Ex-NSA Chief Hayden: Sochi's a Dicey Spot for Olympics

Image: Ex-NSA Chief Hayden: Sochi's a Dicey Spot for Olympics

Monday, 03 Feb 2014 09:36 PM

By Bill Hoffmann

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Extraordinary security measures at the Winter Olympics will likely prevent a major terrorist attack during the games, but there could be violence in other parts of Russia, retired four-star Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden says.

"The Games themselves will likely go off without serious incident. President [Vladimir] Putin, frankly, has staked his prestige and his legacy on the success of these games, and obviously, there is no success if you can't keep the games safe," Hayden told Newsmax TV's John Bachman.

Editor’s Note: LIGNET Intelligence Series Reveals Hidden Threats at Winter Games – Go Here Now

"They will try something outside the protected area, and probably a fairly good distance outside."

But Hayden, former director of both the CIA and the National Security Agency, says the security surrounding Sochi, Russia, comes at an excessive — and unacceptable — cost.

"The first thing you've got to ask yourself is, why did the International Olympic Committee agree to games so close to so many unsettled regions?" he said.

"If you're a Russian, you're probably happy that the games are going to go off well and they're going to go off safely, but, again, at what price? How much of the rest of the country will be made more vulnerable by the incredible security emphasis on Sochi itself?"

Many of the areas around Sochi have Muslim-dominated populations, Hayden said.

"They have historic grudges against the Russians for the Russian conquests under the czar. These people have married their nationalist fervor with a broader global jihad fervor, and they're literally within striking distance of Sochi itself," he said.

"This is an unsettled part of the world, and now the world has decided... to go ahead and bring the world to that location. So, you can understand the nervousness."

Hayden said one major difference between this year's Winter Olympics and other  international events has been the Russians' lack of cooperation in sharing information with other nations.

"Frankly, Putin's identity inside the Russian state is based upon his opposition to the West and his restoring some sense of Russian national pride. He instinctively is suspicious of the West, and particularly he is suspicious of the United States," Hayden said.

"So, this is not like sitting down with the Italians to protect the Winter Games in Northern Italy . . . Mike Morrell, former deputy director of CIA, has said publicly we have not had the kind of dialogue leading up to these games with the Russians that has been the historic norm. And so, in that sense, it's less safe than it should be."

Hayden said the use of women — so called "black widows" — to launch terrorist attacks is real.

"There's historical experience of jihadists in Russia using women as suicide bombers. So... I'd take the threat as very, very serious," he said.

"[But] I can easily imagine the jihadists saying let's leak a few stories like this, this will really get their juices flowing . . . But that doesn't mean the threat doesn't exist."

Hayden said he is upset the United States is weighing negotiating with Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who fled the country after leaking secrets about his former employer's surveillance techniques.

"Plea dealing is part of the American judicial process . . . What really upsets me are thoughts of amnesty or forgiveness," Hayden said.

"This young man has created incredible damage to the security of the United States, and he acts as if he either doesn't understand that or he doesn't care about that, and that is particularly angering [me]."

Editor’s Note: LIGNET Intelligence Series Reveals Hidden Threats at Winter Games – Go Here Now

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