• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
4m 8s

Security threats at Sochi Olympics worry U.S. officials

By Rebecca Kaplan / CBS News 8:43 AM January 20, 2014

Russian President Vladimir Putin has defended his country’s preparedness

Less than three weeks before the Sochi Olympic Games are set to begin, U.S. lawmakers and other officials have begun publicly airing their concerns that Russia will not be able to adequately protect athletes and spectators against security threats in the region.

Part of their concern stems from allegations that Russian authorities have not embraced the spirit of shared information and cooperation with other nations to ensure top-notch security at the games.

“There’s a long history of cooperation between nations who are hosting the Olympics and the United States government and the United States intelligence community, in particular, and we did not get that cooperation with the Russians,” said former Deputy CIA Director Mike Morell on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”As for why, Morell said, “I think fundamentally, they don’t want to admit that they don’t have complete control here and that they might need some help.”

House Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., made similar remarks that he had “real concerns about the safety,” calling the flow of information like a “tug of war” between nations.“I think they think this is a politically embarrassing situation for them — they’re not going to share.  That’s really the wrong attitude when you’re talking about an international event in a place where we’ve seen successful and targeted events,” he said.

Rogers said the security threats at Sochi were different from the bombing at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, which was the work of a lone extremist rather than an organization with a history of violence.

“They have publicly stated they want to target the games. They have already targeted security in the region.  This is a whole different animal and we need full and absolute cooperation from the Russians on that front,” he said.

But Russian President Vladimir Putin has defended his country’s preparedness. “The job of the Olympics host is to ensure security of the participants in the Olympics and visitors. We will do whatever it takes,” he said in an interview with ABC’s “This Week.”

“We have adequate needs available to us through the federal security service, the interior ministry, armed forces units that will be involved in providing security on the water and in the air. If necessary, all those tools will be activated,” Putin added.

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mike McCaul, R-Texas, said on ABC that the U.S. diplomatic security corps has said U.S.-Russian cooperation has been good. In his opinion, though, “it could be a lot better.”

McCaul is traveling to Sochi Monday to meet with command and control of operations to assess the situation. He said he has concerns about the security, and would be able to better evaluate whether he would advise a constituent to travel there to watch the Olympics.He is mostly concerned about Sochi’s proximity to a region that has a long history of strife. He said he believes attacks could occur around the perimeter of the games, perhaps on the transportation set up to reach Sochi.

Still, McCaul said, “I think we have to be optimistic that we can go forward with the Olympics successfully.”

Putin’s confidence hasn’t been enough to appease U.S. lawmakers. Maine Sen. Angus King, an independent, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that because of the heightened security threat, he would not attend the Olympics, nor would he send his family do so.

“It’s just such a rich target in an area of the world,” he said. Terrorists, he added, “have almost broadcast that they’re going to try to do something there. It would be a stretch, I think, to say I’m going to send my family over.”

Suicide bombings last month and ongoing threats from Chechen rebels in the region have threatened the security at the Sochi Games, forcing Russia to step up its security measures. The State Department has advised Americans traveling to the Olympics to “remain attentive regarding their personal security at all times.”It doesn’t help matters that the U.S.-Russia relationship has hit a new low over issues like gay rights and the fact that Russia has granted asylum to Edward Snowden, the former government contractor who took and leaked thousands of classified documents before fleeing the U.S.

President Obama’s decision to skip the games and to name two openly gay athletes to the U.S. delegation (a third, figure skater Brian Boitano, has come out since being named to the opening ceremony delegation), was widely seen as a rebuke to Russia’s anti-gay laws.

Putin’s response has been to keep the games separate from politics.

“Between major countries, there are certainly always are some common ground and points of tension. With respect to athletes, I’d recommend and advise them not to think about the political differences. Politics should not interfere with sports. And sports should impact politics,” he said.

© 2014 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Latest Stories

  • Politics

    2016 November election: When, where and how to cast your ballot

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Oct 23, 18:54

    The 2016 November election is right around the corner. Early voting kicks off on Monday, Oct. 24 — just over two weeks before Election Day on Nov. 8. Who am I voting for? This is a big election year. Voters will have a number of candidates to choose from for their district’s state legislative representatives, […]

  • Police seek surveillance footage of early morning shooting near Spenard

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Oct 23, 18:36

    No one was injured in a Sunday morning shooting near Spenard, but Anchorage police say a parked vehicle was damaged by at least one bullet. In a statement about the incident, police said they are hoping residents in the area of Eureka Street and W 32nd Avenue will be able to provide surveillance footage or information […]

  • News

    Troopers: Kasilof man killed in late-night crash

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Oct 23, 14:15

    A Kasilof man died in a single-vehicle wreck late Saturday night, Alaska State Troopers report. Someone reported the wreck on Kalifornsky Beach Road to troopers around 11:40 p.m. and did not know where the driver of the vehicle was, according to an online dispatch. When troopers arrived less than 20 minutes later, they found the […]

  • News

    Report: California soldiers must repay enlistment bonuses

    by KTVA / AP on Oct 23, 11:58

    Nearly 10,000 California National Guard soldiers have been ordered to repay huge enlistment bonuses a decade after signing up to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Los Angeles Times reports the Pentagon demanded the money back after audits revealed overpayments by the California Guard eager to fill ranks and hit enlistment targets. Faced with a […]

  • Lifestyle

    New bumble bee, flower fly species discovered in Denali National Park

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Oct 23, 10:48

    Two new species of pollinating bugs have been discovered in Denali National Park and Preserve, according to park officials. The new species were discovered during a 2012 pollinator survey in the park, a statement from park officials explained. “I think these two new discoveries really highlight the fact that there is still so much to learn […]

  • News

    Presbyterian church first to present statewide apology at AFN

    by Liz Raines on Oct 22, 19:50

    The Presbyterian church becomes the first religious organization to officially apologize at #2016AFN to @NativeFed for oppression, abuse. pic.twitter.com/xP3gPYPHWz — Liz Raines (@lrainesktva) October 22, 2016 FAIRBANKS – It was a historic moment for the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) Saturday. For the first time, a religious organization came before an AFN convention to apologize […]

  • News

    Alaska veterans receive warm welcome home after Honor Flight

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Oct 22, 19:05

    A group of Alaska veterans returned Saturday from Washington D.C., where they visited our nation’s war memorials thanks to Last Frontier Honor Flight. The crowd waiting for their arrival at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport applauded as the veterans disembarked to the sounds of bagpipes from the Alaska Celtic Pipes and Drums (ACPD). The 23 […]

  • News

    SAVEarth project aims to provide homeless Alaskans with boots

    by Eric Ruble on Oct 22, 18:28

    While many Alaskans are celebrating the first snow of the season, it marks the beginning of a tough time of year for people living outdoors. A group from the Lower 48 is working to help Anchorage’s homeless in a big way. SAVEarth is assembling 1,100 pairs of boots with the help of volunteers. Each pair […]