CNN’s Anderson Cooper wanted to know why the government wouldn’t let the media fully report on the infamous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Just before Independence Day, the Coast Guard widened the gulf between official policy and common sense — a gulf that has characterized much of the federal response to the catastrophe. A newly concocted rule prohibited camera crews and others from coming within 65 feet of response vessels or booms without obtaining special permission.
The government’s point man on all things BP-oil-spill, Admiral Thad Allen, at first defended the rule. This was the same man who, Cooper noted, had weeks earlier stressed that “the media will have uninhibited access anywhere we’re doing operations, except for two things, if it’s a security or a safety problem.”
The blanket 65-feet boundary arbitrarily inhibited access. And it raised Anderson Cooper’s ire:
“We’re not the enemy here,” Cooper clarified. “Those of us down here trying to accurately show what’s happening, we are not the enemy. I have not heard about any journalist who has disrupted relief efforts. . . . If a Coast Guard official asked me to move, I would move.”
Anderson Cooper’s criticism of the rule, and its widespread coverage, elicited a backlash. In less than two weeks the rule was lifted for reporters.
Openness? Transparency? Governments don’t like it. Citizens do.
The lesson appears to be that we are likely to get transparency only after loudly demanding it.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.