Meet the Press   |  January 05, 2014

Olympic Security: Is Safety In Jeopardy?

In the light of recent bombings in Russia, David speaks with Former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano about security at the upcoming event.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> now to the politics of the olympics, an issue we'll be discussing a lot here on "meet the press" with just one month to go before the olympics in sochi , russia . a bombing in volgograd, just a few miles away , raises more questions about security . i talked to janet napolitano who is leaving the opening ceremony to others. good to have you here.

>> thank you.

>> given your background, what are the major questions you would have when it comes to protecting u.s. athletes going to the games ?

>> well, i think, you know, security has always been an issue with the games probably going back at least to munich, so the questions are the logical ones, have appropriate preparations been made? do we have good liaison between the united states and the international olympic committee and with the host nation and the like? and then just making sure that everyone who is attending the games , you know, knows to be alert, attentive to their surroundings, that sort of thing.

>> there is not great cooperation between the united states and russia now on a host of issues, and even the government has said that we'd like a closer look at some of the security preparations, be in closer dialogue. should that be an area of concern?

>> well, you know, i haven't been privy to that. i know the state department , through their security division, and the fbi will have security people on the ground. and so i think we're going to have to rely on that. we look to cooperating with the ioc, with the host nation, and the other countries that are there in terms of protecting the security of the games .

>> again, if you were head of homeland security , as you were, would you look at this recent history of attacks, look at some vulnerabilities and conclude that this is just a probe by terrorists to potentially target the games ?

>> i don't know that i would conclude that. i think that what you would do is just be alert to the fact, you know, to the situation. but remember, in the run-up to all the games recently, there have been security issues, security questions , have appropriate preparations been made. after the games , everybody talks about the actual performances which actually is the point.

>> the usa today concluded on monday in its paper the following, and i'll read it to you about broader concerns. yet as the new security measures were being advanced, the volgograd attacks underscored a long-standing concern in the run-up to the winter games . two months ago, a western security official with knowledge told usa today that there is a fear to lock down sochi that other transportation hubs could be vulnerable. again, an area of concern for you?

>> well, i think if true, absolutely, and i think what the speaker was saying is if all the security arrangements are in sochi , does that expose other so-called soft targets to potential terrorist attacks . but look, the united states will work as closely as we can with russia , with the ioc, with the other countries there. we want the games , obviously, to be safe, and we want it to be about the athletes. because we've got a terrific team going.

>> it's also, though, in part about making a statement to russia , particularly with some of the laws they've passed against gay and lesbian athletes. you are leading the presidential delegation to the opening ceremonies , and you look at some of the others, including famous gay and lesbian athletes in america, billy jean king , brian boy -- boitano as well. what would you like president putin to hear through all this?

>> i think what we would like to do is demonstrate that the united states is a very free and open and tolerant society. i'm going to represent my country to support our team, and, you know, partially to represent the university of california , which is the largest public research university in the world.

>> and positiliticizing the games in this way, does it take attention away from the athletes that you said is so important, by making -- even if it's a subtle statement, everybody gets it.

>> there have always been politics, at least in my memory, there have always been some politics surrounding the games , particularly in the weeks in the immediate lead-up. once the athletes start going down the runs and doing the skating and the first women's team ever to be ski jumping , the attention will turn. but in the meantime, yes, everybody will be conscious of security and making sure that athletes and spectators are safe.