WASHINGTON - A top U.S. counterterrorism official told a Senate panel
Wednesday that he's concerned that terrorists may try to strike soft
targets on the outskirts of the Sochi Winter Olympics.
Counterterrorism Center Director Matthew Olsen told the Senate
Intelligence Committee that he was confident that Russian officials
preparing for the 2014 Olympics are "very focused" and are "devoting
substantial resources" to keeping the Games safe.
issue from my perspective is not the Games themselves, the venues
themselves," Olsen said. "There is extensive security at those locations
- the sites of the events. The greater threat is to softer targets in
the greater Sochi area, in the outskirts beyond Sochi, where there is a
substantial potential for a terrorist attack.
"We are very focused
on the Sochi Olympics and we have seen an uptick in threat reporting
regarding Sochi, and this is what we expected given where the Olympics
are located," Olsen added. "There are a number of extremists in that
The specter of terror has long shrouded the Sochi Winter
Games because of the host city's proximity to a hot bed of Islamic
extremist activity in the North Caucasus region. And the terror fears
have intensified in the past month after suicide bombing attacks in the
city of Volgograd left more than 30 people dead, nearly 500 miles from
FBI Director James Comey, who testified at the same
hearing, said cooperation between the FBI and Russian officials on
security issues surrounding the Olympics, which run Feb. 7-23, has been
"steadily improving" as the Games approach.
"We have a good level
of cooperation there," Comey said. "It can always improve. We are
looking for ways to improve it as are they."
Meanwhile, in Russia,
the Games organizing committee chief, Dmitry Chernyshenko, said
Wednesday that Sochi is "fully ready" and will deliver safe, friendly
and well-run games that defy the grim reports that have overshadowed
preparations, the Associated Press reports.
Chernyshenko said the
city is the "most secure venue at the moment on the planet" and promised
that tight security measures will not detract from the atmosphere of
OLYMPICS: Sochi chief: City is ready
comments from Olsen and Comey came as they -- along with Director of
National Intelligence James Clappper, CIA Director John Brennan and
Defense Intelligence Agency Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn -- provided the U.S.
intelligence community's worldwide threat assessment.
"I have not
experienced a time when we have been more beset by crises around the
globe," said Clapper, who listed concerns about the growing cadre of
extremists that have gained experience fighting in Syria, the ability of
keeping weapons of mass destruction out of terrorists' hands, and the
complicated task of keeping Americans safe from cyberattacks.
the intelligence community listed concerns about cybersecurity and the
danger of spies and internal leaks ahead of terrorism in an annual
assessment. The renewed emphasis on counterintelligence comes in the
wake of a treasure trove of leaks on U.S. surveillance methods by former
National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.
insiders with the intent to do harm can exploit their access to
compromise vast amounts of sensitive and classified information as part
of a personal ideology or at the direction of a foreign government," the
report said. "The unauthorized disclosure of this information to state
adversaries, non-state activists, or other entities will continue to
pose a critical threat."
Clapper called on Snowden to return
documents that have not been exposed yet, charging that "terrorists are
going to school" on the leaks.
Clapper said the Snowden leaks are
"the most massive and most damaging theft of intelligence in our
nation's history," and charged that the nation is "less safe" as a
He also raised
concerns that al-Qaeda groups fighting in Syria have started training
camps "to train people to go back to their countries," and conduct
Clapper said that roughly 7,000
foreigner fighters from some 50 countries, including Europe and the
Middle East, are currently involved in the civil war in Syria.