FBI and Security Preparations for Super Bowl LII

The FBI was among dozens of agencies participating in an exercise in Minneapolis in December to evaluate their security plans for the upcoming Super Bowl in February.

Video Transcript

Joe Rivers, special agent, FBI Minneapolis: Oh, man. Oh, it’s icy. It wasn’t that bad last night.

Radio: It’s the coldest morning so far this season, Rudy. We’re at 8-above right now, but it feels like 4-below.

Joe Rivers is beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel.

The Minneapolis FBI agent and his dedicated team have spent the better part of two years working on the Bureau’s piece of the security plan for this year’s Super Bowl.

An exercise today—with dozens of other agencies and 60 days out from the big game—will test how well the plan is coming together.

Rivers: Well, it’s been a long road, going on somewhere between two years and 18 months prepping for this thing. But as the event becomes closer here and we move into January it’s becoming more and more of a full-time event. It’s a huge lift for the office.

This exercise today is, it’s a full-scale, all-day, jointly-hosted exercise. It validates, kind of, our planning, validates the resource needs. It’s sort of like a dry run. I mean, we want a safe event. We want everyone to come here and have fun and enjoy the event that they have pictured in their mind and not be dealing with some kind of incident that no one wants to have to face, but we’re kind of responsible for planning for and preventing to the extent we can.

Moderator: I want to come back to Bloomington. Can you talk to us about the lost children…

The exercise, held in the city’s convention center, for the first time brought together all of the federal, state, and local agencies that have roles supporting security efforts before, during, and after the Super Bowl on February 4.

The Minneapolis Police Department is the lead agency for the event’s public safety, but there is an enormous team supporting the effort—from large federal agencies to local police and first responders, including security personnel from the University of Minnesota and the Mall of America. In the event of a terrorist attack, the FBI would lead the response, but that response would need to be tightly coordinated with its partners on the ground.

Medaria Arradondo, chief, Minneapolis Police Department: Our goal really is to be the conduit and also the key coordinator. You know, to take on this type of event, it requires massive amounts of personnel. It requires expertise from our local, state, and federal partners. We could not—as a city, we could not successfully embark upon this and even host the Super Bowl without having these invaluable resources that are brought to the table.

Surging for big events like this is normal for the FBI, which maintains a team of agents and professionals who are expert at prepping for occasions that demand a large federal security presence, like political conventions, the Olympics, and the president’s annual State of the Union address. The Bureau’s Critical Incident Response Group operates largely unseen but stands ready to respond in a crisis. 

Mike Hartnett, unit chief, Critical Incident Response Group: We’ll bring tactical teams. We’ll bring bomb techs. We’ll bring people that can respond to a hazardous device incident. We’ll bring social media experts and the whole wealth of response that the FBI can bring.

The location of this year’s NFL championship—in the urban center of a city where temperatures outside the stadium may hover in the single digits—presents its own security challenges.

Rather than everyone queuing up outside the stadium, officials are directing ticket-holders to satellite centers, like the Mall of America, where they can be pre-screened before riding light-rail cars directly to the stadium. The mall’s security team expects about 15,000 spectators to pass through on game day.

Doug Reynolds, director of security, Mall of America: We’ve been working on this and hammering out details and putting the plan together for about 18 months. The idea of securing a place and security operations is not new to us, but this challenge is a new environment for us and a new way of working. But we can adapt and flex to make it work.

Back at the convention center, agent Rivers and others are dealt a variety of scenarios and asked to describe how they would respond with their partner agencies. The goal is to nip potential issues in the bud and make security and potential response operations seamless.

Alex Khu, special agent in charge, Homeland Security Investigations: It really requires the full gamut at all levels—local, state, federal law enforcement, and even DOD components—really working together in very close coordination to have a very successful event. There are so many moving pieces and not one agency can actually do this alone.

For its part, the FBI has assigned hundreds of personnel to securing the event, in Minneapolis and elsewhere.

Richard Thornton, special agent in charge FBI Minneapolis: The fact that we have the ability to reach back to the entire FBI with the specialty components as well as all the other offices to augment our resources and again that’s what makes the FBI unique. Most other agencies deal with these events maybe once in a career or once in a lifetime where collectively the FBI we deal with these things on an ongoing basis.

By day’s end, officials had a good idea of how well they have prepared. And the general consensus was: it’s game time.

Scott Gerlicher, commander, Minneapolis Police Department: Based on what I know and what I’ve seen, I think we have done our best to try to think of just about every contingency, natural or manmade, that potentially could come our way.

Jeff Potts, chief, Bloomington Police Department: Well I think we all knew the Super Bowl was a big deal. You watch it every year. But until you actually host it in your community, then you realize just how big of an operation this is. It’s a lot more than just a game that takes place on a Sunday night in February. The security footprint for the Super Bowl is incredible.

For Special Agent Rivers and his team, Super Bowl countdown clocks around the city have been reminders for the past year that the goal line is getting closer and a lot is riding on the outcome.  

Rivers: I’m glad to see so far that everything’s gone well and we’re hoping that all the spectators and the travelers that are in town to see this thing enjoy the event and partake in the fun and the festivities and the local culture here without ever having to know all of the time and the effort and the energy that went into getting us to this stage.

Yeah, it’s starting to be real. 


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