The State Department this week is sending a group of diplomatic security agents to Russia to help bolster the security of American citizens and respond to any potential security incidents during the upcoming Olympic Games, FedScoop has learned.
A State Department official confirmed to FedScoop that Russian authorities will be responsible for overall security for the Olympic Games, which begin Feb. 7 in the town of Sochi along the Black Sea coast about 800 miles south of Moscow.
Although the official would not comment on how many agents would be involved, a source with first-hand knowledge of the effort estimated as many as 350 agents, intelligence analysts and support staff would begin leaving for Sochi this week.
“We will send diplomatic security agents to liaise with host nation security and law-enforcement officials,” the State Department official said. “This is standard operating procedure for large events, such as the Olympic Games in Sochi, where thousands of U.S. citizens, athletes from Team USA, American corporate sponsors and members of the U.S. media are present for an extended period of time.”
The official confirmed the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security has the security lead for the United States during the games.
In addition to a coordination and liaison function, the diplomatic security teams would likely also train Russian security forces in security response procedures, according to the source.
During the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, the State Department deployed a six-person team from its Office of Intelligence and Threat Analysis to work with a U.S.-led multiagency Joint Operations Center to protect Americans during the games. It also deployed three Olympic security coordinators and more than 75 agents to serve at 32 Olympic venues.
A State Department official said the Office of Diplomatic Security has a formal memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Olympic Committee that facilitates the cooperation between U.S. security personnel and host-nation law enforcement agencies.
“With host nation approval, we deploy field liaison officers at designated venues to liaise with the venue security and Team USA,” the official said.
Meanwhile, the State Department on Jan. 10 issued a travel warning for Americans planning to attend the Olympic Games because of the potential for terrorist activity in the region. The Caucasus Emirate, a group designated by the State Department as a foreign terrorist organization, has publicly called for attacks on the Olympics.
Although officials have said there are no specific threats to the games or to U.S. citizens, the travel warning noted that terrorists in the region have been responsible for large-scale attacks on a ski resort, a metro system, a high-speed rail, an airport and a theater.
The FBI has also announced it is sending several dozen agents to Russia to help coordinate security and response efforts.