March Madness: Homeland Security Issues Warning on Sports Arenas

FBI and DHS issue warning just in time for March Madness.

March 4, 2008— -- As the spring sports season moves into high gear, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI today issued an assessment, called "Potential Threats to Popular Sports and Entertainment Venues," that said arenas and stadiums are attractive "potential targets during events."

The assessment repeatedly noted that the FBI and DHS have no "information on any credible or specific current terrorism plots to attack stadiums or arenas in the United States."

The report, however, said "operational planning and surveillance against sporting facilities are often difficult to detect," and college and professional basketball playoffs, the stock car racing season, hockey playoffs and horse racing's Triple Crown are among the events that "regularly bring tens of thousands of fans...into large open-access facilities."

Prepared at the request of the private sector with input from federal agencies, the report is intended to provide "decision makers with the broad, analytically-based threat information necessary to inform investment priorities and program design."

"The FBI and DHS put out a joint bulletin for law enforcement concerning potential threats against sporting events. This is routine; we have no current threats against sports venues," FBI spokesman Richard Kolko said in a statement. "But with the start of the spring sporting events, we provide this information to law enforcement to be aware of any suspicious activity and to remain vigilant."

Thirty-four incidents of suspicious activities involving arenas and stadiums were reported to the FBI last year, the report noted, however these "often lacked sufficient information to investigate or determine if a terrorism nexus existed."

Although there is no information on specific or credible current terrorist plots, the report noted that detainee statements, captured material and domestic and overseas terrorist attacks were all part of the information used to prepare the assessment of these events as potential targets.

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