Super Bowl 50 Terror Threats: Federal Authorities Keeping Close Eye On Feb. 7 Event

Security at Super Bowl 50 is being looked at closely by law enforcement as agencies share information on potential attacks, according to The Daily Mail. Following a series of attacks on fiber optic cables in the San Francisco area, authorities at the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are investigating the potential for terror attacks at the event, which is scheduled to be held February 7 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.

According to a memo passed between the two agencies, no specific plans for a Super Bowl attack have been obtained. However, their suspicions were raised by the severing of the fiber optic cables, which caused concern that “individuals may be using these incidents to test and prod network durability in conjunction with a more complex plot.”

Unsolved attacks on the San Francisco area’s fiber optic cable lines have been ongoing since at least 2014. NBC reports that a dozen or more cables have been damaged within 40 miles of the Super Bowl’s location. One of those was within five miles of Levi’s Stadium.

[Photo by Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP]But law enforcement experts like Anthony Cordesman, a security strategist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, warned against overreacting to the threats.

“There’s no question that the Super Bowl would be a highly attractive target. But so would any sporting event,” Cordesman told NBC.

The memo between the FBI and DHS mostly provides an overview of possible attacks. Officials warned of the potential danger of drones – which “may present a low-altitude hazard to aviation assets supporting the event, allow unauthorized video coverage of events, or pose a risk of injury to event-goers if an operator loses control” – and the threat of “lone wolf” attackers who often go undetected until it’s too late.

Officials have been on high alert, especially with respect to high-attendance events like the Super Bowl, ever since attacks in Paris left 130 people dead and attacks in San Bernardino killed 14. In Paris, the prime target was the Stade de France, where an important soccer match was being attended by French President François Hollande. The Wall Street Journal reported that one of the suicide bombers was denied entry to the stadium and detonated his vest outside, killing only himself.

Recently it was revealed that Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem, an ISIS supporter who orchestrated a botched attack in Texas in May 2015, also had ambitions of attacking Super Bowl XLIX. Investigators discovered that Kareem planned to use homemade explosives and incite a panic among the Super Bowl’s 70,000 attendees.

[Photo by Tony Avelar/AP]
[Photo by Tony Avelar/AP]
As many as 75,000 people may attend Super Bowl 50 at Levi’s Stadium. The Super Bowl also regularly has extremely high ratings, with Super Bowl XLIX reaching more than 114 million viewers and earning a 49.7 rating, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

As in the Paris attacks, officials say the real danger may not be to those inside Super Bowl 50, but to those outside. Fans gathered at bars, parking lots and restaurants outside the Stade de France accounted for most of the casualties in Paris.

According to the FBI and DHS, “the most vulnerable targets of opportunity during Super Bowl 50 are not inside Levi’s Stadium itself, but outside the stadium and at other venues where crowds will gather for related events.”

Going back even further, security at high-profile events like the Super Bowl has been a heightened concern ever since the attacks of September 11, 2001. Brian McCarthy, an NFL spokesman, told The Daily Mail that the NFL has been working with law enforcement for more than a year to ensure safety at Super Bowl 50.

“We have confidence in our law enforcement and public safety partners and have an effective and comprehensive plan in place to make Super Bowl 50 a safe and exciting event for our fans,” McCarthy said.

As authorities continue to investigate all possible terror activity, any credible threats targeting Super Bowl 50 will be posted on the Department of Homeland Security’s National Terrorism Advisory System.

Super Bowl 50 will be contested on February 7. This weekend, the New England Patriots will meet the Denver Broncos and the Arizona Cardinals will meet the Carolina Panthers to determine who will play in the big game.

[Photo by Eric Risberg/AP]

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