Policy Letter

POGO joins letter to President Obama urging continued public access to monitoring of Gulf oil spill

President Barack Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

We are writing to you in the midst of what may well be the worst environmental disaster in the history of the United States to urge that you give the public access to all monitoring data related to the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, including past, present and future videos of the live feed maintained by BP of oil spilling on the seabed since the feed was started. Access to all monitoring data is crucial for scientists and the public to understand the extent of the problem, and plan for how to help the area recover and thrive.

Based on a brief clip of BP's feed that has been made available, independent scientists have assessed that the spill may differ from estimates larger than BP and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have calculated. Access to all monitoring data is crucial for resolving these conflicting estimates and improving public trust.

Monitoring data, including how much oil is spilling out of the leak, the effects of the oil on the surrounding area, what is being done to stop the leak, and the results of tests on the extent of workers' exposure are matters of great national interest and concern to the public. The livelihoods of families that are reliant on the Gulf Coast's fishing and tourism industries – and others – are at risk. Further, it is too early to tell what the final cost of the disaster will be to public health. Given that the leak is within US Exclusive Economic Zone waters (and therefore within US territory) and operated according to a lease granted by the US government, the US public should have the right to access to the video feed, both past and current, as well as other information about the oil spill and its impact.

Thank you in advance for your attention to this urgent issue. In the interest of meeting your commitment on the first full day in office to "disclose information rapidly in forms that the public can readily find and use," and your Administration's subsequent statements, policies and directives encouraging the executive branch to give the public prompt access to information that is not required to be withheld, even if there are permissive exemptions, we urge you affirmatively disclose all monitoring data of the leak. To follow up on this matter, please contact Patrice McDermott, Director of OpenTheGovernment.org via email at [email protected] or phone at 202-332-6736.



American Association of Law Libraries

American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression

American Library Association

Association of Research Libraries

American Society of News Editors

ARTICLE 19: Global Campaign for Free Expression

Center for Democracy and Technology

Center for Responsive Politics

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington

Citizens for Sunshine

Community Research

Defending Dissent Foundation

Electronic Frontier Foundation

Essential Information

Federation of American Scientists

Feminists for Free Expression

First Amendment Project

Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas


National Freedom of Information Coalition

National Newspaper Association

National Security Archive

New Orleans Association of Law Libraries

Northern California Association of Law Libraries


OMB Watch

Progressive Librarians Guild

Project On Government Oversight

Public Citizen

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility

Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

Scientific Integrity Program, Union of Concerned Scientists

Society of American Archivists

Society of Professional Journalists

Special Libraries Association

Sunlight Foundation

Archon Fung, Mary Graham, David Weil, co-directors,

Transparency Policy Project, Harvard Kennedy School