No credible terror threats seen for Super Bowl

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- A U.S. intelligence report says there is no credible threat of terrorist attacks at the Feb. 1 Super Bowl, but police said Wednesday that visitors should still expect the type of heavy security typical of every Super Bowl since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

While no specific threat was identified, a joint FBI and Homeland Security intelligence assessment obtained by The Associated Press cautions that Raymond James Stadium, the Super Bowl site, does not have the typical security features of permanently secure buildings, such as jails or military bases.

However, the report noted, "the visible presence of hundreds of well-equipped security officers, standoff barriers and other security measures likely will serve as deterrents to attack."

Tampa police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said Raymond James Stadium is as secure as any other NFL venue and noted that local law enforcement is accustomed to securing the stadium and keeping large crowds safe.

"On Super Bowl Sunday, the safest place in the country will be inside Raymond James Stadium or inside the security footprint of the Super Bowl," McElroy said.

She said local officials have been working with the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies on the security plan for the past two years. A litany of state and federal agencies are assisting local law enforcement, but McElroy declined to provide numbers of officers involved or other specifics of the plan for security reasons.

A spokeswoman for the Super Bowl Host Committee referred all security questions to McElroy. A similar security report typically has been issued for the event in recent years.

The federal report, dated Tuesday, said officials are also concerned that terrorists or criminals could impersonate government or military officials because some Florida law enforcement badges and uniforms were stolen in 2008. The report says there is no credible information about impersonation plots.

The report referred to a large number of credentials, uniforms sets and other law enforcement equipment that went missing last year from the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, which patrols unincorporated areas around Tampa.

McElroy said criminals impersonating police is a general concern for every Super Bowl and other high-profile events and any such intelligence is shared among all the agencies involved.

The Super Bowl is one of the biggest television events of the year, and more than 100 million people in 232 countries are expected to watch, the assessment said.

Because of the high profile nature of the event, intelligence officials say they cannot discount the potential for a terrorist attack.

Terrorists are expected to continue to see stadiums and arenas as potential targets, according to a March 2008 intelligence assessment.

"Al-Qaida could meet its objectives of mass casualties, economic damage, and psychological impact with an attack against a stadium or arena during an event in the United States," the 2008 assessment said.

In November, a suicide bomber blew himself up near a stadium in Peshawar, Pakistan, killing four people and injuring 11, according to U.S. intelligence officials. This happened during the closing ceremony of the Inter-Provincial Games.

The Federal Aviation Administration plans to issue a temporary flight restriction in the area around the Tampa stadium on Feb 1. The threat assessment says the regional bus system will not provide public transit to the stadium on game day.

In addition, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is providing advanced training for local Florida bomb-sniffing dogs in preparation for the event.

The Super Bowl threat assessment is based on information from local law enforcement, the FBI, Homeland Security Department, National Counterterrorism Center, United States Northern Command, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the Florida state intelligence fusion center.

In addition to the stadium, the assessment applies to the hotels where the teams will stay, practice facilities and the media center.

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Eileen Sullivan reported from Washington.

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