The assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, Paul Abbate, tells Fox News that there continues to be no specific, credible threats tied to Pope Francis’ three-city visit to the United States.
Despite there being no credible threat known to authorities, Abbate said that the FBI is monitoring a heavy stream of ISIS-related traffic online.
“I would describe it now as a constant barrage,” Abbate said. “Groups like ISIL and other terrorist organizations are constantly pushing out the message and trying to incite and inspire individuals toward violence. We’re conscious and aware of that and we’re working every day to counter that, identify it in advance and disrupt it.”
Pope Francis landed at Andrews Air Force Base on Tuesday for a three-day stop in Washington, D.C., and was celebrating Mass in the District Wednesday afternoon. On Thursday, the pontiff will make his way to New York and then to Philadelphia before flying back to Rome on Sunday night.
In speaking to the magnitude of the security efforts surrounding Pope Francis’ visit, the FBI’s D.C. chief said that they are unprecedented in their scale and scope, pointing to three “dynamic environments” that are hosting the pope.
“The amount of coordination, communication and collaboration between and among the agencies and departments at all levels – state, local and federal – is like nothing we’ve ever been engaged in before,” Abbate told Fox News.
Echoing the Department of Homeland Security’s “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign, Abbate urged vigilance among citizens and noted the important role the public plays during high-profile events like the papal visit.
“We ask people that if they see something that just doesn’t feel right, if something seems suspicious to them – we need everyone’s help – and if they see something like that we need them to bring it forward,” Abbate explained.
While the FBI plays a key role in helping secure the events surrounding Pope Francis’ three-city visit, the U.S. Secret Service is the lead agency in charge of operational security. In declaring these events a National Special Security Event, the Department of Homeland Security established Multi-Agency Communications Centers (MAACs) which serve as central points of communication for those charged with ensuring public safety and security.
In addition to Secret Service and FBI, multiple components of DHS, including Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, as well as a wide range of state and local law enforcement agencies are helping secure the papal visit.
Matthew Dean is Fox News Channel's Department of Justice & Federal Law Enforcement producer. Follow him on Twitter @MattFirewall.
Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.