TAMPA - What if, right in the middle of the Republican National Convention, Tampa’s bridges were shut down? A new report suggests bridges may be a target for anarchist extremists during the convention.
The report comes from CNN, quoting an intelligence bulletin from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. The report claims as early as March, the FBI heard anarchist chatter proposing a shutdown of bridges. The report suggested extremists may focus on targets away from downtown Tampa, where they believed security would be lighter.
“Depending on where the affected area might be and how extensive it is, it could actually affect the schedule at the RNC itself,” said Craig Gundry, a security expert for Critical Intervention Services.
Gundry says Tampa Bay’s layout makes the bridges an attractive target because the bridges are so necessary to get around. Many of those attending the convention are expected to stay at hotels in Pinellas County.
“There’s a variety of ways in which adversaries can stop traffic. Whether it’s something as simple as a traffic blockade or a truck that can be perpendicular to the road in the middle of rush hour traffic, to something as simple as a bomb hoax,” Gundry said.
The report even raises the possibility anarchists may use explosives. Sgt. Steve Gaskins of the Florida Highway Patrol says all law enforcement agencies involved with security know the bridges could be a target.
“We’re aware of several issues that have come up, and we’ve made a security plan that will encompass all of these threats,” Sgt. Gaskins said.
The Coast Guard announced this week it is limiting access to bridges, including banning boats and people from loitering within 50 yards of the Gandy, Courtney Campbell, and Howard Frankland bridges starting Saturday.
A Tampa Police Department spokesperson says they’ve considered the bridges in their security plan from day one.
Security experts also say it’s very common for intelligence agencies to put out bulletins of this nature to assess potential targets, and it doesn’t mean the threat is credible or that it’s the only threat being considered.
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Last week, the I-Team was there when 99-year-old Willi Berchau was released from Florida's guardianship program after a three year court battle.