Federal Government Intimidates More Independent Researchers


In many cases, you can give the federal government the benefit of the doubt and decide its actions are primarily just wrong-headed, rather than intentionally damaging: Like the “Mission Accomplished” announcement or low-balling the spill volume or sounding the all-clear on seafood without adequate testing. But it’s much more difficult to offer the feds that benefit when it comes to intimidation of independent researchers who disagree with the official line.

Of course, the most heavy-handed example of this was the “safety zones” the Coast Guard enforced in the midst of the spill, citing unnamed “local officials” who were concerned. Then some Florida scientists went public with charges that they were harassed after daring to even suggest there were plumes of underwater oil – which of course there are.

Chilling reports of government pressure and tactics continue to be commonplace, even to the point that people joke about it. My colleagues have felt that heat. It often comes with not-so-subtle suggestions that maybe they lacked legal permits or are somehow going to get themselves into trouble. They usually just work through it, but it’s still very troubling coming from our own government.

When the ultimate impact of the BP spill is finally known, we’re going to be astounded at the almost casual way the Coast Guard and law enforcement became the BP militia in certain cases. Here’s a public example from a call-in radio program that shows exactly what I’m talking about. An academic researcher says that a sampling effort was stopped by Homeland Security agents and “… they, of course, checked everyone’s identification, and they took all the samples that we had. And they also took some notes that we had. The theory that we were operating upon was information that had been given to us by someone who worked in the plant that made that dispersant. And they took everything.”

This is not an isolated case. Check out our tax dollars at work for BP here: http://www.floridaoilspilllaw.com/professor-says-homeland-security-confiscated-samples-and-notes-with-insider-information-on-dispersant-in-the-interest-of-national-security-video

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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