Civil Liberties

BP's Brave Fight Against Camera-Wielding Terrorists

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Mother Jones describes a creepy manifestation of the secrecy surrounding the BP oil spill:

Last week, Drew Wheelan, the conservation coordinator for the American Birding Association, was filming himself across the street from the BP building/Deepwater Horizon response command in Houma, Louisiana. As he explained to me, he was standing in a field that did not belong to the oil company when a police officer approached him and asked him for ID and "strongly suggest[ed]" that he get lost since "BP doesn't want people filming":

Here's the key exchange:

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."

Not really! Shortly thereafter, Wheelan got in his car and drove away but was soon was pulled over.

It was the same cop, but this time he had company: Kenneth Thomas, whose badge, Wheelan told me, read "Chief BP Security." The cop stood by as Thomas interrogated Wheelan for 20 minutes, asking him who he worked with, who he answered to, what he was doing, why he was down here in Louisiana. He phoned Wheelan's information in to someone. Wheelan says Thomas confiscated his Audubon volunteer badge (he'd recently attended an official Audubon/BP bird-helper volunteer training) and then wouldn't give it back, which sounds like something only a bully in a bad movie would do. Eventually, Thomas let Wheelan go.

"Then two unmarked security cars followed me," Wheelan told me. "Maybe I'm paranoid, but I was specifically trying to figure out if they were following me, and every time I pulled over, they pulled over." This went on for 20 miles.

The cop turned out to be an off-duty sheriff's deputy moonlighting for BP. A spokesman for the sheriff's department told Mother Jones that "the deputy's pulling someone over in his official vehicle while working for a private company is standard and acceptable practice, because Wheelan was acting suspicious and could have been a terrorist."

NEXT: Thomas Sowell, on Ends and Means

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  1. That sounds like a lawsuit just begging to be filed.

    1. Maybe his settlement can come out of the $20 billion?

  2. and could have been a terrorist

    All you need to know.

    How long will it be before BP resurrects the AMOCO brand?

    1. Fuck that. I want Sohio back.

      1. I second that!

  3. Wheelan says Thomas confiscated his Audubon volunteer badge

    Uh…heh heh. This says more about Wheelan than BP. I bet if he laid on his back in the rain his chest would fill with water.

    1. Maybe it was the Bitch Patrol.

  4. When I moved to Houston in 1999, I was told by many people that the whole gulf was essentially run by the petrochemical industry, and the politicians would do anything to support the companies. This story doesn’t surprise me a bit. Is that wrong?

  5. godfuckingdamnit is all i got

    sorry

  6. Anyone know if any pirate oil harvesting is going on? It’s a big gulf.

    1. I’d imagine such efforts would be relatively useless refining capacity or a large enough haul to be able to pawn it to refiners.

  7. I only asked him why he was filming because I thought he was with Obama’s Justice Department. I wanted to make sure they got that $20 billion check we sent, because they said they wouldn’t ruin us if we sent that it. I don’t see what the big problem is, I was just seeking clarification.

  8. So, if all he wanted to do is stand across the road and film, why is it titled Trying to get into a BP building?

    1. Maybe he was trying to get detained and brought inside for interrogation, where they would tell him exactly how they planned ruining the Gulf while twirling their mustaches and polishing their monocles then he would escape James Bond style and suck up all the oil with the vacuum power of his infinite Audubon smugness then blow up the building with the evil oilers inside.

      1. If he was one of the kids from Captain Planet, he would be that wimpy little bitch of a South American kid with the power of “heart” which somehow allowed him to converse with an control the predatory and amoral animal kingdom.

        1. Dude, you know the powers of Captain Planet’s kiddie minions? Was that the only comic in your cell for a year? WTF?

          1. I can’t imagine the childhood in which paying attention to Captain Planet was worthwhile.

            1. Know your enemy. One must study the propaganda in order to combat it. I’ve been examining things with a critical mind since my youth.

              1. Captain Planet is on! Do you want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?

      2. then he would escape James Bond style and suck up all the oil with the vacuum power of his infinite Audubon smugness then blow up the building with the evil oilers inside.

        Judo CHOP!

      3. Even smug greenies have rights, sage. If this guy was doing nothing wrong, then the libertarian interest is to support his rights.

        1. Blowing up the builing with the oilers inside is NOT “doing nothing wrong”.

          1. I couldn’t see the Palestinian bomb vest from the video, I guess I must have missed it.

      4. “You sly dog: You caught me monologue-ing!”

    2. So, if all he wanted to do is stand across the road and film, why is it titled Trying to get into a BP building?

      At the beginning of the clip, one of the first things he tells the cop is that he “was trying to get in today to talk to a safety officer.”

      1. Trying to get in, like making an appointment, or trying to get in, like climbing over the fence?

        1. Or parachuting in, like Nancy Pelosi into your backyard?

          1. I thought she rode a broom.

            1. That’s not a broom. At least not anymore.

              1. double-sided dildo?

                1. That’s between Barbara Boxer and me.

        2. Presumably he would not tell the officer if he had just attempted to break into BP’s property. My guess is that, at best, he tried to line up an interview with a sincere set of questions, and at worst, he was engaged in “Roger & Me” style showboating. Either of which would be legal.

          1. You can never be too careful, if you see something, say something, nothing to small to investigate.

            It’s a product of one of America’s greatest knee-jerk reactions.

        3. Should’ve used the classic trick. Start climbing a fence and have a friend shout: “Patient trying to get out! Patient trying to get out!” Then a nurse will come and drag him into the facility.

      2. Ah well, if I WTFV, that would have been clear.

        Ya know, my first tendency is to not invite conflict and I have this nasty streak of honesty, but the more I hang around here, the more likely it’s becoming for that tendency to be atrophied.

        1. Preview is for suckers.

          That 2nd paragraph was supposed to have been in response to RC below. Not sure how I did that.

  9. Every time I think BP can’t become less sympathetic, they go and prove me wrong.

    1. From the days of Standard Oil and the Rockefellers forward, oil companies seem universally to have been run by assholes.

      1. Standard Oil didn’t do anything that was too bad. It was the victim of a vicious smear campaign instigated by the daughter of a man who was put out of business by Rockefeller and had an axe to grind.

        1. Standard Oil was hell on competitors, much less so (if at all) on consumers. Sort of like Wal-Mart.

          1. I recall reading about one incident where a Standard Oil employee was captured in a rowboat near one of its competitors’ refineries along with a case of dynamite.

            1. Hi Aresen thats interesting,I wish you had more on that story.

              1. Sounds like the railroad wars in Colorado. Competitors used to actively engage in terrorism, blowing up other railroad lines, shooting competitors, etc.

        2. my chest feels funny

  10. It was the same cop, but this time he had company: Kenneth Thomas, whose badge, Wheelan told me, read “Chief BP Security.” The cop stood by as Thomas interrogated Wheelan for 20 minutes,

    Why the fuck did Wheelan talk to the rent-a-cop at all, much less submit to an interrogation fro 20 minutes.

    I would have asked the cop “Am I under arrest?” When he said no, I would have driven off.

    1. Exactly. If the cop is moonlighting, he’s a rent-a-cop. Fuck him. And fuck his lickspittle boss for letting him use city property on his moonlight gig.

    2. That’s a hell of a risk to take, RC. The only witness is a BP lackey — I think you can guess how much likelihood there is that the cop will be prosecuted for anything he does to you.

  11. Wait, some douchenozzle from BP tries to interrogate me with a cop standing right there? Yeah, OK. How much of a craven suck up to authority do you have to be for that to work?

    Ask the cop if you’re under arrest. If not, then leave. If BP wants answers they can go piss up a rope.

    1. Uh, you can piss up a rope and feel the pissy dribble
      You can piss up a rope and watch me giggle
      For the last 6 months I been packin’ your bag
      You can wash my balls with a warm, wet rag
      Till my balls feel smooth and soft like silk
      I’m sick of your mouth and your 2 percent milk
      And I’m no dope, but I’ve lost all hope
      So hit the fuckin’ road and piss up a rope.

  12. Wow, how absurd. This PUNK Cop should be fired at once! How much more are the Sheeple going to take??

    Lou
    http://www.anon-vpn.at.tc

    1. Here’s what I would’ve done:

      “It was the same cop, but this time he had company: Kenneth Thomas, whose badge, WheelanAnonBot told me, read “Chief BP SecurityRent-a-Cop.” The cop stood by as Thomas interrogated WheelanAnonBot for 20 minutes, asking him who he worked with, who he answered to, what he was doing, why he was down here in Louisiana. AnonBot responded “Eat Shit” to each question, asked if the cop was on-duty (he wasn’t), if he was under arrest (he wasn’t), got back into his porsche 911 with his smoking hot toaster oven trophybot girlfriend, and drove to a dirty hotel to knock the dust off said toaster oven.”

      1. This is a Man with a Plan.

  13. A spokesman for the sheriff’s department told Mother Jones that “the deputy’s pulling someone over in his official vehicle while working for a private company is standard and acceptable practice

    Actually, I’m pretty sure its a crime in some states.

    Yep, here in Texas, I believe that what this ignorant deputy did would be “abuse of office”, if not “official oppression.”

    1. Yep, here in Texas, I believe that what this ignorant deputy did would be “abuse of office”, if not “official oppression.”

      Possibly, but you’d never get it to a court case.

      1. 42 USC ?1983 is a wonderful thing.

        1. The whole thing reeks but, what ” rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws” did the cop violate?

          1. The old boy may be barely breathing,
            But the fourth amendment’s heart is still beatin’…

          2. Amendndment 9 – Ratified 12/15/1791.

            The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

          3. The whole thing reeks but, what ” rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws” did the cop violate?

            I don’t think the whole “put on your lights and pull him over” routine was so they could have a nice, voluntary chat. Nor were the implied threats simple idle chat.

            1. Sure they did. They pulled him over, and he voluntarily spoke. If he didn’t want to speak, he should have said so. He should have said.

              I’m not answering any questions without a lawyer. Do I need to call one?

              Am I under arrest?

              End of discussion

    2. But we are talking LA, where cops can charge you money with a crime.

    3. http://offdutyservices.com/

      If the Sheriff department allows them to moonlight with their unmarked cars, they probably can.

    4. RC, people rent cops for private events in Texas. They wear uniforms and come in a cruiser. I can’t imagine that they don’t make arrests too. Are you confusing police and sheriff departments?

      1. I believe you are talking about cops being rented out in their official capacity. This guy was at his second job and used his police shit anyways.

  14. I love the ad that shows up in the RSS feed for this article: Become a Police Officer – SWAT, K9, Narcotics, CSI & More. Online degrees for police careers!

  15. I recall a couple of weeks ago that a US Congresscritter, accompanied by a tv news crew, was trying to get to one of the (presumably public) gulf beaches only to be turned back by the national guard. Apparently the guardsmen took the congresscritter aside (away from the journos) and convinced him to cease and desist.

    Sounds like BP owns the local and state governments down there.

    1. Interesting.. any links?

  16. pretty sweet* shot from NASA’s Terra satellite of the spill…

    http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=44375

    *like tartaric acid

  17. A spokesman for the sheriff’s department told Mother Jones that “the deputy’s pulling someone over in his official vehicle while working for a private company is standard and acceptable practice,

    Standard, maybe. Acceptable, definitely not. They allow cops in Detroit to moonlight in uniform (the city gets a cut), I find the whole idea reprehensible. If you’re working as a rent-a-cop, wear a fucking rent-a-cop uniform. We should not be hiring out state authority to the highest bidder. It sounds like something Putin would do.

    1. Agree 100%, I have always been uneasy about sworn LEOs hiring themselves out to private businesses while wearing official uniforms, having powers of arrest, etc.

    2. Yeah, but then there’s a gray area with all the shops that give cops free stuff if they hang out there in uniform, even if they’re not officially employed.

    3. “”We should not be hiring out state authority to the highest bidder. It sounds like something Putin would do.””

      Where would cops get their authority if we privatized the police force? Some place other than the state?

      1. Prepare to be flamed by our resident anarchos for even daring to ask such blasphemous questions.

      2. I don’t have a problem with the state giving someone authority to arrest someone for a real crime. I do have a problem with that person then auctioning off that authority to the highest bidder, then using that authority on his own time for said highest bidder’s private benefit.

        1. A large company might take bids on security services, just like any other service which they take bids. Nothing wrong with that.

          If you have a problem with cops moonlighting as security guards, that’s different.

  18. In a just world, the cop and the BP asshole would both go to jail for false imprisonment.

    1. If there was a just world, or America in this case, post 9/11 LEO legislation choked it to death.

      1. i am pretty great, aren’t i?

        1. The gift that keeps giving.

  19. A spokesman for the sheriff’s department told Mother Jones that “the deputy’s pulling someone over in his official vehicle while working for a private company is standard and acceptable practice,

    Seriously? Are you legally required to stop for an off-duty sheriff’s car moonlighting for a private company? That sounds a lot like impersonating a police officer to me.

    1. If he’s in an official vehicle you have to stop, yes. And then you have to file a false detainment lawsuit the next morning. Off-duty cops should only be detaining people in cases of immediate danger to life and limb.

      It doesn’t sound like there was even enough reason for an on-duty cop to pull him over.

      1. Tulpa, did the reporter surrender his right to travel unmolested by Caesar’s clown costumed losers?

        1. There’s nothing funny about clowns and molestation, honkie anarchist.

  20. What is illegal is a cop detaining someone without reasonable, objective suspicion they are committing a crime. They told him flat out it was not a crime so there was no legal justification to pull him over. And the fact that “BP doesnt want it” is not reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. I hope he sues the hell out of the bastards.

  21. “”And the fact that “BP doesnt want it” is not reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. “”

    Agreed. And making that statement might help in a lawsuit, if the voice recording wasn’t tossed as illegal.

  22. My bet is he gets Wheelan gets charged under LAs wiretap laws, based on the justification that it fails the (C)4 exception regarding 1 party consent because it was recorded
    “for the purpose of committing any other injurious act”, in this case LA defamation law.

  23. Don’t trust your soul to no backwoods southern lawyer (or policeman).

  24. “acting suspicious” IF YOU SUSPECT I MAY HAVE DONE SOME ACTION, MALICIOUS OR OTHERWISE, IT IS IN FACT YOU WHO IS SUSPICiOUS(curious).

  25. Officer: “Um…not particularly. BP doesn’t want people filming.”

    Well BP I don’t want your fucking oil covering my three oyster beds either. Shall I send you some film of that you fucking jackasses?

    I would have told the BP prick to take a flying leap up the off duty cops ass and than driven away. I am not sure if BP realizes it yet or not but most of the people in S. La. don’t give a damn what BP wants and he should know by now that everyday that feeling is more and more accepted.

    1. But if you talk to them instead, you are consenting to the discussion. That’s where this guy screwed up.

  26. The reaction from the Sheriff is priceless!

  27. Big Brother isn’t a president, he’s a CEO.

  28. Aha! So all those tin-foil nutters proclaiming America to be a police state are finally proven wrong!

    American is an off duty police state!

  29. This activist should have been arrested. Too many people have been exploiting not just these oil-soaked animals from the gulf, and most likely traumatizing them with flashes and lights for video. Then the constant harrassment of clean-up crews doing their best to save the environment, wherever they are. And now, this man wants to go into a BP office building in order to catch these people, most likely not only upset, but truly GRIEVING over what their company has caused despite careful regulation, and truly diligent work to try and rectify the situation, despite all the petty claims by fishermen and leisure craft owners, as well as the hospitality businesses on the gulf.

    If you can sympathize with the above driveling, you are a total idiot

  30. There’s no reason why the photographer should have been arrested unless he didn’t have permission from the property owner to be there. He wasn’t breaking any laws.
    Also, it’s probably just an excuse, but their explanation that the writer “could have been a terrorist” does hold water, barely. If somebody wanted to bomb one of BP’s facilities, it would make sense for them to take photos or video of it first to determine where to bomb it.
    The fact that he was pulled over sounds shady, since the officer was off-duty, and almost sounds as if the police is in BP’s pocket, and the security guard should have had nothing to do with any of it.

  31. What gave the BP security chief any right to question anyone OFF BP PROPERTY especially when the one being questioned was never on that property to begin with?

    Also, on what charge was Wheelan being pulled over? He had every right to simply leave. Also, BP should be charged with theft for “confiscating” the badge. This is basically a mugging.

  32. A couple of points:
    Peace Officers (police) are never off duty, just not paid 24/7. Most carry a weapon 24/7.
    The cop was not “on the job” of being a paid peace officer at the time but used Police Department resources including other staff and computer time to check for outstanding warrants. This is VERY upsetting to me as he is misrepresenting his authority as an “on the job” peace officer.
    The subject was misled as to the “officer’s” current authority by the police radio being used and all the trappings of the office.
    As an aside, try and take a photograph of a police officer on duty anywhere and see what happens. In Portland, OR. you can have your camera confiscated and the pictures erased.

  33. I thought police officers were supposed to serve and protect the community,not pimp their asses out to the likes of BP.

  34. This cop never would have done this if Wheelan were doing this with Riki Ott, Kindra Andreson, Debra Sweet and her bunch, Lorraine Margeson, and Diane Wilson. These folks and any like them should be working in groups. I am so proud of all those courageous individuals! How else would we know that hydrogen sulfide and Benzene with Corexit (whatever that is), are killing crops and birds (suddenly), in the Mississippi basin?! How would we know animal carcasses are being hauled off in the middle of the night? How else would we know about the censorship there? It’s these folks who make it possible to see how bad this is. Without them, I couldn’t convince my family and friends to get the hell out of there yesterday….

    1. I was wondering why I had not seen much about dead animals.

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