House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, says the security threats for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, are the "greatest" he has ever seen, but he does not want to scare Americans from attending the games.
And both he and former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff say there needs to be further cooperation between Russia and the United States concerning security for the worldwide event, which kicks off on Feb. 7.
"It's a time-honored tradition," McCaul told CBS "Face the Nation" host Bob Schieffer Sunday of the Olympics, but "it is not at time to be an alarmist and cancel."
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However, the proximity of terrorist organizations to the Olympic village make the "security threat to this particular Olympics the greatest I've ever seen."
"It's a little spooky, combined with these so-called black widows we know are seeking revenge for their husbands' deaths in the Caucus region," said McCaul. "And we know one of these black widows penetrated the ring of steel that Putin has put up."
The "ring of steel" around the Olympic area has 100,000 Russian security officials, including special forces and military, said McCaul.
"This is quite a fortified event," McCaul said. "Putin is putting everything he has from a security standpoint down there."
The United States has also added in its diplomatic security corps, FBI agents and more to help with security. But McCaul is more worried about outside the secure zone, where "soft targets can be hit quite easily."
McCaul said getting Russian President Vladimir Putin to agree to cooperate on security has been a "delicate balance."
"They do not want the United States to come in and tell them how to secure their Olympic games," said McCaul. He said one particular area of cooperation, which is not happening, is in intelligence and military sharing.
The US has jamming devices that would stop the terrorists' weapon of choice, IEDs, from going off, McCaul said, but Russia won't accept them.
Chertoff, appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press," told host David Gregory that he would like to see a level of cooperation to "give them the benefit of our intelligence and our capabilities but also have visibility to what they're doing."
He noted that there has been some cooperation, "but not quite as much as we would like. I don't know that they fully invited us or accepted our offer to give them a lot of assistance assistance. We have warships offshore in case there needs to be evacuation. I would hope there's a plan in place with the Russians if we need to do it to take people out.
Like McCaul, Chertoff believes the real problem will be with soft targets, not with the Olympics venues themselves.
McCaul further said that the Boston bombing and its background makes the Russian Olympics especially concerning.
"This is the Chechen rebels," said McCaul. "This is the Dagestan area that's been at war with Russia for 150 years," and now it is connected with radical Islamists.
"We're going to have 10,000 to 15,000 Americans at these Olympics," said McCaul. "There's never been this connection between Pakistan, Afghanistan and Chechen rebels before, although some would argue there's been support. But for the first time, Zawahiri coming out and endorsing, blessing and calling for this global jihad against the Olympics, wow, that gives me great pause."
But McCaul does not believe Saturday's mall shooting at a suburban Washington mall is connected or is a terrorist attack, even though it does show the dangers of malls.
"This is not a terrorist threat at all, probably more a domestic squabble," McCaul said. "It does highlight the vulnerability of shopping malls to shootings, soft targets like we saw in the Kenya shopping mall case, and that's the kind of scenario we do not want to see happen in the United States.”
Even with advanced measures, like explosives-detecting dogs, "it's difficult to stop a lone gunman who may have mental issues that wants to kill people. You can only do so much to stop that," McCaul said.
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