texas City, Texas, to work on a story that is part of an ongoing collaboration between PBS and ProPublica.
Rosenfield was released after officials looked through the pictures he had taken and took down his date of birth, Social Security number and other personal information, the photographer said. The information was turned over to the BP security guard who said this was standard procedure, ProPublica quoted Rosenfield as saying.
Rosenfield, a Texas-based freelance photographer, said he was followed by a BP employee after taking a picture on a public road near the refinery, and then cornered by two police cars at a gas station. The officials told Rosenfield they had the right to look at the pictures taken near the refinery and if he did not comply he would be "taken in," the photographer said according to ProPublica.
BP gave ProPublica the following statement after the incident:
"BP Security followed the industry practice that is required by federal law. The photographer was released with his photographs after those photos were viewed by a representative of the Joint Terrorism Task Force who determined that the photographer's actions did not pose a threat to public safety."
In response to BP, ProPublica's editor-in-chief Paul Steiger said:
"We certainly appreciate the need to secure the nation's refineries. But we're deeply troubled by BP's conduct here, especially when they knew we were working on deadline on critical stories about this very facility. And we see no reason why, if law enforcement needed to review the unpublished photographs, that should have included sharing them with a representative of a private company."
When msnbc.com contacted BP, spokeswoman Sheila Williams said there was nothing the firm wanted to add to its earlier comment.
ProPublica filed two recent reports about BP. One deals with the similartities between the 2005 explosion at the Texas City refinery and the blast at Deepwater Horizon, and another is about thousands of pounds of toxic chemicals that were release by the refinery earlier this year.

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