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February 4, 2014

The Sochi Olympics terror threats

by: Jodi Westbrook Flowers

Just days away from the 22nd Winter Olympic Games to be held in Sochi, Russia, a series of terror threats against the U.S. and European national teams and two deadly bombings in nearby Volgograd last December  have many around the world on the edge, including the U.S. government. In the spirit of the Olympics, we must not lose our resolve to fight terrorists who threaten our safety and, in this case, the basic human right to live our lives without the shadow of fear.

The U.S. has announced contingency plans in case of an attack, has issued travel alerts and even warned American athletes, coaches and staff not to wear their red, white and blue uniforms outside guarded areas. In response to the threats, the Russian government has launched an aggressive counter-terrorism campaign, targeting and assassinating known militants, such as the Chechen rebel warlord Doku Umarov.

You may be thinking: ‘why are these Olympics more at risk for terrorism and different than others?’ At first glance, geography seems to explain it. Sochi is located in close proximity to the troubled North Caucuses, where insurgents in Chechnya and Dagestan have long waged bloody separatist wars. The region recently captured the attention of the American public, after the perpetrators of the Boston Marathon bombing in April 2013 were identified as Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, two brothers living in the United States with roots in Dagestan and Chechnya.

However, as the opening ceremonies for the Sochi Olympic Games quickly approach on Friday, Feb. 7, it is worth examining the latest terror threats within a broader context. As we continue to learn more about the insurgent groups carrying out attacks in Russia, Motley Rice’s efforts in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks become increasingly relevant.

Alarming new information linking the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to Chechen militants strengthens our resolve to learn more about the Saudi role in perpetuating terrorism. In the fall of 2013, Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan met with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss cooperation on regional matters. In return for Putin’s support on key issues regarding the war in Syria, Bandar was reported to have promised protection from terror attacks at the Winter Olympics, stating: “The Chechen groups that threaten the security of the games are controlled by us.”

This admission is chilling but not surprising. Saudi Arabia has a history of turning a blind eye to terrorism when it suits them. Many of my clients believe that Saudi Arabia’s connections to terrorist groups have been overlooked by the United States government in the past under the guise of “national security reasons.” Following the 9/11 attacks, the White House redacted the 28 page section of the Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 2001 (conducted by the Senate and House Intelligence Committees) that specifically dealt with foreign support for the hijackers and the 9/11 attacks. This section is reportedly focused on the activities of Saudi Arabia and various Saudi banks, charities and individuals. The 9/11 Families United to Bankrupt Terrorism have been working diligently to get these 28 pages released, so that critical information about one of our “allies” contained therein can be made public.

For more information on how you can get involved with the 9/11 Families United for Justice Against Terrorism and support their current efforts to get the 28 pages released, visit www.justiceagainstterrorism.org.

Let’s all do our part in resolving to work for the principle that our global athletes should be allowed to compete free from harm and free from fear.