American officials flew their Brazilian counterparts to the Super Bowl, the U.S. Open golf tournament, and other major sporting venues to show them how the United States handles security at major sporting events in anticipation of the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, The New York Times reports.
U.S. intelligence agents tell the newspaper that Brazilian officials have been open to cooperating with the United States and grateful for intelligence that has led to the arrest of Islamic State sympathizers in South America’s largest nation. They are particularly interested in training to thwart chemical and biological attacks; with little to no history of terrorism, Brazil’s law enforcement officials and military do not receive training to prevent these sorts of assaults. The newspaper notes that Brazil passed its first ever counter-terrorism law in March 2016.
In addition to sharing intelligence, American officials have allowed Brazilians to observe anti-terror operations at those sporting events.
“The Americans are playing a key role in homing in on areas that we need to examine,” Rafael Brum Miron, a prosecutor in southern Curitiba, told The New York Times. He noted that American FBI intelligence led to the arrest of 13 individuals calling themselves “Guardians of Sharia” on the encrypted communications application Telegram, who were planning to buy weapons online to execute a terrorist attack on the Olympic Games.
In addition to the Guardians of Sharia group, police are investigating a separate online chat group for ties to the Islamic State. Authorities learned of the existence of the group along with millions of average Brazilians watching a televised report on Globo TV; a journalist, who did not identify himself for fear of retribution from the terror cell, infiltrated the group for a year and kept all his communications.
Brazilian authorities also arrested a Pakistani national in July plotting a bomb attack on the airport in the nation’s capital, Brasilia.
The Brazilian Intelligence Agency (ABIN) has announced that it will establish a “Foreign Service Intelligence Center” in the heart of Rio de Janeiro for the duration of the Olympics. Wilson Roberto Trezza, the agency’s general director, has called the center’s establishment “the largest mobilization of the Brazilian federal intelligence today.” Authorities are also working to ensure that any attempts at cyber-attacks against the nation’s infrastructure fail, with one official noting that Brazil came under heavy cyber-attack in 2014 during the World Cup. Unlike the World Cup, all Olympics infrastructure is based in Rio de Janeiro; the World Cup was spread throughout the nation, with a venue even located deep in the Amazon city of Manaus.
Police have also reached out to private security firms to ensure a successful Olympic Games fortnight. A corporation known as the “Sunset Security Company” will be in charge of entering and exiting the Barra Olimpico Park, leading many to question whether the National Security force should be more involved.
Rio de Janeiro’s police force is severely under-equipped, thanks to what Governor Francisco Dornelles has called a “public calamity” regarding the state’s budget. Many police have not been paid in months, and police stations have no money for fuel for patrol cars or even toilet paper. In June, police protested in Rio de Janeiro’s international airport, holding up a sign reading “Welcome to Hell” to tourists, warning police could not properly do their job against terrorism or petty crime.
While terrorism remains a top concern among Brazilian officials, Rio’s history of drug-related violent crime has many concerned that tourists and athletes alike will be the victims of assaults. At least three athletes have already been mugged in the city, and the hospital designated for Olympic use came under fire by fifteen gunmen looking to free a drug kingpin locally known as “Fat Family.” A patient and nurse were killed in the siege. In response to repeated violent incidents, officials lamented, “Historically, that is how Rio is.”