The U.S. Homeland Security Agency (HSA) is worried about next week's Super Bowl XLI.
With 75,000 drunken Americans crammed into a stadium watching the most American of games, the agency is acutely aware of America's vulnerability to terrorist attacks.
The Miami-Dade police department is technically in charge of security, but it has been joined by over 70 government agencies ranging from the aforementioned HSA to the Florida National Guard and the Miami-Dade Office of Emergency Management.
Details on this year's security measures are tough to get, but if last year's efforts are anything to go by, Dolphin Stadium will be locked down tighter than a drum.
At Super Bowl XL, held at Detroit's Ford Field, the HSA and Michigan National Guard swooped in to scan everything from the bottom of the Detroit River to the coffee shops surrounding the stadium. The city was swamped with fans, making their job even harder.
Last year saw the debut of a new imaging technique called LifeVision3D, which will most likely be used again this year. The system consists of cameras that take pictures of the same object from slightly different angles, creating a 3D image that appears to rise out of or fall into the computer screen by as much as 1 metre, much like a hologram.
Created by the aptly named Intrepid Defense & Security Systems, the technology is designed to allow security officials to scan the crowd and the city around the stadium with unprecedented precision. Officials will investigate everything from cars in the parking lot to faces in the crowd in a 3D environment that accurately depicts depths, angles and shadows that are not captured by conventional imaging.
This technology, making special goggles and virtual reality equipment unnecessary, promises one day to revolutionize video games, interactive displays and advertising. Intrepid has already used the system in collaboration with that other great American pastime, NASCAR. The company created racing simulations composed of a 3D holographic environment where racers could react in real time to conditions that confronted them behind the wheel.
For the Super Bowl this weekend, expect cameras mounted in the usual places, hiding snugly in the corners of corridors, but also carried around on anonymous, roaming security personnel.
Cameras will also be embedded at strategic locations inside the pavement outside the stadium so officials can peer underneath vehicles and spy on fans from the parking lot.
All this information will be beamed to an emergency operations centre (EOC), a newly created state-of-the-art 22,000-square-foot office building near Dolphin Stadium. This replaces the decidedly more downscale EOC building used in 1999 (the last time Miami hosted the Super Bowl), which consisted of an 8,000-square-foot bunker built in 1956.
Security measures like these raise serious questions about the balance between privacy and public safety. The American Civil Liberties Union objected to the practice of scanning the face of every person who walked through the turnstiles at Super Bowl XXXV (2001) in order to reel in some outstanding warrants.
"We do not believe that the public understands or accepts that they will be subjected to a computerized police lineup as a condition of admission," said an ACLU statement. So far, the organization has been silent on the new 3D version.
When you plunk yourself down on the couch Sunday to watch the big game, take a minute to think about the massive security apparatus working in the shadow of the stadium, with state-of-the-art imaging designed to capture the faces in the stands.