Homeland Security Committee Chairman: Authorities 'Disrupted' Threat Againt Pope


NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Representatives from more than 50 agencies met Monday to discuss security measures for Pope Francis’ upcoming visit to New York City.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and police Commissioner Bill Bratton held a table-top, multiagency training exercise to talk about the specifics of the pope’s security during his visit from Sept. 24 to Sept. 26.

“We believe this is probably the largest security event the department’s had to deal with because of the idea of, if you think of it, three major events — the president coming in at the tail end of it is normally a major undertaking for any city,” Bratton told reporters, including CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez and 1010 WINS’ Al Jones.

Francis is visiting New York while the United Nations General Assembly, which attracts more than 170 diplomats, is being held.

During Monday’s security exercise, the group of agency representatives responded to a series of mock worst-case scenarios prepared by the Department of Homeland Security — a gunman at a hospital, another shooter at a train station, a power outage followed by a bomb explosion in Times Square.

“We prepared for a series of eventualities, and it was extraordinary to watch the effortless, the seamless teamwork between a variety of security agencies at all levels of government and all the other authorities involved,” de Blasio said.

The mayor said the meeting included reps from the NYPD, FDNY, the city’s Office of Emergency Management, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Port Authority, the city’s Department of Transportation and Con Edison.

“We want this to be a safe time in our city,” de Blasio said. “That’s why such extraordinary efforts have been engineered to ensure the safety first of all of His Holiness and all the world leaders, but of course of all New Yorkers and all our visitors as well.

EXTRA: Papal Visit Street Closures, Mass Transit Additions & Changes

The NYPD showcased its front line of security Monday and detailed other safety logistics, including 8-foot walls being built on the sidewalks outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral to help with crowd control.

But even with security plans in place, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul said he was “concerned”  about the pope’s safety.

Speaking Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” McCaul, R-Texas, said the U.S. has stopped at least one threat made against Pope Francis.

“I was briefed by the Secret Service in a classified setting,” he said. “We are monitoring very closely threats against the pope as he comes in to the United States. We have disrupted one particular case in particular. But as that date approaches, I think we’re all very — be very vigilant to protect him as he comes into the United States.”

He called the pope “a very passionate man” who “likes to get out with people,” which he said poses “a large security risk.”

Rep. Peter King, R-Long Island,  said the threat against Pope Francis was not in New York and compared it to the type of threat against a celebrity.

“Often, this type of threat made against the mayor, the governor, congressmen, senators, that type of thing — so it really is not any type of coordinated plot or threat,” he told WCBS 880’s Sean Adams. “But it does show how seriously the Secret Service and the FBI are taking every indication of any threat at all.”

Bratton said there are no credible threats against the pope.

The commissioner added that authorities are well aware of the added hurdle of protecting a pope who wants to be close to the people.

“If we could, we’d keep him in as tight a bubble as we could, but this pope has made it quite clear as he’s traveled around the world that that’s not what he does,” Bratton said, WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reported. “Again, we will attempt to, as much as possible, try to find common ground on this issue.”

Screening checkpoints will be set up along the route of the pope’s motorcade and at events he will attend. Those hoping to catch a glimpse of his motorcade or who have tickets to a papal event will have to undergo airport-style security screenings. Also on a list of more than 25 items banned are weapons, glass or metal bottles and signs.

Tickets are required to enter the motorcade viewing areas along Fifth Avenue and in Central Park. Authorities said they anticipate long lines.

The airspace around New York City will also be restricted. The Federal Aviation Administration also has enacted a no-fly zone in parts of Manhattan and Queens. FAA regulations will make it illegal to operate a drone anywhere in the city between Sept. 24 and Sept. 30.

There will also be a flotilla of security boats on the Hudson and East rivers.

Many New Yorkers are ready to be inconvenienced during the pope’s visit.

“It’s going to be a day to be on bike or on foot, that’s for sure,” Lower East Side resident Karina Krepp told CBS2’s Janelle Burrell.

“It’s going to be bad for me cause I’m a dog walker. I usually come in Central Park,” Queens resident Martin MacKinnon said. “But I’m not going to be allowed in that day, I guess.”

But others are just eager to welcome such a huge world figure to the Big Apple.

“We’re used to it in New York. The president comes, other people come, and we work around it,” said Upper West Side resident Darlene Curely. “This is really such an exciting time.”

Francis is to address world leaders at the U.N., preside over a service at the 9/11 memorial, participate in the procession through Central Park, visit a local school and celebrate Mass at Madison Square Garden.

To see a complete schedule of the pope’s upcoming visit, click here.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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