April 23, 2024

Press Freedom

United States

OPC Asks if US Coast Guard Chain of Command Now Includes BP

Admiral Thad W. Allen
Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard
Coast Guard Headquarters
2100 Second Street, SW (STOP 7101)
Washington, DC  20593
Fax: (202) 372.2311

Dear Admiral Allen:

The press freedom committee of the Overseas Press Club of America (OPC) has viewed the video clip of a Coast Guard officer earlier this week shooing CBS reporters away from the site of the Gulf Coast oil spill with the explanation, “this is BP’s rules, it’s not ours.”  We are amazed.

Several times every week, the OPC is in touch with heads of state around the world in defense of what should be obvious: that the obligation of a free press to inform the public is a pillar of any democratic nation.  We are hard-pressed to think of an example of any democracy where a military officer would explicitly say he is taking orders from a corporation.

This is an indignity, Admiral Allen, not just to the idea of a free press and democracy, but to the Coast Guard.  Among this country’s institutions, esteem for the Coast Guard and its mission of public service has previously been unassailable.  Therefore, our feeling of shock at hearing a Coast Guard officer declare that is taking orders from a company desperate to manage its public image and to hide itself from a worried public.

Commandant, please assure us that this was a mistake and that the right of professional journalists to cover a story of local and international importance will in the future be assured by your officers.  And that the Coast Guard’s chain of command will no longer include executives of BP plc.

Respectfully yours,

Kevin McDermott   
Jeremy Main
Co-chairmen — Freedom of the Press Committee

Sen. Mary Landrieu
328 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC  20510
Fax: (202) 224.9735

Sen. David Vitter
516 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC  20510
Fax: (202) 228.5061

Capt. Kathleen Donohoe
Chief of Public Affairs
Commandant (CG-09222)
U.S. Coast Guard
2100 Second Street, SW (Stop 7362)
Washington, DC  20593
Fax: (202) 267.4307

Mr. Tom Mueller
Press Office
BP America

Dennis Woltering

Donna Britt