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Super Bowl LVI is a ‘potentially attractive target’ for terrorism but there is no sign of any specific, credible threat, officials say

<i>Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports</i><br/>Houston Police Dept. explosive detection dogs Betti and Baron patrol SoFi Stadium prior to Super Bowl LVI.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports
Houston Police Dept. explosive detection dogs Betti and Baron patrol SoFi Stadium prior to Super Bowl LVI.

By Geneva Sands, CNN

Law enforcement is on high alert ahead of Sunday’s Super Bowl and remains concerned about the sustained interest that international and domestic terrorists, as well as lone offenders have in targeting mass gatherings, according to a joint threat assessment obtained by CNN.

But the multiple federal, state and local agencies that contributed to the threat assessment, found “no information to indicate a specific, credible threat to or associated with” the event at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California.

“Super Bowl LVI is a potentially attractive target due to the high concentration of attendees and significant media attention the event will receive,” the assessment says of the international terrorism threat.

ISIS and other foreign terrorist organizations routinely promote attacks in Europe and the United States in their online messaging videos and publications, according to the report.

The assessment, dated February 3, comes as the Department of Homeland Security updated its national public terrorism bulletin, warning that the spread of conspiracy theories and disinformation is fueling the “heightened threat” environment in the US.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Tuesday that there is no specific, credible threat to the Super Bowl.

“We have no information of a specific, credible threat against this Super Bowl. What this is all about is planning and preparation to prevent any incident from occurring,” he said.

Because the Super Bowl takes place in different locations each year, security plans and perimeters change with each game.

“SoFi campus is just such a massive campus,” Cathy Lanier, NFL chief security officer, said. “Of all the Super Bowls that I’ve worked, the biggest challenge here, really, is just the enormity of this event, and that goes along with the enormity of the stadium and the stadium campus.”

“The Super Bowl, or any mass gathering event, remains an attractive target for hackers, criminals, and terrorists,” Brian Harrell, former assistant secretary for infrastructure protection at DHS, told CNN, noting that security coordination “comes at an important time given the significant amount of violence we have seen recently in the streets of America.”

Homegrown violent extremists and unaffiliated lone offenders are a “particular concern,” the assessment says, due to their ability to remain undetected until operational, willingness to attack civilians and soft targets, and ability to inflict significant casualties with minimal specialized knowledge, access or training.

‘No Drone Zone’

Unmanned Aircraft Systems or drones also have the potential to disrupt law enforcement and security operations, the report says.

The Federal Aviation Administration designated the Los Angeles area a “No Drone Zone” for the Super Bowl, prohibiting drones within a 30-nautical-mile radius of the stadium up to 18,000 feet in altitude from 2:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. PT on February 13.

Other potential threats include cybersecurity, weapons of mass, food safety and criminal concerns, such as human trafficking, theft and fraud schemes.

Cyber criminals are attracted to target high-profile special events and possible targets include spectators, sponsors, local governments and businesses, athletes and event organizers, according to the report.

“Cyber criminals could use a variety of tactics, techniques, and procedures, including ransomware, social engineering campaigns, denial-of-service attacks, network intrusions by point-of-sale, or malware to target the event,” the assessment says.

“A successful attack would likely receive widespread publicity, a goal of many threat actors,” it adds.

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