By Kane Farabaugh
Security officials say the crowds expected in Indianapolis for the NFL’s Super Bowl championship game are tempting targets for terrorists. An operation in place to protect the Super Bowl 46 site is billed as “the most technologically advanced security operation” in the U.S. On the ground and in the air, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency plays a large role in helping keep everyone safe.
A large parking lot, mostly out of view to the public, was the scrimmage line [the field of play] for the team protecting Super Bowl football fans.
Agents like Brian Bell from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency used detection equipment to scan all cargo deliveries headed for Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, site of the championship match between the New England Patriots and New York Giants. “So far we’ve been averaging a little over 200 [inspections] per day,” he said.
And that was long before the game kicked off [began].
Bell says the overall Super Bowl security effort is comparable to the protection that surrounds the president of the United States. “The level of security here is equivalent to what would be in place at an inauguration or any other national security event,” he said.
Security was visible on the ground in Indianapolis and in the airspace above.
“We have a pretty good view point. That’s the advantage to having helicopters,” said Customs and Border Protection pilot Dan Housting. He provided aerial surveillance of the crowds gathered in Indianapolis.
Using a camera mounted under the helicopter, agents are able to pinpoint possible problems and track potential threats. “But it also has a downlink, so it can be transmitted to a ground station. So if you are an agent on the ground, or in a big command center, you can see what we’re seeing,” said Housting.
The customs and border agency’s flight director, Eric Rembold, says another important role for his agents in the air is intercepting aircraft that might pose a threat. “[September 11th] proved to us that a threat from the air is absolutely within possibilities. In today’s times, sadly enough, you have to expect the unexpected. And that’s why we’re beefing up the air security portion of it,” he said.
The security team’s schedule called for empty airspace over Indianapolis starting two hours before game time. “That’s when the clamp tightens down and the area becomes a real no-fly zone. The temporary flight restriction is two hours before the Super Bowl, all through the Super Bowl, and an hour after the Super Bowl, so we’re talking about seven hours,” said Rembold.
The Super Bowl is one of the biggest attractions in American sports, drawing more than 300,000 people to Indiana’s capital city.
An uneventful day is the best measure of success for the agents protecting those football fans.