WASHINGTON -- A threat of dirty bomb attacks against NFL stadiums was deemed not credible by federal security officials, and none of the seven teams named in the Internet posting indicated there would be any noticeable uptick in security for Sunday's games.
With nothing to indicate an imminent attack, local authorities
and stadium owners were alerted "out of an abundance of caution,"
Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke said Wednesday. He said the
message was being viewed "with strong skepticism."
Dated Oct. 12, the posting was part of an ongoing conversation
titled "New Attack on America Be Afraid." It appeared on a Web
site called "The Friend Society," which links to various online
forums and off-color cartoons.
The message said trucks would deliver radiological bombs to
stadiums in New York, Miami, Atlanta, Seattle, Houston, Oakland and
Cleveland -- and that Osama bin Laden would later claim
"The department strongly encourages the public to continue to
go about their plans, including attending events that involve large
public gatherings such as football games," Knocke said.
FBI spokesman Richard Kolko said the threat was "questionable"
and was discussing it with the NFL as "part of our routine
discussions this week."
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said stadiums around the country "are
very well protected through the comprehensive security procedures
we have in place, including secure facility perimeters, pat-downs
and bag searches."
In Seattle, more than 67,000 fans are expected Sunday for the
Seahawks' game against the Minnesota Vikings.
"The Seattle Police Department is aware of this threat,"
police said in a statement. "As always, the department has
significant security forces in place for all events."
Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire, interviewed by phone Wednesday
while she was on a trade mission to South Korea, said she had been
briefed on the matter by top state emergency officials.
"At this point, we ... have not raised our threat level in our
state, but we will never take anything for granted, so we are
monitoring the situation constantly," Gregoire said. "It just
serves as a little reminder that we always need to be vigilant."
Officials were made aware of the Web posting on Oct. 16. The
threat was timed to be carried out on Sunday, marking the
final day in Mecca of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month.
"The death toll will approach 100,000 from the initial blasts
and countless other fatalities will later occur as result from
radioactive fallout," according to a copy of the posting obtained
by The Associated Press.
It said al-Qaida would automatically be blamed for the nearly
simultaneous attacks and predicted, "Later, through al-Jazeera,
Osama bin Laden will issue a video message claiming responsibility
for what he dubbed 'America's Hiroshima.' "
The posting noted that all but one of the stadiums -- Atlanta --
are open-air arenas, adding: "Due to the open air, the
radiological fallout will destroy those not killed in the initial
explosion." The retractable roof in Houston has been closed for
all games so far this season.
Several NFL teams and stadium owners acknowledged that they were
in contact with federal officials, including the New Jersey Sports
and Exposition Authority, which operates Giants Stadium, the home
of the Jets and Giants. The NCAA, which oversees college athletics,
said it was also notified.
In Indianapolis, where the Colts were preparing for a home game
this weekend, head coach Tony Dungy said, "I've been waiting for
this to happen for a couple of years now and you try and handle the
security and put it out of your mind."
"We'll let the security people do their job, and we'll do our
job," Dungy said. "We've got a lot of confidence in NFL security
and our own security here."
Raiders senior administrator Artie Gigantino said there would be
no noticeable increase in security this weekend at Oakland
"But if we say we are going to do something different or
obvious," he said, "it wouldn't be security anymore."
Minnesota linebacker Napoleon Harris, who will play with the
Vikings this Sunday in Seattle, said he's never felt threatened as
a player, but understands why the league was alerted despite the
threat's questionable credibility.
"After 9/11, you've really got to take everything serious," he
said. "You really can't take for granted your security. That's
just the way I look at it. Especially something of that
Authorities traced the site's Internet provider back to Voxel
Dot Net Inc., which has support and engineering staff based in
Troy, N.Y. A man who answered the phone at Voxel, who declined to
give his name, said he was unaware of the posted threat on the Web
site and refused further comment.
The author of the threats, posted at 9:31 p.m. ET on Oct. 12,
identified himself online as "javness."
"In the aftermath civil wars will erupt across the world, both
in the Middle East and within the United States," javness wrote.
"Global economies will screech to a halt. General chaos will
The nation's general alert level remains at yellow, signaling an
elevated risk of an attack. The threat level for airline flights is
at orange, where it has been since a foiled plot to bomb United States-bound
commercial jets was revealed on Aug. 10.