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Administration to end joint briefings on oil spill with BP

By Suzanne Malveaux, CNN White House Correspondent
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Administration officials say joint briefings with BP on oil spill are over
  • Adm. Thad Allen will now hold daily briefings without oil company
  • Allen says his job is to speak "very frankly" to the American public
  • Officials say change reflects desire for single voice and accurate message

Washington (CNN) -- The Obama administration will no longer do joint briefings with BP on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and instead will have former Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Thad Allen handle the daily briefings on his own, senior administration officials told CNN on Tuesday.

According to the senior administration officials, the change is an effort to control the message, release accurate information about the oil spill and speak in one voice to deliver the daily message on latest developments.

Allen, the administration's point man on the oil spill, later told reporters in New Orleans that his job is to speak "very frankly with the American public."

"I think we need to be communicating with the American people through my voice as the national incident commander," he said.

The move come amid growing frustration from the White House that BP is delivering inaccurate information and not being transparent, said the senior administration officials, who spoke on condition of not being identified by name.

One official said the last straw was Saturday, when BP officials downplayed the possibility that the amount of oil flowing could actually increase from BP's latest strategy to cut the broken pipe and cap the leak.

"Instead of being straight with the American people as Carol Browner (the assistant to the president for energy and climate change) has done on behalf of the administration, BP minimized its significance," the official said.

Senior administration officials say Browner appeared on several Sunday political talk shows to set the record straight. Browner has said the flow of oil could increase by as much as 20 percent when the pipe, known as a riser, is cut.

The end to joint briefings also comes as the White House has been using progressively tougher language against BP after coming under fire for appearing to be BP's partner in fighting the oil spill.

Coast Guard Rear Admiral Mary Landry, who had acted as one of the principal government briefers, will no longer participate in the daily briefings, the officials said. They added that Landry was not being pushed out, but instead was resuming her duties preparing for hurricane coverage.

The Coast Guard's Unified Area Command spokesman, Howard Wright, said Landry's shift in duties had been in the works.

"As planned, starting Tuesday, June 1st, the first day of hurricane season, Coast Guard Rear Admiral Mary Landry will rotate back to her role as Coast Guard Eighth District Commander in order to focus solely on coordinated federal hurricane response planning and preparation efforts in the Gulf of Mexico," Wright said. "She will clearly bring an expert consideration of the effects the BP oil spill could have on all Gulf Coast hurricane response capabilities and recovery scenarios."

 
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