Greg Palast: Halliburton’s admission will make BP defense stronger against the government’s civil allegations of gross negligence.
JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.
The company Halliburton has pleaded guilty to charges of destroying critical evidence in the aftermath of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Now joining us to discuss all this is Greg Palast. Greg is a BBC investigative reporter and author of Billionaires and Ballot Bandits. And he’s been on The Real News previously discussing the BP coverup. And he joins us now.
Thanks for being with us, Greg.
GREG PALAST, BBC INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Glad to be with you, Jessica.
DESVARIEUX: So, Greg, just for our viewers, can you just break down exactly what Halliburton pleaded guilty to?
PALAST: Halliburton pleaded guilty to being scumballs who have destroyed evidence. What they did was they covered up evidence that the cement that they sold BP to plug the well, to plug the well in the Gulf, they had said that they had warned BP that they needed to use more cement. In fact, it probably didn’t make any difference.
So this is something that BP’s going to try to use to get them off the hook. Halliburton destroyed evidence.
But the truth is, my own investigations, I went all the way to Asia, to Azerbaijan, and I found out that BP already knew that the cement would fail that they used to plug the well in the Gulf, because it had already failed. That same cement procedure had already failed 17 months earlier in the Caspian Sea, another BP oil rig offshore. And they covered it up. BP completely covered up the fact that they had a prior blowout almost identical to the one in the Gulf 17 months later. Because they covered it up, boom.
So, while Halliburton—while BP’s going to try and use the Halliburton confession to get off the hook, in fact BP’s going to have to explain what happened in the Caspian Sea 17 months before. At least I hope they will. I mean, I’m not counting too much on the federal government to get tough on these guys, but we’ll see.
DESVARIEUX: Okay. And they also incurred a $200,000 fine, and they’re looking to pay about $55 million to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Some are saying this could be worth billions of dollars to BP. Do you see BP getting off the hook for more damages?
PALAST: Well, I think BP’s going to get off the hook for more damages because the Obama administration really is uncomfortable about pushing them further. You know, this is geopolitics. They don’t care whether 11 guys died and the Gulf was smashed. What Obama’s going to be concerned with is heat from British Petroleum and its big owner JPMorgan, which is the big holder. You know, anything that hurts JPMorgan is going to be a problem for this administration. JPMorgan is one of the biggest funders of the Obama campaigns, and they’ve done a lot to protect that company.
So you have to go back—when you’re looking at oil, you’re looking at big finance. So it’s a matter of will of the government to do something about these—about BP. And I think they’ve said, well, they’ve got all the money they’re going to get out of them; they’re not going to push them for more.
The one thing that might happen is that BP might be able to whack Halliburton for paying a bigger chunk of the fee. Then the question is: will Halliburton bust them on what happened before? But that’s a difference between the two corporations. In terms of what the public’s going to get, not much.
DESVARIEUX: Okay. And they’re also being implicated on the oil spill that happened off the coast of Australia and numerous others—they may be implicated, I should say. How could these guys keep on getting away with this? I know you mention the corporate interests and being so close to the banks and things of that nature, but how do they really get away with this?
PALAST: Bribery, intimidation, violence. When I was in Azerbaijan, which is the nation where BP had its blowout before the Gulf spill, there’s no question that we have had massive bribery of the government there to keep things quiet. In addition, while I was able through witnesses to find out about the prior BP blowout before the Gulf blowout, that information was also known to the U.S. government through the State Department. How do I know that? Through the WikiLeaks cables. And instead of giving private Manning a medal for uncovering this information that BP had a prior blowout, well, he’s—today he may be sentenced to several lives in prison.
So, basically, suppression of the truth by oil companies in combination with governments is an old story. So I think that’s the biggest problem they face.
How do they get away with it? Governments, whether in the U.S. or Azerbaijan, suppress the real information. There’s often bribery of officials. We had bribery of a officials by BP at the minerals and mining agency which oversaw the drilling in the Gulf. We’ve had—you know, the companies also lie. We had the company BP’s chief lie to Congress about the safety of drilling.
I will say, and I have to give the Obama administration a couple of pats on the head, ’cause they did indict David Rainey, the vice president and then president of BP U.S.A., for lying to Congress. But, you know, it wasn’t the first or the last lie, and I think those charges are going to end up getting dropped anyway.
DESVARIEUX: Okay. Well, thanks so much for joining us, Greg.
PALAST: Okay. You’re very welcome.
DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.