We were pleased to read in a government report last week that the cruise industry "generally maintains good security measures."
It was particularly reassuring that this was reported as the view of the Coast Guard, as told to the Government Accountability Office, which has a reputation for putting out responsible and authoritative reports.
The GAO's cruise security report, requested by the House Committee on Homeland Security, seemed to be another of these straightforward and responsible assessments -- until we got to the end.
The report states that large cruise ships appear to be attractive terrorist targets, but it also noted that there have been no recent attacks or threats against cruise ships.
This seems to suggest that terrorists aren't as interested in cruise ships as we think, or that present-day security practices are effective, or that the industry has been lucky, or all three.
In any event, the GAO went on to conclude that an attack is nevertheless possible. True enough.
From this conclusion, however, the GAO made a single recommendation: that Customs and Border Protection, a unit of Homeland Security, do a "study" to determine if security would be enhanced by requiring cruise lines to transmit passenger name record data to the government on an ongoing basis.
The DHS has already agreed to do this, noting in its response to the GAO that PNR data from airlines has proven "invaluable in identifying persons of interest."
We'd feel a lot better about this if the DHS had said it was looking forward to "protecting cruise passengers," but that's not what it said.
Call us skeptical, but we have this nagging suspicion that the GAO report is effectively handing the DHS a tool to go fishing through travel industry reservations records for suspected drug lords, immigration violators, tax cheats or other undesirables.
Those might be worthy pursuits, but what do they have to do with cruise ship security?
CLIA has indicated its willingness to cooperate, which of course it must do. Nobody can afford to be seen as "soft on security."
But what's next, hotel reservations records?