Mother Jones's Mac McClelland has been soldiering on down in Louisiana, even as her attempts to report on the oil spill response have largely evolved into covering the way BP has clamped down on media access in the region, through a network of private security contractors and an apparent iron grip on local authorities. Still going on!
Everyone knows by now that BP is still blocking press access to oil-spill sites even though they're not supposed to anymore. I've been blathering about it for weeks, and it's been all of three days since four contractors wouldn't let me through the Pointe Aux Chenes marina outside Montegut, Louisiana. And though as of June 16 the federal government was saying helicopters could fly reporters as low as 1,500 feet around spill sites, on June 17 I was on a helicopter that was prohibited from flying below 3,000 feet (and whose pilot flipped silent birds at the "military guys" coming over the radio and hassling him about being in the area at all).
Insert standard reminder that National Incident Commander Thad Allen issued a written directive weeks ago ordering these media blockades to be lifted. Smash cut to the Associated Press's senior managing editor Michael Oreskes, seeking redress from White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs to no avail.
McClelland also provides a video of Drew Wheelan of the American Birding Association getting hassled by a local police officer for shooting a segment across the street from BP's facility in Houma, Louisiana. Wheelan was not on BP's property at the time, but still caught a share of Kafkaesque static:
Wheelan: "Am I violating any laws or anything like that?"
Officer: "Um...not particularly. BP doesn't want people filming."
Wheelan: "Well, I'm not on their property so BP doesn't have anything to say about what I do right now."
Officer: "Let me explain: BP doesn't want any filming. So all I can really do is strongly suggest that you not film anything right now. If that makes any sense."
Making even less sense is the fact that Wheelan was subsequently pulled over by the same police officer some time later, and then tailed by "two unmarked security cars" for 20 miles! As McClelland remarks, this "is a whole other level of alarming."
Anyway, you should really follow Mac McClelland on Twitter, as she continues her serio-comic adventures in the Land Of The Sometimes Free Press.