White House says there's been an 'uptick' in threat reporting prior to Olympics

McClatchy Washington BureauJanuary 22, 2014 

TRAVEL WLT-SOCHI 2 LA

Media prep outside the Bolshoy Ice Dome, hockey venue for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, which hosted its first events in early 2013.

CHRISTOPHER REYNOLDS — Los Angeles Times/MCT

The White House said Wednesday it's seen an "uptick" in threat reporting in advance of the Winter Olympics in Russia -- and that it's offered "full support" to the Russian government to keep athletes and spectators safe.

President Obama spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin Tuesday night, but Press Secretary Jay Carney declined to say whether the U.S. is confident that Russia is prepared -- or whether Putin has accepted the U.S. offer for assistance.

"I wouldn't be qualified or wouldn't want to venture to assess overall except that these kinds of major events around the world obviously present security challenges," Carney said. "This one is not unique. We take the matters like this seriously because of the presence of U.S. citizens. That's why we're working with the Russian government. That's why we're offering the assistance that we're offering, as well as encouraging U.S. citizens planning to travel to Sochi to be in contact with the State Department to make sure they're aware of the advisories that are out there."

Carney noted that the Russians will be responsible for overall security at the Olympics, and the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security has a security lead for the United States. Diplomatic security and FBI agents will work with the Russian security officials, he said. Two U.S. military ships have been sent to the Black Sea for security preparations.

Carney said the uptick in threats was "of concern," though he said it's not unusual for a major international event, such as the Winter Games. He noted that US citizens planning to attend the games in Sochi should contact the State Department, which has posted a travel warning.

He wouldn't say whether Putin has welcomed U.S. offers of assistance, but said the US planned to "continue to work with the Russian government and have those conversations moving forward."

Maine Sen. Angus King -- a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee -- said on CNN's State of the Union that he wouldn't send his family, but Carney wouldn't say that Americans shouldn't go.

"Our advice to Americans who might travel to the games is to avail themselves of the information provided by the State Department in the form of travel advisories ... and to take the standard precautions," Carney said. "Beyond that, we're just going to continue to take necessary precautions and to work with the Russian government."

 

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