Fox News got this one right.
WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration failed to set up an "effective" communications system during last year's BP oil spill and threatened its own credibility by "severely restricting" the release of "timely, accurate information," according to a newly released report commissioned by the U.S. Coast Guard.
Quietly posted on the Coast Guard's website two weeks ago, the report offers the first major assessment of the federal government's communications efforts during the worst oil spill in U.S. history.
Information centers in Houma, La., and Mobile, Ala. -- established by the Coast Guard in accordance with pre-set plans for major disasters -- were "effectively muted," the report reads.
Photographs could not be released without Washington's blessing, and Coast Guard officials leading efforts on the ground "were not authorized to conduct media interviews, hold press conferences or send press releases without prior approval from DHS," according to the report.
Asked about the report, sources with knowledge of White House and DHS involvement went even further, saying the administration "looked at this as a political problem, not an operational problem." After all, one source said, the 2010 midterm elections were drawing closer as the oil spill crisis deepened, and the White House "went into campaign mode."
In a statement to Fox News, a Coast Guard spokesman said the newly released report "does not reflect the views of the Coast Guard," but one of the sources with knowledge of White House involvement said it "depends on who you talk to." Essentially, the source said, the oil spill response created "a clash of cultures," with operational needs scraping against political ones.
Nevertheless, the report states the communications system put in place was a departure from prior practice, with White House and DHS officials in Washington becoming gatekeepers to information about developments in the Gulf Coast.
"If any level of the response organization is restricted from interacting with the media and the public in any way, it has the potential to damage the credibility of the Federal Government and erode public trust," the report reads.
In addition, the source who said the White House "looked at this as a political problem, not an operational problem" noted the Bush administration looked through a similar prism and likewise took control of the message during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
"Negative press equals lost votes," the source said. "It's not a political party thing, it's about political operatives and what's in their comfort zone."The full report is imbedded below and shows failures on many levels to be adequately prepared for a disaster of the magnitude of the BP Spill. In the wake of the ExxonValdez spill, one would think some valuable lessons had been learned, but it appears that was not the case.
Equally troubling is the dismissive attitude of the WH about this CG report:
The administration official, meanwhile, dismissed the report, which offers no direct attribution for its statements, as little more than "an opinion piece." Only six pages of the 167 pages address the issue of "external communications," with the rest of the report analyzing other aspects of the response like other recent reports have.
"Compared to the meticulously researched and sourced Oil Spill Commission Report (released Wednesday), this one is sufficiently lacking in both and, as such, is being received accordingly," the official said.Many suspect that the governmental response to the spill was far less than adequate and even though the administration is dismissive in tone, there does appear to be a strong political element to the disaster response. Which leaves us wondering why mid term elections and office position were more important than one of the biggest environmental disasters of our times.
Especially in the Gulf which is the site of hundreds of oil and gas wells, and if someone needs to get oil spill response preparedness right, the Gulf would be at the top of the list.
Yet, permits are still being issued and assurances of renewed responsibility are abundant on the same sub sea containment systems that got us to this disaster in the first place.
Anybody see anything wrong with this picture besides us?
BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Incident Specific Preparedness Review (ISPR) Final Report*