The Massive Homeland Security Operation That Is The Super Bowl

An epic Super Friends team of federal, state and municipal law enforcement outfits has converged on the San Francisco Bay Area to watch you watch the Super Bowl. Here’s a big breakdown of everything Department Of Homeland Security and scores of other agencies are doing to keep tabs on the area.

Here’s Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson on the scope of the operation:

“Dozens of federal agencies and components, including multiple components of the Department of Homeland Security, are contributing to security measures seen and unseen in connection with the Super Bowl,” said Secretary Johnson. “Within the Department of Homeland Security itself, TSA, CBP, ICE, Coast Guard, the Secret Service, FEMA, our Office of Intelligence and Analysis, and our National Protection and Programs Directorate are contributing to the security of this event. The public has a role to play too. “If You See Something, Say SomethingTM” is more than a slogan. Public vigilance and public awareness contributes to a safe and secure event.”


So many acronyms! How much are they going to cost? A lot.

As our colleagues at Deadspin reported this week, will cost the City of San Francisco alone more than $4.8 million. That’s just the city’s contribution, mind you. The total cost will likely be astronomical even though there is no credible threat to the game at moment.

Here’s everything that’s going on.

On The Ground


Homeland Security officials say they’re not only training state and local law enforcers, but employees of high-traffic areas like hotels to help them identify security risks. The Office of Intelligence and Analysis will have representatives on the ground to help keep an eye out for threats or criminals.

The California Highway Patrol will be supported by cops from Santa Clara, San Francisco, Sunnyvale, San Jose and Mountain View. CHP has launched a website dedicated to helping motorists deal with Super Bowl-related traffic and vowed to crack down on drunk driving. San Francisco police have a website of their own featuring public safety tips for game-goers.


Nearly 200 public and private companies were given “active shooter preparedness” training in the event of a “bad guy with a gun” situation.

That includes very big guns. The Domestic Nuclear Detection Office is deploying Mobile Detection Deployment Units (MDDUs) which do exactly what it sounds like they do; look for loose nuclear weapons.


Air Support


Local CBS news says “Coast Guard MH-65, California Highway Patrol AStar, and Air National Guard HH-60" helicopters will be hovering around town, while F-15 fighter jets will be sitting on standby in case things really go to hell.

By Sea


The U.S. Coast Guard’s Pacific Strike Team will be patrolling the Bay Area’s waterways, along with extra units guarding ferries and cruise ships that happen to be around this weekend.

Based in Novato, not far from San Francisco, the Pacific Strike Team is tasked with responding to environmental as well as criminal issues all along America’s west coast. The large-scope mission is completely laid out in their 27-page Briefing Book.


Emergency Medical

The Office of Health Affairs has distributed what they call “BioWatch detectors” to provide early-warning alerts on potential biological weapons. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is parking Mobile Emergency Response Support units to provide rapid response and manage logistics in the event of a large-scale disaster.


At The Shops


U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, will be cracking down on anybody hocking counterfeit tickets, jerseys, and basically anything using NFL logos without permission.

In The Airports

One hundred extra Transportation Security Administration agents will be working at Oakland International Airport, San Francisco International Airport and Mineta San Jose International Airport so if you’ve got a flight out from the area in the next few days, allow a lot of extra time.


Even more specialists (what the TSA calls Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response teams) like Federal Air Marshals, dog handlers, explosives detectors and the like are being dispatched in addition to the extra people looking at your undies on x-rays.



The National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center will be stationed at the Super Bowl 50 Operations Center monitoring the “City of Santa Clara’s network and respond to mitigate cyber/physical threats as necessary for restoration of critical infrastructure.”

According to Wired, law enforcement will also be snooping on your calls and texts as they see fit. They explain that while local police need a warrant to do so, the federal government can read pretty much whatever they want.


Meanwhile, thousands of cameras all over the city will be taking pictures of your face and license plate to track your movements. The Secret Service will be watching social media for trouble, too.


You’ve probably seen “If You See Something, Say Something” on posters in airports and train stations, and Homeland Security has reiterated that for the Super Bowl. Crowdsourcing public safety might sound a little hokey, but it makes sense.


With pretty much everyone carrying a camera that’s connected to the internet; you narcing on something suspicious could help nip a massive incident in the bud. Or, cause a mass panic for no reason. Be careful what you tweet!

So Relax And Enjoy!


So if you’re thinking of selling crack to children, hacking a computer network for financial gain, engaging in human trafficking, stealing a six pack of beer from a convenience store, or setting off a nuclear device, keep this in mind: don’t! There’s a lot badges out there this weekend, and they appear to be sparing no expense.

Do all these cops and cameras make you feel good about our state of affairs, or are you putting some polish on the old tin foil hat after reading this?


Images via AP, National Guard, Tony Hisgett, and of course The Matrix

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