Oil Spill Engages Federal Investigators In A Balancing Act The Obama administration needs the help of the companies at the root of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill to help stop the underwater gusher, but it also faces pressure to launch a criminal investigation into the disaster. The situation has federal investigators treading carefully.
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Spill Engages Federal Investigators In A Balancing Act

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Spill Engages Federal Investigators In A Balancing Act

Spill Engages Federal Investigators In A Balancing Act

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DAVID GREENE, Host:

With anger building by the day over that oil spill in the Gulf, the Obama administration is facing pressure to launch a criminal investigation into one of the country's worst environmental disasters. But the administration is being very careful not to distract oil giant BP from priority one, which is plugging up that hole that's oozing the oil. NPR's Carrie Johnson reports.

CARRIE JOHNSON: Federal investigators are engaging in a delicate balancing act. They want to learn what went wrong at the oil rig, but they need the same companies at the heart of the disaster to stop the gusher. Attorney General Eric Holder, speaking recently on the ABC show "This Week," addressed the issue gingerly.

ERIC HOLDER: I have sent down representatives from the Justice Department to examine what our options are with regard to the activities that occurred there and whether or not there has been misfeasance, malfeasance, on the part of BP or Oceana.

JOHNSON: But Holder says they have to balance competing priorities.

HOLDER: But Uhlmann says the government also needs the companies to cooperate, and that's a different scenario than this year's Massey mining disaster in West Virginia. There, FBI agents spanned out immediately to interview miners about safety lapses.

DAVID UHLMANN: The Massey case was somewhat more self-contained. The tragedy occurred and the government was able to quickly shift into full investigative mode.

JOHNSON: Here's Republican Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama quizzing DOJ's Tom Perrelli about the case.

JEFF SESSIONS: To what extent is the FBI involved in that?

TOM PERRELLI: Senator, I cannot comment on any contemplated or pending investigation.

JOHNSON: Carrie Johnson, NPR News, Washington.

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