Anne Macquarie: Has the First Amendment been suspended? |

Anne Macquarie: Has the First Amendment been suspended?

Anne Macquarie

How does it feel to be told by a foreign corporation – backed by the U.S. government – that you’ll be told only what they want you to know about what is perhaps the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history? I’m talking about BP’s Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and I just had some personal experience with how it felt.

I’d been hearing stories about how reporters and photographers are being kept from oil spill cleanup sites by BP security teams, how workers employed by the army of private contractors hired by BP in cleanup efforts are forbidden to talk to anyone. Now our own U.S. Coast Guard has restricted public – including photographers and reporters covering the oil spill – from coming within 65 feet of any response vessels or booms on the water or on beaches.

Aha, I thought, I can get around that. I have a friend who has been working for the last month for a private contractor, doing wildlife inventories in areas affected by the oil spill. I asked her if I could talk to her about what she saw down there and share it with Nevada Appeal readers.

She told me she’d been required to sign a confidentiality agreement. She couldn’t talk to anyone about anything she did there. I didn’t push her – times are tough and I sure didn’t want her to lose her job.

It’s not surprising that BP doesn’t want us to know what’s happening when what’s happening appears to be the poisoning and perhaps the death of an entire ecosystem – but the Coast Guard? They say they are restricting access for safety reasons. But the Coast Guard works for us, the citizens of the United States, not for BP. And we have a right – I would say an obligation – to know as much about the oil spill and the cleanup as we can.

It is shameful that after BP pollutes and perhaps destroys the ecosystem of the territorial waters of the United States in the Gulf of Mexico, an ecosystem that belongs to all of us, BP then tells us what we can and can’t know about it. And our government backs them up.

• Anne Macquarie, a private sector urban planner, is a long time resident of Carson City.