Every once in a while a story comes along which blows the lid off of the status quo.
Such a story broke yesterday when Salon Magazine published a blockbuster article "Erasing Cruise Ship Crime." Written by Matthew Harwood, the Salon article tackles the ugly spectacle of our nation's FBI sabotaging the efforts of a grass roots cruise victims organization.
The story goes like this. The International Cruise Victims Organization (ICV) labored for the past six years to enact a cruise safety law to require the cruise lines to report the many cruise ship crimes which occur each year. All of the cruise victims' stories are compelling - a son or daughter who vanished at sea under mysterious circumstances, a child lost due to gross medical negligence by shipboard doctors, a woman raped at sea - all real tragedies that happened to real people.
The cruise lines fought tooth and nail against the passage of the ICV supported law, but dropped its opposition at the last minute. Why? The fix was in. The FBI altered the language in the cruise crime bill at the last minute. Instead of reporting all crimes (averaging over 400 a year), the cruise ship crimes which are now disclosed on the FBI database average barely one tenth of that figure. As a final indignity, the cruise lines and some travel agents point to the bogus database as proof that cruising is absolutely safe.
The Salon article points out the fact that cruise lines hire FBI officials to maintain the status quo. The result is that the FBI and its fraternity alumni brothers on the cruise ships all scratch each other's backs. No one will give their friend a hard time. No need for anyone to be embarrassed. The cruise lines even invite the FBI to private wine and dinner parties, but exclude the victim's group.
The truth here is ugly. It involves behind-the-scenes shenanigans by large offshore corporations and a large federal agency. The secret deals stifle democracy. The editing of Congressional bills by a self-dealing FBI perpetuates a system which rewards the indifference of federal law enforcement officials who are suppose to respond to victim's horror stories on the high seas but, in truth, are deep in the cruise lines' pockets. It condones and encourages cruise lines to cover up ship crimes whenever and wherever they can, while the FBI looks the other way.
The Salon story hit a nerve.
The conservative South Florida Business Journal asked whether the Salon article was the "smoking gun" which revealed a cozy relationship between the FBI and the Miami-based cruise lines, particularly Royal Caribbean which hired many FBI agents as well as senior FBI officials. Is it a coincidence that the cruise lines' friends at the FBI were the ones who watered the cruise crime bill down?
Many other reporters and bloggers picked up the story and added a sense of outrage to the FBI cover up.
Jezebel wrote "FBI Works With Cruise Lines to Bury Reports of Rapes at Sea," and added a photo of a huge Royal Caribbean cruise ship (photo top).
Inquisitir published "FBI Involved In Cruise Line Sexual Assault Crime Coverups."
Leisure Guy said "Concealing Crime: How the FBI Improves Its Crime Fighting Statistics."
Raw Story reported "Loophole Lets Cruise Ship Rapes Go Unreported."
Grey haired old-school PR experts will tell the cruise lines and FBI not to worry about the bad press because the bloggers are not writing for the major newspapers. But with the explosion of social media today, no one cares what the AP or Reuters are saying. Now it's the Huffington Post types who are spreading the word and influencing public opinion.
Other stories will follow. You will see major newspapers and networks come with the next round of stories exposing the FBI cruise crime cover up.
The cruise lines and their trade organization, Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) will eventually respond with their own spin. CLIA will open the prepared, canned statements: "Crime is rare. Our number 1 priority is the safety of our guests. We reports all allegations of crime to the appropriate law enforcement." But the tide has turned. The public knows these types of official statements are gobbledygook.
Truth be told, the FBI, which is suppose to watch over the foreign cruise line corporations and protect the public, has acted like a secret lobbyist for the cruise lines.
Should you trust the cruise lines and a corrupt FBI organization with the most precious cargo carried on cruise ships - your family?
Photo credits from the original media sources, top to bottom:
Jezebel, Inquisitir, Salon.