pope security

Papal Visit Brings Massive Security Operation

The visit of Pope Francis to Washington, Philadelphia, and New York has been designated a National Special Security Event (NSSE), requiring significant planning and coordination by federal, state, and local law enforcement officials.

Multiple media reports (Washington Post; CBS; CNN; Roll Call) indicate the six day visit to the U.S. by the pontiff will result in the largest security operation in national history.

Usage of the designation for the papal visit puts the U.S. Secret Service in charge of event security, with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on point for collecting intelligence, and if a crisis should occur, managing the response.

NSSE designations have been used in the past for State of the Union addresses, party conventions, United Nations General Assembly meetings, inaugural events, Winter Olympics, and the 2002 Super Bowl.

Nearly all of the components of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have a role to play in Francis’ visit, as detailed in a DHS release.

“Preparations for events such as this are a cooperative effort,” said Diego Rodriguez, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s New York Field Office said in an FBI primer on the Pope’s visit. “No one federal, state, or local agency alone can carry out the measures necessary to secure the event.”

Months of preparation between law enforcement agencies at all levels of government have preceded the event. Despite the preparation, law enforcement leaders, including DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson still remain concerned about the possibility of a lone-wolf attack.

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