Law enforcement: no credible threat against Super Bowl at present

Jay Busbee,Shutdown Corner

SAN FRANCISCO—Super Bowl 50 will almost certainly be the most-watched television event in American history, and that’s an awfully large temptation for anyone looking to spread a message of protest, violence, or terror. As a result, the NFL and law enforcement agencies across the spectrum are reaching the culmination of a two-plus-year effort to keep Super Bowl 50 safe and secure.

So far, so good: "At this time, we know of no specific, credible threat against the Super Bowl," said Department of Homeland Security secretary Jeh Johnson on Wednesday as part of a conference on security preparations for the game.

In the wake of tragic terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, among many other places, security is on high alert throughout Super Bowl week. Here’s a non-comprehensive rundown of all the federal agencies involved in security planning for this year’s Super Bowl:

• Federal Bureau of Investigation
• Department of Homeland Security
• Transportation Security Administration
• U.S. Secret Service
• U.S. Coast Guard
• Customs and Border Protection/Immigration and Customs Enforcement
• Federal Emergency Management Agency
• Domestic Nuclear Detection Office
...and many, many more.

The NFL and Homeland Security are also, in effect, deputizing all 70,000-plus spectators at the game with a “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign. (Interesting side note: “If You See Something, Say Something” is a registered trademark of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority.) The message will be inescapable, visible to fans at airports, mass transit systems, billboards, and mobile apps.

“’If you see something, say something’ clearly applies for the rest of this week, said David Johnson, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s San Francisco field office. “We ask that you err on the side of caution.”

The security presence is visible everywhere around the Super Bowl. Streets have been closed throughout downtown San Francisco, and police officers are everywhere. Bomb Squad vehicles are parked not far from the fan zones, and armed security guards are a constant presence.

In Santa Clara, site of Levi’s Stadium and the game itself, repurposed military police vehicles patrol the streets, and concrete barriers block vehicular access from most routes. Helicopters loom overhead, cameras are visible all over the stadium, and visitors must undergo at least four security checks. It’s all a bit dispiriting and militarized, but law enforcement officials are taking absolutely no chances on any kind of threats, particularly in the wake of terror-motivated attacks on innoncents that have happened since last year’s Super Bowl.

“Every year is different,” Johnson said. “The world situation, the threat picture is different every February … We learn from the events of the past, but we have to protect against events of the future.”

Of course, looking so hard for the big scary threats can result in overlooking the tiny, unthreatening ones, like the fans who try to sneak into the game itself. That’s why the NFL has used the old trick of hiring a criminal to catch a criminal – or, in the case of the Super Bowl, hiring a gatecrasher to catch gatecrashers. Dion Rich, an 88-year-old prankster who’s been sneaking into games for decades, has helped the NFL keep an eye out for ticketless fans trying to sneak in. Rich’s best tip: act like you’ve been there before, as two Irish fans did last year sneaking all the way down to the fourth row at University of Phoenix stadium. Though considering how amped-up and heavily-armed this year's security force already is, that's a strategy you may wish to reconsider.

Police in San Jose have said they intend to investigate up to 20 potential threats each day. Already snared: Broncos practice squad player Ryan Murphy, questioned in connection with a prostitution sting and sent home on Tuesday. Mike Sellers, chief of the Santa Clara Police Department, noted that all his department's Super Bowl-connected arrests to date have been of the "people having too much fun" variety, or in connection with ticket scalping. Like all other law enforcement officials connected with the Super Bowl, he stressed that there have been no credible threats directly connected to the game.

Johnson toured Levi’s Stadium early in the day Wednesday, and indicated that he came away impressed with the preparations. He won’t, however, be sticking around: “I don’t get to stay for the game,” he said. “I never get to stay for the game.”

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