DHS, Police & BP Detain Photographer at Refinery

Refineries are typically dicey places for photography — even from public vantage points — because oil companies evidently are above the law and the government typically backs them up on that. Add BP and the biggest oil spill in US history to the mix, and well, you can imagine what ensues.

On Friday, Lance Rosenfield, a photographer working on a piece jointly produced by PBS Frontline and ProPublica, was harassed and detained by a Homeland Security officer, two police officers and a security guard at a BP refinery in Texas City, TX. After Rosenfield took a photo of a Texas City road sign, he was followed and surrounded at a gas station where the trio told him they had a right to look at his photos — even if they were shot on public property — and if he didn’t comply he would be taken in. After giving them his vital stats (which are no doubt now filed away on some terrorist watchlist), Rosenfield was released and no charges were filed.

From ProPublica‘s editor in chief: 

We certainly appreciate the need to secure the nation’s refineries. But we’re deeply troubled by BP’s conduct here, especially when they knew we were working on deadline on critical stories about this very facility. And we see no reason why, if law enforcement needed to review the unpublished photographs, that should have included sharing them with a representative of a private company. 

BP maintains it followed “industry practice that is required by federal law.” I would like to see this federal law challenged in court because I have a feeling taking photos of  a public street is a constitutionally protected activity.
See all of Rosenfield’s Texas City photos here.
Article from ProPublica and The Intel Hub

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