BP Claims It Has No Authority Over Its Contractors Blocking Media Access

06/16/2010 03:22 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

As we've noted repeatedly, one of the aspects of the Gulf Oil cleanup operation that BP has really applied itself to with great success is the ongoing effort to prevent the media from covering the story.

Long after it was made crystal clear by both National Incident Commander Thad Allen and BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles, reporters continue to find themselves being denied access to sites and to clean-up workers. This all reached a farcical apotheosis when WDSU reporter Scott Walker had this perplexing conversation with a pair of private contractors, tasked by BP with the job of "keeping the beach safe."

WALKER: I am going to go and try to talk to a worker under the tent, can I do that?

BP OFFICIAL: No, no.

WALKER: He's on a break.

BP OFFICIAL: You are not allowed to interview any workers.

WALKER: The workers can talk to the media according to the BP CEO two days ago. The word still hasn't trickled down to you all yet?

SECOND BP OFFICIAL: We already heard that one, too.

WALKER: What do you mean you've heard that one? It's true.

BP OFFICIAL: The email did not explicitly give you permission to do that.

WALKER: There are quotes from Doug Suttles that say no one had been barred access to talk to the media, and that it's a misunderstanding and that the word hasn't trickled down to all the appropriate channels yet. That's what he said two days ago. So two days later, that still hasn't trickled down.

BP OFFICIAL: It's been briefed to us...

WALKER: By whom? Who's briefing you all?

BP OFFICIAL: That's not important right now.

Those officials identified themselves as employees of "Talon Security." But as Yahoo's Brett Michael Dykes reports, this company seems to be something of a mystery:

A Yahoo! search of companies named Talon Security yielded several firms under that name. Yahoo! News contacted many of them, but none has yet confirmed that it is providing security services for BP in south Louisiana.

What's more, Dykes reports that BP's basic position on the matter is that the contractors it hired are, strangely, beyond its control:

When contacted by Yahoo! News for comment on these incidents, BP spokesman Mark Proegler told us that "there have been restrictions placed on photography in the wildlife area because we've been told that it could do harm" to the animals. When we asked about the incident involving Talon Security in Grand Isle, Proegler said: "We are not trying to prevent media access in any area, but we've heard about some incidents and we've gone back and shared our stance on this with Talon." Proegler also said that "we can't force our contractors to work with media if they choose not to."

How does it come to pass that you have "shared your stance" with your contractor but ultimately can do nothing about it? I only worked as a contractor for four years, so I guess I'm no expert, but my limited experience in these matters teaches me that the essence of the relationship between a company and the contractors it hires is the ability to give the contractor specific instructions on what to do and how to behave. It's the sort of thing that one can put in a "contract," with "contractors."

At any rate, it would be really terrific if some important public official could give a primetime speech on television that included the specific instruction that the media should not to be blocked from covering the story.

RELATED:
Reporters clash with Coast Guard, BP security [Yahoo's The Newsroom]

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