Meet the Press   |  January 05, 2014

4: Napolitano Discusses Olympics Security

Former Homeland Security Secretary, now leader of the Presidential delegation to the Olympic Games, Janet Napolitano talks with David Gregory about security at the upcoming international 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.

>> the other issue, of course, with russia has to do with edward snowden , and i ask you again to put back on that intelligence hat as former head of homeland security and ask you, how much damage has been done to u.s. intelligence by him, do you think?

>> oh, i think snowden has exacted quite a bit of damage and did it in a way that violated the law. i think he's committed crimes, and i think that, you know, the damage we'll see now and we'll see for years to come.

>> but if we're concerned about other documents, other material that he has, as the "new york times" suggested, should clemency for him be on the table if it meant securing some of this other information?

>> well, i think that would require more intimate knowledge of what he allegedly has, but from where i sit today, i would not put clemency on the table at all.

>> you would rule it out.

>> i would rule it out. he has, by individual fiat, leaked very extensive information. you know, the president has been very clear, was very clear with me when i was secretary, that there needed to be discussion and open dialogue about the balance between privacy and our privacy values and security . and remember, these are both important values. there is a balance, a right balance, to be struck here. mr. snowden just decided to go off on his own, and he did exact quite a bit of damage, in my judgment.

>> so you're no longer homeland security secretary , so i can ask you all those political questions i wanted to ask you for so long when you were a politician. we're talking about the statement of gay rights in america , same-sex marriage and some of the difficulties that athletes experience in russia . when you were governor, you opposed same-sex marriage. have you changed your views on that?

>> yes, i think, like many in political and elective life in the early part of this century, that the evolution hadn't occurred and my statements were very much in that way, which is to say that this was something that society, in a way, the arc of history, as it were, need to do get there. the arc of history has clearly arrived.

>> and on presidential politics of which this would be a part, when you were among the early supporters of barack obama , you felt that he was a fresh voice for the democratic party . well, now as you look ahead to 2016 , you chose him over hillary clinton . do you think that she will be a fresh voice in 2016 in a way that she wasn't in 2008 ?

>> well, i think i have the utmost respect for former secretary clinton with whom i worked closely as the secretary of homeland security , and i think we're all awaiting her decision as to whether she's actually going to be a candidate.

>> but would she be a fresh voice in 2016 ?

>> i think she would be, because she's had a lot of unique and different experiences than perhaps she had then.

>> former secretary napolitano, thank you very much. have a good year with your work.

>> thank you very much.

>>> i want to talk about what's happened on the program here today, and chuck todd , you were sing he would out by gene sperling on this broader question of obamacare. it's similar to where we started the program. he's saying, we do want to talk about obamacare. we're going to own it this year. do you think that's true?

>> i think the administration is hoping they will get there, but they have senate democrats . gene sperling is not running for senate in louisiana, in montana, all these red states where the issues of health care is so politicized and it's such a red-blue divide that it's going to be a challenge. he's right, if the administration can turn this page and make it so all of a sudden republicans are are on the side of taking away health care by opposing the administration on health care , they could possibly, at least, i would say, get rid of some of the hostility toward health care in places like north carolina . it's never going to be, i don't think, popular in those states this year.

>> gene, the question is whether congress has any appetite to do what they were talking about to go beyond the insurance question but the aspects of the health care system they were going to address.

>> that was a fascinating conversation you had with him a few minutes ago. maybe in another year. this is a year devisible by two. it's a primary year, and for the house members, every single one of them, the idea we're going to tackle something big. immigration, different subject. maybe something happens there in a piecemeal way, maybe the administration comes together, but i don't see it on medicare.

>> thank you all very much. great conversation today, great having you along the whole way. that's all for today. we'll be back next week. if it's sunday, it's "meet the press."