Extra Security Abounds Ahead of This Week’s Super Bowl 50
With less than a day to go to Super Bowl 50 when old-school quarterback Peyton Manning leads the underdog Denver Broncos (12-4) into Levi Stadium in Santa Clara, California to face the heavily favored Carolina Panthers (15-1) quarterbacked by new-school Cam Newton, federal, state and local authorities are finalizing plans to watch the game, too.
The attacks in New York City and Washington D.C. on September 11, 2001 awakened America to the threat terrorism presents to the homeland, and the April 15, 2013 Boston Marathon bombings demonstrated that nothing so offends an anti-American jihadist as much as the sight of scores of Americans gathered together enjoying traditions, especially sporting events.
This week, the Department of Homeland Security will be coordinating efforts by the FBI, Secret Service, Transportation Security Administration (TSA), U.S. Coast Guard, the San Francisco and Santa Clara Police Departments along with 60 other agencies to guarantee that nothing disrupts the biggest professional football game of the year.
The plan, which has been developed and drilled for two years, includes the use of F-16 fighter jets, helicopters, K-9 teams to sniff out explosives, as well as the latest technology in cellphone capture devices, facial recognition and license plate reading, in addition to photo surveillance throughout the area.
Every Super Bowl receives a “SEAR 1” (Special Event Assignment Rating) ranking it second only to a presidential inauguration, not only because it presents an almost irresistible target to anti-American jihadists who would be hailed as heroes for attacking such a uniquely American institution, but for the massive impact it would have on America and the millions of television viewers who would see such an attack unfold.
An attack on a sports stadium in Paris, part of a series of well-coordinated assaults on cafés, restaurants and a concert venue, was prevented when security guards denied terrorists entry to the game, demonstrating to U.S. agencies the need for well-trained security personnel monitoring access to the nearly 70,000-seat stadium on Sunday.
“Particularly with the rise in use by terrorist groups of the internet to inspire and recruit, we are concerned about the “self-radicalized” actor(s) who could strike with little or no notice,” the FBI said in a recent report.
Because coordination and communication between the myriad agencies is essential, Michele Ernst of the FBI says, “We gather intelligence, and we share information. We have our own joint operations center. We have other joint information centers in San Francisco and Santa Clara, and we’re working hard to make sure information is shared. It’s a collaborative effort.”
Still, both the NFL and the San Francisco Police Department say that reliance on the public is the most valuable security tool available to ensure the safety of the spectators, the players, the media and the game itself.
“The basic bottom line,” Officer Esparza of the SFPD told WIRED Magazine, “is that our best eyes and ears are the public who come and participate. If someone sees something, we are asking people to say something.”