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Friday, July 6, 2012

Why is the FBI Covering Up Cruise Ship Crime?

     Worldwide, there are 200 cruise ships owned by 26 cruise lines. The average ocean cruise consists of a huge boat carrying 2,000 passengers and a crew of 950. The biggest ships can hold more than 4,000 vacationers. These are small towns on water. In 2007, 12 million people purchased cruise line tickets. This is a big, global industry represented by an influential trade association called the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).

     Over the years, cruise line companies have received bad publicity due to a series of high seas rapes, murders, and passenger disappearance cases. These high-profile crimes suggest the possibility that women and children on these huge vessels are vulnerable to molestation by crew members and other passengers. One expert on cruise ship crime believes that a woman is twice as likely to be raped aboard one of these boats than on land.

     When a U.S. citizen aboard a cruise ship anywhere in the world is raped, assaulted, or murdered, the FBI has jurisdiction. But until recently, the bureau did not make these crime statistics a matter of public record. As a result, people contemplating an ocean cruise had no way of assessing the crime risks associated with this form of recreation.

     To enlighten and inform the American public of the relative crime risks that come with ocean cruises, Congress passed the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010. Under this federal statute as initially proposed, the FBI would make public all crimes reported to them by the cruise lines or by passengers directly, and do it in a timely manner. This data would be stored on a U.S. Coast Guard website. However, when the bill was in committee, high-ranking FBI administrators lobbied for the insertion of a qualification that essentially defeated the purpose of the law. FBI brass managed to get Congress to limit what the bureau had to make public. Under the legislation as enacted, the FBI is required only to report cruise ship cases that the bureau has opened and closed.

     The FBI only opens 10 to 20 percent of cruise ship crimes that come to their attention, and the cases they do open are not closed for years. As a result, only a fraction of cruise ship crime statistics are made public, and what is published is old information.  This, of course, is exactly how the cruise ship industry wants it. What the public doesn't know hurts them, but helps the cruise line business.

     So, how did the cruise line industry get the FBI to thwart the intention of Congress, and the interests of the cruise-taking public? When did the bureau change from a law enforcement agency to a Washington lobby firm?

     The cozy relationship between lawmakers and lobbyists for various enterprises is nothing new. Congress has always been up for sale. But what seems to be new is how an industry has been able to corrupt legislators and the FBI. How did the CLIA get to the bureau? Easy. The trade organization wines and dines top FBI personnel every two months at various vacation spots. And since 2007, two top-ranking FBI executives (they can retire at 50) have been given lucrative retirement jobs in the cruise industry. No one knows how many mid-level FBI administrators in D.C. have landed good security positions with cruise lines.

     The effect of the FBI tampered with, cruise line-friendly federal crime reporting law is producing the results the CLIA has paid for. If you look at the U.S. Coast Guard crime data web site, you will find that in 2012, there has been only one reported case of cruise ship rape. Just one. Thanks to the FBI's sabotage of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010, vacationers know nothing about the crime risks of an ocean vacation. Cruise ships are not child molester-rapist free zones.  

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