AP interview: Spy chief says Olympics, Super Bowl precautions taken but risks remain | VailDaily.com

AP interview: Spy chief says Olympics, Super Bowl precautions taken but risks remain

WASHINGTON – On the eve of the Super Bowl and Olympics, the top U.S. intelligence official cautions that the events will be major attention magnets and says all security precautions possible have been taken to prevent terrorism.”Look, these are both very important, widely attended events to which there is a great deal of public attention,” National Intelligence Director John Negroponte said in an interview with The Associated Press.”But by the same token, an enormous amount of effort has gone into the planning the security of these events and preparing for any possible eventuality.”More than 65,000 people are expected to attend Sunday’s Super Bowl in Detroit. The Olympics in Turin, Italy, are expected to draw 1 million.Negroponte said that FBI Director Robert Mueller recently returned from a trip to review security measures for the Olympic Games, which start next week. While Mueller reported the precautions were excellent, Negroponte said, “there is no guarantee that somebody won’t try to carry out some kind of untoward act.”Previous Olympic Games have been targets of attacks.At the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games, serial bomber Eric Rudolph exploded a knapsack at the Centennial Olympic Park to embarrass the U.S. government for sanctioning abortion. One woman died, and more than 100 people were injured.Eleven Israeli athletes were taken hostage by the Palestinian group Black September at the 1972 Munich Olympics. A rescue attempt left 11 Israelis, five terrorists and a policeman dead.Negroponte said vigilance and preparation have helped keep the U.S. attack-free since Sept. 11, 2001.Yet he said an attack from a decentralized jihadist cell – such as the 2004 Madrid train bombings and the London transit attacks last July – remains a concern. “I don’t think we can rule out the possibility that some such threat might materialize here in our country,” he said.Negroponte said al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, are operating in more difficult circumstances than pre-Sept. 11. But “we are not certain where he is,” Negroponte said of bin Laden. “I think it’s been a while since we had a fix on that.”Negroponte, who became the nation’s first intelligence chief in April, spoke from his temporary office one block from the White House. With only one narrow window, the head of the nation’s 15 spy agencies has plenty of wall space for pictures of the five Honduran children he adopted as the U.S. ambassador there from 1981 to 1985.Negroponte and his staff will move to more permanent accommodations at the Defense Intelligence Agency’s new building in Southwest Washington next month.His job takes him to the White House almost daily for presidential intelligence briefings, which cover issues from avian flu to the Palestinian parliamentary elections.Negroponte said he does not view it as an intelligence failure that U.S. agencies were unable to predict that Hamas – listed as a terror group by the State Department – won a majority of seats in last month’s polling. Hamas itself was surprised, he said, and following elections is not “strictly speaking” a clandestine intelligence matter.Given U.S. interests in Iraq and the Middle East, he said, “it behooves us to develop as many possible foreign service and intelligence officers with a capacity to really understand the region, its languages and its cultures.”Negroponte faced heated questioning at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing Thursday about the National Security Agency’s surveillance program that allowed the government to eavesdrop on terror-related international calls and e-mails in the United States.Critics have said it amounts to domestic spying, which Negroponte rejects. “This program is administered with the utmost care and internal oversight,” he said Friday.Negroponte has been under scrutiny since the day he got the job. Some skeptics of the law creating the position feared it wouldn’t give him enough authority to oversee the 15 spy agencies, which were called “headstrong” by a presidential commission last year. The burden was on Negroponte to stretch his authorities to the limit to be effective, but some critics have been frustrated by what they see as added bureaucracy and slow gains.Negroponte, however, sees improvement in building a sense of community among agencies and managing intelligence budgets. He also said in the AP interview:- Old-fashioned spying – or “human intelligence” – is good and about to get better with new recruits and training. President Bush ordered the CIA to boost its ranks of operatives by 50 percent in five years. The challenge, Negroponte said, is quickly adding people “without sacrificing quality.”- He does not see an immediate danger of falling into the patterns of “group think” that critics found on the prewar Iraq intelligence. “I’m convinced that we’ve improved the quality of analysis,” Negroponte said.- People should have reasonable expectations on intelligence reforms. “Clearly, it’s fair to judge us at any point in time,” he said. But “we are not talking about something that can be done overnight.”Vail, Colorado

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