Printer Friendly

International special events.

The Summer Olympic Games ceremoniously concluded on August 29, 2004, in the heart of Athens, Greece. The culmination of the event was celebrated as testimony to peace and world unity. In retrospect, what factors were employed to ensure a safe and secure athletic contest? This question requires a close examination of the measures taken to address an international special event. (1) It also reveals the necessity to begin security preparations early, well before the occurrence, allowing adequate time to address potential training requirements, exercise emergency response capabilities, and implement appropriate corrective actions. Multiagency and multinational cooperation, coordination, and communication are critically important pieces of the security equation.


The environment for terrorism changed dramatically throughout the world after Greece was awarded the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in 1997. In fact, the tragic events of September 11, 2001, redefined the role and responsibilities of the U.S. government (USG) when addressing special events in foreign countries, and the threat of terrorist attacks against U.S. citizens and interests escalated. The risk of deadly aggression during special events increased as the capability of mass media improved, allowing live broadcasts on a worldwide scale. Further, an elevated tendency for terrorist groups to resort to acts of violence and the continued proliferation and accessibility of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) contributed to the threat as well.

Terrorist attacks extended geographically during the months leading up to the opening ceremonies for the 2004 Summer Olympic Games. The escalation of tension due to the war in Iraq and the bombings in Istanbul, Turkey, and Madrid, Spain, raised concerns in Athens. Under the direction of the U.S. Department of State (DOS), unprecedented security measures were employed to prevent a terrorist attack against the Olympic Games.

Historically, the FBI fulfills a fundamental role during USG involvement with special events management, including all of those potentially requiring federal assistance. The FBI's function in special events is defined within numerous statutes and presidential directives. These authorities, combined with the FBI's responsibilities in combating terrorism, provide the predication for FBI commitment.

The Olympic Games represent the clearest example of a special event given the international participation and broad-based viewing audience. Such a scene provides the perfect stage for a terrorist seeking global recognition and a platform to voice political demands. A less obvious example of a special event includes the trial of Timothy McVey, accused and convicted of the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Such a setting also represents an active target for terrorist attack by individuals sympathetic to antigovernment ideologies who seek an opportunity for mass media recognition.


FBI involvement in special events is generally within the continental United States (CONUS). Given the complexities associated with security preparations and logistics, it is important to understand the protocols in place that provide direction when addressing a domestic special event before examining the enhanced challenges associated with addressing international ones.

Each special event is evaluated in terms of size, threat, significance, duration, location, attendance, media coverage, dignitaries, and viewing audience. The FBI assigns a special event readiness level (SERL) to those that require counterterrorism (CT) support. The SERLs are divided into four categories. SERL I events require the full support of the USG and significant predeployment of USG CT response assets. The Olympic Games fall within this category. Until the 2004 Olympics in Athens, this designation applied to Olympic Games occurring only within the United States. The 2004 Summer Olympics demonstrated the need to expand this designation to international special events.

SERL II events are of lesser magnitude but still require augmentation of CT response assets. Political conventions, presidential inaugurations, and economic summits fit within this category.


SERL III and IV events require minimal USG agency support and, frequently, receive adequate support by state and local resources. Most special events fall within one of these two categories. Examples include Super Bowls, high-profile trials, the Indianapolis 500, the Goodwill Games, and World Trade Organization conferences.

Presidential Decision Directives (PDD) 39 and 62 designate the FBI as the lead federal agency for crisis management and intelligence related to terrorism during domestic special events. Additional authorities are delegated to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) regarding consequence management (the first response to a terrorist incident and the follow-on efforts to preserve life) and coordination. The U.S. Secret Service is designated the lead agency for security design, planning, and implementation.

PDD 62 further defines and establishes a special event category of national special security events (NSSE), which require enhanced federal planning and protection. The FBI generally categorizes NSSEs as SERL I or II. Further, PDD 62 promotes interagency cooperation and coordination in CT planning and execution by delegating a shared lead federal agency designation among the FBI, FEMA, and the U.S. Secret Service. This assignment reduces interagency confusion regarding who is in charge and promotes communication between the agencies.


DOS is the designated lead U.S. foreign affairs agency. The Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DSS) within DOS conducts protective security overseas. DSS security responsibilities closely mirror the role of the U.S. Secret Service in the domestic arena.

The CIA is the designated lead USG agency for collection and dissemination of intelligence in the foreign environment. Similar to the role of the FBI when addressing a domestic special event, the CIA coordinates with various other intelligence agencies, as well as the FBI.

During international special events, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) fulfills the role normally occupied by FEMA in domestic ones. In addition to consequence management, DOD provides crisis response capabilities. This differs from the domestic environment where DOD participation is limited to areas of safety and security. The statutory restriction referred to as posse comitatus prevents DOD from performing law enforcement CT actions inside the United States. Within CONUS, federal law enforcement CT response is the jurisdiction of the FBI. Within the foreign environment, the FBI has responsibility for postcrisis terrorism investigations. This authority extends to include the FBI's role in terrorism prevention and precrisis terrorism investigations that possibly could dismantle a plot focused on a foreign special event. It also consists of the FBI's extensive CT, crisis management and response, and intelligence capabilities.


For centuries, the city of Athens has been the crossroad between Europe and the Middle East. Greece traditionally embraces aspects of European and Middle Eastern cultures that, in many instances, find their origins in ancient Greece. Renowned as the birthplace of democracy and philosophical academia, Greece is home to a proud people well aware of their role in the development of Western civilization and world history.

The Olympic Games historically have been an attractive target for terrorist attack. This is best exemplified by the infamous hostage crisis during the 1974 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany, and the Centennial Park bombing during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. In the shadow of the ancient Acropolis, unprecedented security efforts were employed to ensure a safe and secure Olympic Games. FBI preparations were coordinated with the USG interagency community, as well as Greek authorities. Ultimately, the FBI established a fully operational command post adjacent to the U.S. embassy in Athens and prestaged crisis response assets at three strategic locations prepared to deploy, with the consent of Greek authorities, in the event of a terrorist act.

In the wake of September 11, 2001, and the war in Iraq, the 2004 Summer Olympics demonstrated the necessity for a coordinated USG approach to Olympic security. This coordination extended beyond the participating USG agencies and included representatives from the international community, security professionals from corporate sponsors, and, most important, authorities from the host country, in this case Greece.

The broad-based USG security umbrella extends beyond the traditional concerns of physical security and protective services associated with venue site security, transportation, and credentials. Security concerns also include collection, analysis, and dissemination of intelligence and proactive investigations concerning credible and specific information relevant to the upcoming event. During the Athens Olympics, the FBI routinely reviewed volumes of information looking for any link or indication that the Olympic Games were mentioned as a target for terrorist attack. An FBI-generated intelligence report, including information potentially relevant to the Olympic Games, was disseminated within the USG intelligence community on a quarterly basis, escalating to monthly, then weekly, and, finally, daily during the event.

Operating in a foreign environment requires host nation authorization, which extends to the number of anticipated USG personnel present during the event. This covers accreditation, diplomatic immunity, and appropriate legislation that allow USG representatives to function in the host nation.

Concept of Operations

The development of a concise concept of operations (CONOP) is critical in the early stages of planning for a special event. The CONOP must clearly articulate a mission statement consistent with the situation, appropriate response authorities (approved by the host nation), and individual agency jurisdictions and capabilities. It should identify available assets and their capabilities, as well as an execution time line and scheme of operations, highlighting all critical junctions leading up to and through the special event. An assessment of host nation CT capabilities is mandatory, includes varied stages of preparation, and should be conducted several years prior to the special event.

Training Phase

Training represents the first initiative in assessing host country CT capabilities. Specialized training, using subject matter experts with real-world experience, proves invaluable. Training can be conducted in the host country or the United States. In-country training results in more personnel available to attend the seminars, but, on the other hand, training within the United States provides host country representatives the opportunity to visit and use state-of-the-art USG facilities. In addition, host country representatives may be eligible to attend one of the three International Law Enforcement Academies (ILEA) located in Budapest, Hungary; Bangkok, Thailand; and Gabarone, Botswana. Each ILEA provides a variety of law enforcement training to the international community.

None of these training options will adequately reach all of the personnel who require instruction. The train-the-trainer concept is encouraged so host country representatives can return and extend the training to personnel within their individual agencies. The FBI provides a wide array of training in various law enforcement disciplines. Ranging from computer crimes to terrorism crime scene investigations, FBI subject-matter experts assist with training relevant to special event preparedness. The training phase should end approximately 1 year prior to the beginning of the event, which allows emphasis on exercises, the second phase of special event preparedness.

Exercise Phase

Exercises constitute a critical mechanism for testing capabilities and can be conducted in a variety of formats, which assist with focusing on specific areas of preparedness and response. In the foreign environment, diplomacy is needed to develop the coordination necessary to conduct multiagency and multinational exercises. Sensitivities exist between agencies and even more so between nations when potential inadequacies or limited capabilities may be exposed. Agencies must consider these sensitivities when developing exercise scenarios. Ultimately, the host nation will decide exercise parameters and participants.

The table top exercise (TTX) allows interagency decision makers to meet in one location and openly discuss the variables and options available in response to numerous scenarios. Many times, the TTX may be the first time multiagency executives meet to discuss a coordinated response to a crisis, and it is an excellent preliminary exercise, allowing decision makers the opportunity to test individual agency standard operating procedures and memoranda of understanding (MOUs) between each other prior to the actual event.

The command post exercise (CPX) tests command and control and can be expanded to evaluate all aspects of command, control, communication, coordination, and information and intelligence flow and dissemination (C4I). The ideal setting for the CPX is inside the event's designated location for the multiagency command post. The FBI refers to this location as the joint operations center (JOC), and it includes representatives from each affected agency participating in the special event. The JOC includes multiagency decision makers assigned to a command group and prepared to make coordinated critical decisions.

The large-scale field training exercise (FTX) validates all aspects of crisis response and consequence and crisis management. It requires a significant commitment by participating agencies to adequately test relevant capabilities. Scenarios closely portray an actual crisis, and all elements of crisis response are activated and tested. First responders are dispatched to the incident, and medical facilities exercise mass casualty contingencies. Expertise in handling a hazardous material incident, an explosive device, and a WMD are tested and evaluated. Appropriate personnel staff command posts, and lessons learned from previous TTXs and CPXs assist decision makers while they evaluate the circumstances associated with the FTX scenarios.


The need to conduct a dress rehearsal proves fundamental to special event preparations. A smaller event that occurs prior to the special event should be identified. In this case, each agency will implement the same security preparations planned for the upcoming major special event. Command posts will be staffed and response assets prestaged in the same configuration anticipated during the major event, which will allow fine-tuning of protocols internally and between agencies. Radio communications, emergency response routes, and associated logistics can be finalized in preparation for the larger event. If a lesser event is not available, an FTX will provide the adequate setting. The dress rehearsal serves as a final opportunity to precisely adjust CT capabilities prior to the special event.

Although training and exercises provide valuable insights regarding host nation CT capabilities, agencies must ensure that the host nation is not overly saturated with them. During large multinational events, the host nation will be inundated with training and exercise options from various participating countries. The organization of a multinational working group can assist in developing a compendium of proposed training and exercise options for the host country. Exercises should conclude at least 6 months prior to the beginning of the special event. After the completion of all training and exercises, the original vulnerability and threat assessments should be updated and reflect improved CT capabilities by the host country.

Operational Phase

The operational phase is the final step prior to the actual event. Success during this phase depends largely upon solid relationships developed during the training and exercise phases between USG subject-matter experts and their host country counterparts. A secure partnership based upon mutual trust with the host nation and a combined objective to achieve a safe and secure special event proves paramount. Such a partnership is best represented by embedding USG subject-matter experts with their counterparts from the host nation during the special event time frame. From a U.S. perspective, this configuration of USG CT assets provides first-response capability to a crisis situation, promotes a timely assessment of the incident, and delivers CT capabilities of the USG, if requested. On the other hand, from the host country's perspective, this embedded capability enhances on-scene expertise and brings to bear potential equipment previously unavailable. Such an embedded arrangement is solely dependent upon the permission of the host country.

Deployment of FBI resources to an overseas environment is an enormous task requiring significant logistical support. Securing airlift capabilities, in-country transportation, adequate lodging, communication frequencies, command post locations, staging areas, and country clearance for all incoming personnel requires a minimum of 3 years of preplanning before the special event. The FBI is well suited for this mission based upon frequent international deployments in support of criminal and terrorism investigations. FBI resources available for deployment provide diverse capabilities with extensive experience in the foreign environment. The FBI's Laboratory, Engineering Research Facility (ERF), Critical Incident Response Group (CIRG), Headquarters (FBIHQ), Cyber Division, and various field offices contribute to the resource requests.

FBI field offices furnish rapid deployment team (RDT) assets to international special events. The RDTs are pre-designated, stand-alone, mobile field offices capable of deploying to any location. Once in place, the RDT can provide adequate resources to augment an ongoing investigation. During the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, the RDT in Los Angeles deployed to Greece, the first such deployment in a precrisis mode and in support of an international special event.

During the operational phase, the CONOP evolves into a concise operations order (OPORD). Individual agency orders should be compiled into an overall USG response plan. Each agency's OPORD consists of a statement describing the situation and mission and an execution time line highlighting all personnel movements, opening and closing ceremonies, and any other noteworthy occurrences during the special event. The OPORD also describes the administrative and logistical support pertinent to the deployment, including detailed information regarding initial mobilization of assets, staging elements, response, and disengagement. Additionally, the OPORD provides a meticulous description of command, control, and communication contingencies. The OPORD is supported by multiple annexes to include relevant MOUs and a post-investigation team plan that is activated in the event of a crisis to establish a forward command post at the crisis site.

The FBI command post generates daily situation reports. Versions are available for dissemination to other USG agencies, as well as corporate security directors. Any release of data to the host nation or other international partners falls under the purview of the CIA.

After-Action Report

Following the culmination of the special event, each involved internal FBI entity provides an after-action report (AAR), a critical review of the special event's planning and execution strategies. The AAR acknowledges tactics that worked and identifies procedures to be corrected or changed for future special events. All USG agencies with roles and responsibilities in the special event complete an AAR as well.

No amount of special event preparedness can anticipate every potential CT contingency. Ultimately, something will happen that tests the security of the event. Fortunately, in Athens, the most serious disruption involved the men's marathon when a spectator physically accosted one of the race participants. These glitches in security are inevitable, but the lessons learned are an important part of the final AAR.


Special event preparedness tests all aspects of counterterrorism readiness. The ability to identify, recognize, and correct these vulnerabilities while preparing for a special event is of immeasurable long-term value. The complications increase exponentially when addressing an international special event--both domestic and international ones have unique requirements and vulnerabilities. Host nation capabilities, combined with international relations and diplomacy, are critical when assessing USG involvement. During the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, the USG interagency partnership, international community, Greek government, and Hellenic society came together and embraced the spirit of the Olympic Games. All parties tirelessly pursued this effort that, ultimately, resulted in a safe and secure Olympics. Future international special events include the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Turin, Italy, and the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, China. Numerous other sporting events, such as World Cup Soccer, also wait on the horizon and surely will rise to the level requiring international participation.

The 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, concluded without incident. Hellenic dedication and determination to the development of a viable Olympic security plan proved fundamental to the success. This included a willingness to reveal existing Hellenic government crisis response capabilities to international scrutiny and accept recommendations. Indicative of Hellenic perseverance, the 2004 Summer Olympic Games ultimately set a new standard for future international special events.


(1) The FBI defines a special event as "a significant domestic or international event, occurrence, circumstance, contest, activity, or meeting, which by virtue of its profile or status, represents an active target for terrorist attack."


FBI Laboratory Division provides technical and scientific response and forensic support to investigations involving hazardous materials, including WMD. In addition, it offers the capability to disrupt explosive devices and perform forensic examination of explosives in postblast situations. The Laboratory Division also renders expertise in processing crime scenes.

Engineering Research Facility (ERF) supplies technical support for secure and nonsecure communications, computer hardware and software, and feasibility assessments for proposed command post sites.

Critical Incident Response Group (CIRG) provides subject-matter expertise in CT tactics, crisis management, hostage negotiation, logistics, and behavioral analysis.

FBI Headquarters offers language specialists, intelligence analysis, and activation of the Strategic Information and Operations Center (SIOC) in support of the special event.

FBI Cyber Division evaluates emerging cyberthreats and performs forensic examination of digital evidence.

FBI Counterterrorism Division provides financial and administrative support.

RELATED ARTICLE: FBI Mission Statement--2004 Summer Olympic Games

Under the direction of the FBI on-scene commander (OSC) and in direct coordination with the U.S. ambassador to Greece, the FBI will perform crisis response and management in the event of an act of terrorism. FBI participation will be incumbent upon appropriately established legal authority, procedures, and coordination between the U.S. government (USG) and the government of Greece (GOG). In the event of an act of terrorism that impacts on the lives of U.S. citizens and U.S. interests, the FBI will assume jurisdictional lead agency responsibility for crisis response and management concurrent and in coordination with the GOG. The FBI OSC, upon notification of a terrorist incident in which the USG has been requested to assist, will assume oversight of crisis management and investigative responsibilities, determine a strategy for crisis mitigation, and marshal the appropriate FBI resources as directed by the nature and circumstances of the terrorist incident.


Special Agent McGee serves in the FBI's Jackson, Mississippi, office.
COPYRIGHT 2006 Federal Bureau of Investigation
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2006, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:McGee, James A.
Publication:The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin
Geographic Code:4EUGR
Date:Jan 1, 2006
Previous Article:ViCAP alert.
Next Article:Crime Mapping: New Tools for Law Enforcement.

Related Articles
Index of consultants. (2002 Consultants Directory).
Clancy, Tom, with General Carl Stiner & Tony Koltz. Shadow warriors; inside the Special Forces.
Help for high maintenance: IHEs turn to software for campus planning and operations.
JAL FFP Members Can Donate Miles to Special Olympics.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters