Aggressive efforts to access other people's e-mails seem to be a key part of oil giant BP's strategy in the case over damages from the disastrous 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
A federal judge on June 11, 2012, denied BP's bid to see 21 e-mails and other documents sent between the White House and other federal agencies.
Reuters reported: "U.S. Magistrate Judge Sally Shushan in New Orleans said the federal interest in preserving secrecy, together with the public interest in ensuring an effective response to the next disaster, outweighed BP's need for the documents to defend itself in litigation by the government over the spill."
More chilling, perhaps, was BP's effort to get e-mails sent by two private-sector scientists in an apparent effort to discredit their work. BP subpoenaed private e-mails sent by scientists Christopher Reddy and Richard Camilli, who work for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Both BP and the Coast Guard asked for the expertise of these two scientists (along with many others) on the rate at which oil was flowing from BP's damaged well. BP's own credibility on the question of flow rate was destroyed by revelations that it had publicly underestimated the flow rate and suppressed findings from its own staff that the flow was much larger.
In a June 3, 2012, op-ed in the Boston Globe, Reddy and Camilli said that by seeking their confidential discussions, BP (which already had their public findings) was damaging the "deliberative process" that goes into sound science.
In April, a former BP engineer was arrested on charges of obstructing justice, after he allegedly deleted hundreds of text messages from his iPhone related to flow-rate estimates.
- "Former BP Employee Arrested for Allegedly Destroying Evidence of Oil Released," New Orleans Times-Picayune, April 24, 2012, by Mark Schleifstein.
- "Gulf Oil Spill Emails: BP Denied Access to White House Correspondence," Reuters, June 11, 2012, by Jonathan Stempel.
- "BP Sends a Chill Through the Scientific Community," Mother Jones, June 4, 2012, by Kate Sheppard.
- "BP Accused of Attack on Academic Freedoms After Scientists Subpoenaed," Guardian, June 4, 2012, by Suzanne Goldenberg.
- "Science out of Context," Boston Globe, June 3, 2012, by Christopher Reddy and Richard Camilli.
- "BP Oil Spill Emails Reveal High-Level Discord Over Flow Estimates," Huffington Post, May 31, 2012, by John Rudolf.
- Previous Story: "BP To Get Gulf Oil Spill Information Withheld from Public," SEJ WatchDog of April 18, 2012.
- Previous Story: "Spill Commission: Obama Admin Blocked Release of Oil Flow Data," SEJ WatchDog of October 20, 2010.
- Previous Story: "'BP Probed on Leak Estimates'," EJToday Headlines, May 30, 2012.