April 21, 2014

TSG IntelBrief: Major Sporting Events: Security and Intelligence Considerations

• Boston Marathon security procedures have been enhanced to include explosives sweeps, pole surveillance cameras, and additional special undercover security personnel

• For the recent 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, integral to the security calculus were specific and credible threat intelligence as well as “inherent event” threat intelligence

• For iconic and globally recognized events such as the Olympic Games and the World Cup, security professionals and event organizers need to develop enhanced methodology for event management while preserving the festive celebration and jubilant environment of these sporting events.


Boston Marathon

Today’s Boston Marathon, like last year’s, will receive the full attention of US federal, state, and local public safety infrastructure. However, unlike last year’s event, which experienced a violent terrorist attack resulting in the deaths of three people and 264 injuries, this year’s event will provide specific security measures to protect the runners and spectators.

The 2014 marathon will exclude bags of any kind from the designated and restricted high capacity venue areas such as the start/finish line. Additionally, participants are required to place their clothing and personal items in clear plastic bags that will be issued by the race committee to official entrants only. Enhanced security measures will be implemented for access control and include explosives sweeps, FBI SWAT and Evidence Response Teams, pole surveillance cameras, and additional special undercover security personnel leading up to and during the event. Boston Police Department officers have gone out of state to hone their skills at detecting hidden bombs and the National Guard will have armed military police officers for the first time in more than a decade.

This is in sharp contrast to last year’s event, which allowed backpacks and other items into the start/finish area of the event. In addition, the 2013 Boston Marathon did not institute access control measures, did not conduct screening and access control to high capacity areas after explosive sweeps were conducted, and did not utilize mobile camera surveillance capabilities. All of the aforementioned security measures have been routinely used in support of major events throughout the US over the last 18 years.

The 2012 Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (THIRA) completed by the Boston Regional Intelligence Center (BRIC) identified complex attacks as one of its top threats. Despite this assessment, last year’s event witnessed the ability of two terrorists to enter the finish line area and place two explosive backpack devices within the crowd, without any degree of scrutiny.


Special Event Security Calculus

In sharp contrast to the previous Boston Marathon security strategy, which determined that the levels of security should be heavily influenced by specific and credible threats, this year’s strategic security posture has been replaced by a process considerate of comprehensive event information. These considerations include the notoriety of the event, the size of the event, the historical significance, the anniversary dates of previous acts of terrorism, and a host of other pertinent factors that may not have been considered in the previous year’s analysis process.

In the case of the recent 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, both specific and credible threat intelligence, as well as inherent event threat intelligence, were an integral part of the security calculus. Several terrorism attacks occurred just prior to the Games in the geographic region of the Northern Caucasus, where the Games were being held. Additionally, the terrorist separatist group responsible for these attacks announced that they would attack the Games. These prior attacks, and other violent acts of terrorism attributed to this group, along with the announced threats to the Games, provided both credible and specific known threats to the Games. This analysis was combined with the inherent event threat analysis that identifies the Olympics as a high-profile and attractive target for terrorism.

The Olympics have been the previous target of terrorism as evidenced by the attacks in Munich in 1972 and Atlanta in 1996. The concerns voiced by US congressional representatives charged with security oversight of US athletes and visitors to Sochi, and security experts, like former Atlanta Olympics Security Director, Bill Rathburn, with operational experience in major event security, were legitimate and appropriate. With consideration of the hundreds of victims of terrorism at the hands of Chechnyan separatists publically stating that they would attack the games, along with the “high target value” for terrorism at the Olympics, grave concerns for adequate security to counter this threat environment were necessary and justified.


Event Security Resilience

Iconic and globally recognized events like the Olympic Games, the World Cup, the Boston Marathon, and others need to weigh elements of intelligence analysis in order to determine the appropriate threat posture and associated security needs. Analysts will have to deliver more intuitive, insightful, and actionable intelligence to public safety officials responsible for these major events in the future and in the absence of known, specific, and credible threat information. Equally important will be the receptivity and requirement for law enforcement and event organizers to develop better and more secure methodology for event management, while preserving the festive and jubilant environment of these sport events. Most importantly, leadership responsible for the safety and security of these events must demand a better and more responsible approach to ensuring that these major events have the highest level of attention and commitment to public safety from the onset.



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