Right wingers fuel outlandish Obama, SWAT takeover theories

By Muriel Kane
Friday, April 30, 2010 17:41 EDT
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Perhaps the right is rattled by the SWAT team they believed had been called up to disperse a tea party demonstration in Quincy, IL, but which turned out to be local police in body armor clearing the street to enable President Obama’s motorcade to pass through. But whatever the cause, they’re now seeing the specter of SWAT teams everything.

On Friday afternoon, for example, a headline at the Drudge Report proclaimed, “Obama Sends SWAT Teams to Oil Rigs…”

It linked to a CBS News story from the previous day which reported, “Mr. Obama, speaking at an event for the 2010 National Teacher of the Year, said he had been receiving frequent briefings on the situation and that he is prepared to use the resources of the Department of Defense if necessary to deal with the oil spill. … Mr. Obama said SWAT teams were being dispatched to the Gulf to investigate oil rigs and said his administration is now working to determine the cause of the disaster.”

Rush Limbaugh had already pounced on this story and woven it into a conspiracy theory . He told his audience on Thursday, “I didn’t hear this myself, but I have been informed that President Obama is sending SWAT teams to the Gulf oil rigs. SWAT teams? I’m waiting on audio sound bite confirmation of this, but why in the world would you send SWAT teams to Gulf oil rigs? Oh, I know! Obama probably thinks the tea party blew up the rig. That’s what it is. (laughing) … We had this call from a guy out there who said nobody’s talking about whether this was an act of sabotage because I guess they can’t prove it, but they’re going to send SWAT teams down there?”

Drudge did not link to any more current story to provide a better explanation of the president’s remarks, but a Friday column by Ed O’Keefe at the Washington Post, which explains, “The department deployed SWAT teams from the Minerals Management Service to inspect 30 drilling rigs operating in the deepwater sections of the Gulf of Mexico. Inspections should be completed within the next week, according to an Interior Department spokeswoman. Inspectors will check to see whether the rigs have conducted blow-out preventer tests and inspect related records.”

The key here is that the teams were sent out by the Minerals Management Service, a section of the Department of the Interior which “plays a key role in America’s energy supply by managing the mineral resources on 1.7 billion acres of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). This includes managing Renewable Energy Programs as well as Offshore Oil and Gas Leasing in Federal waters.”

Although ithe acronym is not entirely clear, “SWAT” in this context could simply stand for “Swift Action Team,” or it might represent something similar to the “soil and water assessment tool” used by the Department of Agriculture to monitor complex watersheds.

There are also references online to the Obama administration creating a “SWAT team” within the Office of Management and Budget to set performance improvement targets

However, the immediate response to the word “SWAT” immediately aroused the specter of an armed government intervention. Paul Joseph Watson at Prison Planet, wrote on Friday, “Radio talk show host and former Reagan cabinet advisor Mark Levin has slammed President Obama’s bizarre announcement that he will be sending SWAT teams to deal with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, alleging that the response is part of a plan to grease the skids for government takeover and nationalization of the oil industry.”

“Levin alleged that the response was a precursor to government nationalization of the oil industry via the back door.” Watson’s story continued. “‘I think those SWAT teams are there in coordination with the attorney general’s office, the Interior Department, Homeland Security, maybe the EPA….to seize records at these sites and to lay the foundation for more government takeover,’ he stated.”

Muriel Kane
Muriel Kane
Muriel Kane is an associate editor at Raw Story. She joined Raw Story as a researcher in 2005, with a particular focus on the Jack Abramoff affair and other Bush administration scandals. She worked extensively with former investigative news managing editor Larisa Alexandrovna, with whom she has co-written numerous articles in addition to her own work. Prior to her association with Raw Story, she spent many years as an independent researcher and writer with a particular focus on history, literature, and contemporary social and political attitudes. Follow her on Twitter at @Muriel_Kane
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