FBI says it knows of no specific threat to arenas
The FBI said Friday there is no specific, credible threat of a terror attack aimed at college basketball arenas or other sports stadiums but acknowledged alerting law enforcement to a recent Internet posting discussing such attacks.
The FBI and Homeland Security Department distributed an intelligence bulletin Friday to state and local law enforcement nationwide describing the online threat against sporting venues, said Special Agent Richard Kolko, an FBI spokesman in Washington.
"We have absolutely no credible intelligence or threats pertaining to this issue," Kolko said.
With conference tournaments taking place this weekend and the NCAA Tournament scheduled to begin Thursday, the bulletin was sent "out of an abundance of caution," Kolko said.
"We have been in touch with Homeland Security and the FBI about this issue," NCAA spokesman Erik Christiansen said.
"We do not believe there is an imminent threat. We are in constant communication with the local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, including Homeland Security and the FBI. This is not new; we are in regular contact with all these law enforcement agencies at every level."
Madison Square Garden was made aware of the terror threat early Friday. MSG spokesperson Eric Gelfand said the Garden has been under a high-terror alert since Sept. 11, 2001, and said that MSG officials hadn't noticed anything suspicious Friday. He said all patrons were wanded as they entered the Garden for Friday night's Big East semifinals.
Greg Shaheen, an NCAA vice president who oversees the Division I men's basketball tournament, told ESPN.com in an email from Indianapolis on Friday that Homeland Security and the FBI asked the NCAA "to revisit security plans and assure appropriate contingencies have been made."
Shaheen wrote that there had been "no imminent, direct or specific threat related to the NCAA Championships," as referenced in some media reports. Shaheen said the NCAA takes the matter seriously and will work with all host and facility partners.
"Our priority is the safety of our student-athletes and followers all day, every day," he said.
Shaheen also said the NCAA has had plans in place since the 2003 Iraq War with all security monitored and managed through a control center. He said the NCAA has a "standing Incident Assessment Team which is available to manage cross-functional planning should security matters warrant in any way."
At the Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis, questions to Conseco Fieldhouse personnel were referred to Big Ten officials.
"Conseco Fieldhouse has communicated with the Big Ten and local authorities," league spokesman Scott Chipman said. "They're continuing to be vigilant with security."
No exceptional security methods appeared to be in place Friday at Conseco.
The online message described a potential attack in some detail, calling it an efficient way to kill thousands of people using suicide bombers armed with explosives hidden beneath their winter clothing, said a federal law enforcement official who read the bulletin.
But the government document also said U.S. intelligence sources could not corroborate the information or say whether the site was linked to al-Qaida.
"There was no mention of a specific event or organization," Christiansen said.
In the past, intelligence assessments have been sent in advance of major holidays and sporting events because they pose an inviting target for terrorists.
Information from ESPN.com's Andy Katz and Pat Forde and The Associated Press was used in this report.
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