If they had hired Blackwater, the firm would have had a particularly appropriate sounding name for the job: guarding tar-stained beaches.
In their latest eyebrow-raising PR move, multinational oil giant BP has enlisted private security contractors to keep onlookers away from oil cleanup sites. While the firm they hired apparently isn’t Blackwater (the private security firm Blackwater changed their name to Xe Services after a spate of killings in Baghdad, and has now put itself up for sale), they certainly seem to have ‘black water’ in their sights.
Wired‘s “Danger Room” blog dubbed BP’s decision to hire private mercenaries in the Gulf “one of the bestest public relations moves ever.”
The blog notes that BP’s move recalls bungled decisionmaking in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, when the US Department of Homeland Security — and some very wealthy homeowners — turned to private security contractors to protect their property in the wake of the disaster.
“This wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be the first time a private security firm made an appearance in a Gulf disaster,” Wired’s Adam Rawnsley writes. “When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, the Department of Homeland Security and a number of private firms, fearful of reported widespread violence and chaos, turned to private security contractors like Blackwater and ArmorGroup International to protect their property.”
According to reports, the firm hired is named Talon Security.
In a video clip obtained by ThinkProgress over the weekend, a local news team from WDSU in New Orleans was told by a private security guard that they were not allowed to talk to cleanup workers on a public beach or come within 100 yards of cleanup operations.
“WhoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s saying that?” reporter Scott Walker asked the guard. “Because no one can tell me that, unless youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re the Jefferson Parish SheriffÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Office, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re the Coast Guard, or youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re the military, can you tell me where to go on this public beach.”
“I can tell you where to go because IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m employed to keep this beach safe,” the guard replied, adding, “You are not allowed to interview any workers.”