"It seems as if permits were too often issued based on little more than assurances of safety from the oil companies," Obama said.
Echoing President Ronald Reagan's comment on nuclear arms agreements with Moscow, he said, "To borrow an old phrase, we will trust but we will verify."
Obama already had announced a 30-day review of safety procedures on oil rigs and at wells before any additional oil leases could be granted. And earlier in the week Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced plans to split the much-criticized Minerals Management Service into two agencies, one that would be charged with inspecting oil rigs, investigating oil companies and enforcing safety regulations, while the other would oversee leases for drilling and collection of billions of dollars in royalties. Salazar has said the plan will ensure there is no conflict, "real or perceived," regarding the agency's functions.
Obama decried what he called "a cozy relationship between the oil companies and the federal agency that permits them to drill." But the president, who had earlier announced a limited expansion of offshore drilling that's now on hold, didn't back down from his support for domestic oil drilling.
This week executives from three oil companies — BP PLC, which was drilling the well, Transocean, which owned the rig, and Halliburton , which was doing cement work to cap the well — testified on Capitol Hill, each trying to blame the other for what may have caused the disaster.
"I did not appreciate what I considered to be a ridiculous spectacle during the congressional hearings into this matter. You had executives of BP and Transocean and Halliburton falling over each other to point the finger of blame at somebody else," the president said.
Associated Press writers Erica Werner, Matthew Daly and Frederic J. Frommer in Washington, Jason Dearen in New Orleans and Melinda Deslatte in Baton Rouge, La., contributed to this report.