UC Criminal Justice graduate discusses role in World Cup security efforts, U.S. Diplomatic Security Service

As millions of fans pack Doha, Qatar and its eight sporting arenas during 2022's FIFA World Cup, the security efforts made to protect the viewers, athletes and media are extensive. University of Cincinnati (UC) graduate and Special Agent Nicholas Prieto is among the various agents tasked with maintaining and coordinating security during the tournament.

Prieto with Tactical Support Unit

DSS Agent Prieto standing with Tactical Support Units in Sydney, AUS. Photo provided by U.S. Department of State Photo.

Prieto works for the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) as a security lead during the World Cup. In his role, Prieto serves as a liaison, on-site security and advisor for safety protocols—with an emphasis on protecting the U.S. Men's national team, corporate stakeholders and members of U.S. media while they're in Doha.

Prieto has been involved in the realm of security and protection for over a decade—having served in the U.S. Army as an infantry officer and also receiving his master's degree in criminal justice from UC's College of Education, Criminal Justice and Human Services (CECH).

While serving in the Army, Prieto was deployed twice on active duty in Afghanistan. During his second deployment in 2014, Prieto began considering potential careers in federal law enforcement, which he figured would be a seamless transition due to his experience in the Army, according to Prieto.

While deployed in Afghanistan, Prieto completed his criminal Justice master's degree with CECH—a one-year online program that he was able to complete from across the world.

"The program was flexible enough that I could do it while deployed in Afghanistan," Prieto said. "Even in that short amount of time, my degree was a great exposure to a broad swath of criminal justice [topics]."

After graduating from CECH, Prieto began looking toward careers that best fit his expertise, which lead him toward accepting a role with the Diplomatic Security Service. In his seven years with DSS, Prieto has worked on the Secretary of State’s protective detail and assisted in security efforts in numerous assignments abroad.

2022 FIFA World Cup

DSS Officer Prieto at a U.S. Men's National Team Practice

DSS Officer Prieto at a USMNT practice in Doha Nov. 16. Photo provided by U.S. Department of State Photo.

Prieto has been preparing for his role in the World Cup since 2021, when he was initially assigned to work security detail as a part of DSS’ Major Events Coordination Division. 2022's world cup will mark Prieto's sixth trip to Doha since being assigned to coordinate security for the sporting event.

During his previous trips to the World Cup's host city, Prieto and other DSS special agents spent their time preparing and training for the vast array of security threats that can occur during such a large-scale sporting event. According to Prieto, DSS agents participated in a security training event called Watan, which consisted of nearly 190 participants from 13 different countries and focused on diffusing potential security threats.

"For [the World Cup], there are a number of concerns that are common with any international major sporting event like stadium security, crowd management and cyber security," Prieto said. "When we're there, [our protocol] mostly comes down to monitoring movements and ensuring the safety of the team on the ground."

According to Prieto, another part of his responsibility includes coordinating security efforts inside the DSS Joint Operations Center (JOC) at the U.S. Embassy in Doha—which keeps constant surveillance on the various sporting events and arenas. The JOC is also the facilitator for cooperation between U.S. security and local Qatari law enforcement—who work closely to ensure safety in the eight World Cup arenas and the surrounding city.

DSS leads and is in constant coordination with more than 17 other U.S. security agencies, like the FBI and TSA, to ensure complete safety for U.S. citizens in Doha. Together, these agencies form the International Security Event Group—which links agencies in two drastically different parts of the world, the U.S. and Qatar.

"[The Joint Operations Center] is the single point of communication with Washington D.C. across the interagency [efforts]," Prieto said.

With the U.S. Men's national team being eliminated from the tournament Nov. 29, Prieto’s job remained critical—ensuring safety for the Americans who were still in Doha for the remaining matches, which extended until Dec. 18.

Throughout Prieto’s time with DSS, his experience with CECH’s Criminal Justice program was one that set him up for his future endeavors—which have taken him on missions across the world.

“The program gave me a better perspective on the actual practice of law enforcement and crime prevention, as it is,” Prieto said. “Having that [Criminal Justice] degree certainly moved me up in the applicant pool [when starting my career].”

Click here to learn more about CECH’s School of Criminal Justice.

Featured image at top of Prieto standing at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan. Photo provided by U.S. Department of State Photo.

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