Super Bowl LIII security unaffected by shutdown, former DHS official says

By SportsFOXBusiness

Super Bowl, Atlanta airport security concerns increased with partial government shutdown?

Former DHS chief of staff Chad Sweet on the security at the upcoming Super Bowl in Atlanta and at the city's Hartsfield-Jackson Airport during the busy Super Bowl weekend.

Football fans traveling to Super Bowl LIII featuring the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams should take comfort in the security measures put in place for the big game.

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Former DHS chief of staff Chad Sweet told FOX Business that Super Bowl LIII has been classified as a Special Event Activity Rating (SEAR) Level 1 event, putting the onus on local authorities in coordination with and support of the federal government.

“The feds are actually taking a backseat. The locals are going to be driving this and they are also very well prepared and not affected by the shutdown,” Sweet said during an interview on FOX Business’ Varney & Company” on Monday.

In previous years, the Super Bowl has been designated as a National Special Security Event based on the current threat level requiring the lead of Secret Service.

“We look at a whole host of intelligence feeds and thanks to having us take the fight against ISIS abroad this year, the threat picture isn’t significant enough to represent the highest level threat,” Sweet said.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms warned last week that the partial government shutdown could have a major impact on travel to and from the city for Super Bowl LIII on Feb. 3.

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees, who are responsible for security checks at airports, have been ordered to work without pay during the shutdown. However, the TSA said workers are calling in sick at more than double the normal rate, resulting in a slower clearance process and longer lines for flyers.

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Roughly 110,000 travelers are expected to depart Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Feb. 4, the day after the Super Bowl, up from between 60,000 and 80,000 passengers on a normal day of travel. Bottoms acknowledged that the city is in “uncharted territory” due to the shutdown and said travel could be impacted.

"Certainly there are factors that we don't control such as what's happening with our federal government shutdown and with the long TSA lines," Bottoms said at a press conference. "We are continuing to encourage people to get to the airport very early."

The government shutdown entered its 26th day on Tuesday, marking the longest such disruption in U.S. history. President Trump and Democratic lawmakers are in a stalemate over whether to fund a proposed $5 billion wall along the nation’s southern border.

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., also expressed concern about the shutdown's potential impact on the Super Bowl.

“We’ve got a Super Bowl coming to Atlanta, Ga., in about three weeks. The biggest tourism event in the world this year,” Isakson said, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “What if the largest airport in the world, that’s going to bring people to the largest football game in the world, goes out of business because the TSA strikes?” Isakson asked. “Then you’ve just cost millions of dollars to the United States of America, my home city of Atlanta and others.”

Bottoms said Atlanta is well-prepared to host the Super Bowl from a security standpoint, noting that authorities have been planning for the event for two years. Separately, a spokesperson for the FBI's Atlanta office told Fox News that "plans for the Super Bowl have not changed" despite the shutdown.

"Our Intelligence Operations Center (IOC), comprised of local, state and federal agencies, will be operational from January 25th through February 5th," the spokesperson said. "Starting on Thursday before the game, we will be fully staffed 24 hours [per] day."

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Hartsfield-Jackson is the America’s busiest airport by travel volume. Officials warned travelers earlier this week that the airport is experiencing “longer than usual wait times during peak travel” and said security clearance could take three hours.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. An earlier version of this story was published on Jan. 16, 2019.

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