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Lap Dancers, the CIA, Payoffs and BP’s Deepwater Horizon

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Posted on Apr 18, 2014

By Greg Palast

(Page 2)

Question: Why in the world was BP allowed to use this insanely dangerous “quick-dry” cement just after a failure in the Caspian? Answer: A cover-up—via threats, beatings, arrests, bribery, perjury and the complicity of the U.S. State Department.

I learned of the prior blowout only because of a coded message from the Caspian Sea received from one very nervous eyewitness. To get the evidence, I flew to Baku and headed across the road-less desert to find more witnesses.

Greg Palast and crew under arrest in Azerbaijan. Photo by Palast Investigative Fund

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But we had been ratted out. My crew was placed under arrest by Azerbaijan’s secret police. Although officers demanded our film, I was allowed to keep my pen, which was actually a hidden camera. (I’ve learned a few things from Maxwell Smart.)

How do you keep a monstrous blowout from going public? As one of the arresting cops told us with odd pride, “BP drives this country.” It drives it with cash. Robert Ebel, former chief of oil analysis for the CIA, estimates that at least $140 million in payments by BP for Azeri oil has gone unaccounted for. Where did it go? Notably, the Aliyev ruling family lives like pashas despite the president’s official salary of $100 a month.

Oil worker advocate Mirvari Gahramanli said she was beaten by police for raising questions. In case I doubted it, she showed me photographs of a dozen cops slamming her with long clubs.

What’s worse, while I was tossed out of the country (it would have looked bad to throw a TV reporter into a dungeon), my witnesses disappeared.

WikiLeaks and oily lies

Just five months before the Deepwater Horizon spill, Rainey—BP’s vice president for Gulf exploration—testified before the U.S. Congress that the company had drilled offshore “for the last 50 years in a manner both safe and protective of the environment.”

BP’s testimony was a lie. The Caspian rig had blown out a year earlier.

But the lie was good enough for Congress. Based on Rainey’s assurances, legislators pressured the Department of the Interior to drop objections to plans for drilling in the Gulf’s deep waters.

Withholding information from Congress is a felony. But Rainey has one heck of a defense: The U.S. State Department was in on the cover-up.

Deep in the pile of confidential State Department cables released by one courageous U.S. soldier, Pfc. Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning, we have the notes from a secret meeting between the U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan, Anne E. Derse, and the chief of BP’s Caspian operation.

The hugger-mugger was demanded by BP’s American partners, Chevron and Exxon. The U.S. oil companies had complained to the State Department that they were no longer getting their piece of the Caspian loot and BP wouldn’t tell them why. (You’ll remember that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was a member of Chevron’s board.) 

In the memo, which you can see in our film “Vultures and Vote Rustlers,” the U.S. ambassador provides the details of the blowout of the bad cement on the BP rig.

The State Department kept schtum (quiet) about it, not even warning U.S. safety regulators. And Exxon and Chevron’s chiefs joined BP’s Rainey in the mendacious sales pitch to Congress, testifying, despite their knowledge, that their offshore drilling methods were as safe as a game of checkers.

Justice is not always abused: Rainey was indicted on a felony charge of obstruction of Congress. However, the charge centers on a relatively minor falsehood: his alleged understatement of the amount of oil bursting into the Gulf. Neither Rainey nor BP will be tried for the deadlier lie to Congress—the prior blowout caused by the penny-pinching quick-dry cement—because the U.S. government is itself complicit in the cover-up.

Blowbacks and blowouts

And that’s why we are seeing the red carpet rolled out for BP in the Gulf once more.

The Deepwater Horizon rig in flames. Photo by Palast Investigative Fund

When the U.S. government participates in the corruption of other democracies, when it authorizes bribery and ignores police-state tactics to benefit from business deals, the sins of empire can come back to haunt the nation. In the CIA’s world this is called “blowback.” What was covered up in Baku has killed Americans in the Gulf, and it will likely continue to kill.

And bribery does not simply stay “over there.” American officials are not as different from the Baku bandits as they may like to believe. The agency in charge of regulating BP’s drilling in the Gulf, the U.S. Minerals Management Service, was rife with watchdogs who, like their Azeri counterparts, took backhanders and payouts from BP. And when I say BP was in bed with the regulators, that is not a metaphor: A BP lobbyist was reportedly sleeping with a chief of the agency.


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