(AFP) – Jan 29, 2008
PHOENIX, Arizona (AFP) — Noting the realities of a "post 9/11 era," federal and local officials in charge of Super Bowl security vowed to provide a strong safety net for American football's annual extravaganza.
"We've worked hard to preserve balance," said Milt Ahlerich, the National Football League vice president of security, repeating his mantra of recent years: "This is not the 'Super Bowl of Security.'"
Although officials said there has been no specific threat against Sunday's championship game between the unbeaten New England Patriots and the New York Giants, the Super Bowl has been designated a level one national security event by the Department of Homeland Security.
That authorizes the use of federal resources, including the Secret Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Department of Defence to police the event, along with state and local law enforcement and public safety entities.
"Unfortunately, we live in a post 9/11 era," said FBI special agent John Lewis. "Right now it's very quiet in terms of what we see on the scope.
"At the present time the threat picture is very low. I think we're set for a very safe and enjoyable Sunday afternoon."
Lewis said authorities had heard "fairly routine, very small incoming complaints about somebody wanting to do this or that.
"That's very typical in these types of cases," he said.
At the same time, Lewis said, the high international profile of the Super Bowl, which will be televised live in 223 countries, means authorities must consider the festivities as a potential lure to terrorists.
"We cannot let our guard down," he said.
As in previous years since the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, a no-fly zone will be in effect within a 30-mile radius of the stadium and below 22,000 feet on game day.
Ken Huffer, the Secret Service agent charged with coordinating the security effort, said US Customs and the Department of Defense would be responsible for patroling the airspace, but that the restrictions would not affect commercial air traffic.
Preston Becker, the assistant chief of police in Glendale, Arizona, where the University of Phoenix stadium is located, declined to give specifics of the security operation on the ground.
However, he did say that a secure perimiter would be in place around the venue, with officers patrolling the surrounding areas.
Police will also use security cameras and surveillance aircraft to keep tabs on what's happening, while the ATF will use dogs trained to sniff out explosives.
Fans can expect pat-down searches as well as metal detectors at the gates, and the usual prohibitions on any large containers in the stadium will apply.
Tight security is also in place at the team hotels and training facilities in use throughout the week, and the Super Bowl security measures have also been coordinated with those for the PGA Tour's FBR Open taking place this week in nearby Scottsdale.
Huffer was asked if the Secret Service had been required to make plans to accommodate US presidential candidates who might show up to campaign in the glow of the Super Bowl ahead of next week's "Super Tuesday," in which 22 states, including Arizona, hold primary elections.
"We fully expect that we will have visits by candidates," Huffer said. "We do not have scheduled any planned visits by candidates to any of the venues."
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