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US lawmakers raise safety concerns about Olympics

WASHINGTON (AP) - Members of Congress expressed serious concerns Sunday about the safety of Americans at next month's Olympics in Russia and said Moscow needs to cooperate more on security.

Suicide bombings last month in the southern Russian city of Volgograd, about 400 miles from where the Sochi Games will be held, have contributed to the safety anxiety. Russian President Vladimir Putin has promised that his country will do all it can to ensure a safe Olympics without imposing security measures that are too intrusive.

The State Department has advised Americans who plan to attend the Olympics, which run Feb. 7-23, that they should keep vigilant about security because of potential terrorist threats, crime and uncertain medical care.

"We don't seem to be getting all of the information we need to protect our athletes in the games," said Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. "I think this needs to change, and it should change soon."

But FBI Director James Comey said earlier in January that the Russian government "understands the threat and is devoting the resources to address it."

Rogers, R-Mich., contended that the Russians "aren't giving us the full story about what are the threat streams, who do we need to worry about, are those groups, the terrorist groups who have had some success, are they still plotting? There's a missing gap, and you never want that when you go into something I think as important as the Olympic Games and the security of the athletes, and the participants and those who come to watch."

Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said from Moscow that he planned to be in Sochi on Monday to assess the security situation.

"All the briefings that I've received, from the intelligence community to the FBI and others, indicate that there are serious concerns, and that we need to do a lot to step up security. I do believe Putin is doing a lot of that," said McCaul, R-Texas.

While he said diplomatic security has declared Russian cooperation on safety measures is good, he said "it could be a lot better, and that's one thing I want to press while I'm over here."

Comey, the FBI head, told reporters this month in Washington that "we have been in regular communication - including me personally - with their security organizations to make sure we're coordinating well. I think that we are. We've improved our information sharing on counterterrorism and it's important."

No one has claimed responsibility for the December bombings in Volgograd. But the blasts followed Chechen warlord Doku Umarov's call to launch attacks on the Olympics.

"I would not go, and I don't think I would send my family," said Sen. Angus King, I-Maine.

An insurgency seeking to create an independent Islamic state in the Caucasus has swept the region after two separatist wars in Chechnya. Chechnya's Moscow-backed strongman, Ramzan Kadyrov, claimed Thursday that Umarov was dead, but he offered no proof to the claim he had repeatedly made in the past.

The province of Dagestan, located between Chechnya and the Caspian Sea, about 300 miles east of Sochi, has become the center of the rebellion, with daily shootings and bombings of police and other officials.

Rogers appeared on CNN's "State of the Union" and CBS' "Face the Nation." King was on CNN and McCaul spoke on ABC's "This Week."

Join the discussion

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miriamisrael1 January 19 2014 at 3:13 PM

We all the olympics will take place, and now it's a matter of waiting to see what takes place in an effort to keep those who will go be safe, and what will happen as the even unfolds during the games

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kolblh January 19 2014 at 7:26 PM

If we only wanted to be safe it would be esay; but we always want to be safer than the other people, which is difficult.

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georgessc January 20 2014 at 9:30 AM

I like that, destroying Mecca, might sugar the bitter taste of the two towers in '91.

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gerald01612 January 19 2014 at 7:01 PM

I hope Putin finds a way to erase the Taliban from this earth and we should all thank him for his efforts.

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3 replies
bdgrizcp January 19 2014 at 5:15 PM

Nowhere is safe from a determined radical with a bomb. Atlanta proved this. Russia has problems with Muslims just like almost everyone else. Even Muslims have problems with Muslims, so there is no possible way of dealing with these people. They are just too cranky for anyone's good. I have no idea what their endgame is, but it's not a world any one of us wants.

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1 reply
Paul bdgrizcp January 19 2014 at 5:48 PM

Their 'endgame' has always been to eliminate all non-muslims as stated in their 'rulebook'.

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Ernie January 19 2014 at 5:20 PM

Putin is doing the best he can. Even powerful America can't stop all terrorist attacks. I pray for everyone's safety, but if something happens, and we can trace the bad guys back to their original country, and maybe town, maybe we should level their home in their hometown. That aught to get the attention of their neighbors and get some of the foolishness to stop once and for all. If not, maybe go a step further - I believe in an eye for an eye, and this is one example. Opposing comments not welcome - you have your ideas, and I have mine. And these ain't gonna change due to someone opposing it.

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3 replies
ningfh23 January 19 2014 at 6:46 PM

All I would like to contribute is, 'Remember the massacre of the Israeli Olymic Team

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itchy1958 January 19 2014 at 6:42 PM

The super bowl is right around the corner. We had better make sure we take care of our own.
GOD bless Russia and the U.S.A.

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itchy1958 January 19 2014 at 6:40 PM

I hope GOD blesses Putin and company and guides their efforts to keep everyone out of harms way.

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dextrumcornu January 20 2014 at 9:14 AM

Russia's entire southern border is filled with former Soviet Republics which are now Muslim-dominated countries - Turkmenistan, Kurgizstan, Kazhakstan, Uzbekistan, Tadjikistan, and Azerbaijan- plus it shares a border connected either by land or water with Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkey and Iran- so they are in-deep with Islam whether they want to be or not. When 9/11 occured the US asked Russia and the world to stand with us to combat Islamic terrorism... and for the most part the world flew us the bird- including Russia. So, Islamic terrorism is going to continue and continue and continue. By now, the world should just assume that the non-Muslims participants at every major or even minor event, regardless of location, will be attacked. The real question should be...what should non-Muslims do about it? I mean really do about it? I think the answer is easy- but it takes cajones. What do Islamic terrorists value more than anything- more than their lives or their family? Islam. So, what is the only thing you can take from them that would actually punish them? Islam. How do you do that? Remove Islam. You do that not by burning their books, not by killing their people- but by removing their sacred pilgrimage locations. A global Fatwa should be declared against Islam. A very simple statement; blow up a city, blow up a plane and Medina goes up in flames. Do it again and Mecca goes up in flames. My guess is, considering all Muslims are supposed to make a hajj to visit Mecca once in their lives, that having a crater to visit might change their minds about blowing stuff up. And if not...well...game on (since its on anyways).

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1 reply
Paul dextrumcornu January 20 2014 at 12:32 PM

I second the motion. I may also add we should pull all Americans out of Muslim countries and all our military too. Let them kill each other while we should speak softly but carrying a big stick.

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