Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

Winter Weather; Olympic Security

Aired February 3, 2014 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Russian security officials are racing to tighten their so-called ring of steel around the Winter Olympic Games just four days before the opening ceremony. The crackdown is reaching far beyond the host city and deep into a breeding ground for terrorists. CNN went there to uncover exclusive new details about the threat from potential black widow suicide bombers.

Our senior international correspondent, Nick Paton Walsh, is joining us live from Sochi right now.

Nick, you traveled to that dangerous Russian republic of Dagestan. What did you see?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In some of the remote villages known there are for their links to militants, there are women whose husband have been killed by Russian special forces who thought they were insurgents and men said to be strict Islamists who have been told their movements will be restricted until the Olympic Games are over because police, these people say, believe they could potentially be a threat to those behind me.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WALSH (voice-over): Far from the grandeur of Sochi's Games, deep in the hills of Dagestan, Russia is desperately trying to keep a lid on something. This is the town of Buynaksk, home to the suicide bombers who hit Volgograd twice last year.

Many militants hail from here and also left widows. One is Burliyat Bagavutdinova, both whose husband and son-in-law police shot dead. These widows say police, in a bid to control those they fear are future suicide bombers, have ordered them not to leave town until the Olympics are over.

BURLIYAT BAGAVUTDINOVA, WIDOW (through translator): It will be like house arrest. Three times a week, they will check us and ask where we are. And then after the Olympics, it will end. They think that we will make an explosion like our sisters who have blown themselves up for one reason or another. I don't know. I am not ready to do that. There is no point. It's just their fantasy.

WALSH: She shows us her son-in-law and says nearly a hundred women had similar orders. We spoke to five of them off camera. Burliyat has this to say to Olympic tourists.

BAGAVUTDINOVA (through translator): If they need to be entertained, they should come here and be entertained, but, for that, we are suffering.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALSH: Now, police wouldn't confirm that they had issued these restrictions. They wouldn't say anything to us at all. But the sheer number of people we spoke who seemed to have been approached and asked to make such promises about where they will go during the Olympics gave a pretty clear idea this is happening on a reasonably large scale, Wolf.

BLITZER: Nick, you visited another nearby town where the locals gave you, what, a list of 64 names of people they say have been told by police to sign a declaration promising not to leave the area for the duration of the Sochi Winter Olympic Games, is that right?

WALSH: There's a town called (INAUDIBLE) which is also known for its links to Islamists. There, there are many strict Salafi Muslim who police often consider to be radicals.

They gave, as you say, a list in which there was also a declaration that they said the police have told to sign. On that list, there were three women all of whom had husbands that died in clashes with Russian special forces, also a number of other men there considered to be radicals by police.

People didn't want to speak to us on camera, but they say this is all part of a broader police move to repress them. They talked about their own civil liberties, but you have to bear in mind here, too, the scale of how this is happening gives you a real indication of how concerned the Russians must be if they're trying to instill this kind of wide-scale observation upon people they might think could be a threat.

BLITZER: We're only about, what, four days away from the opening ceremonies. But there are reports of major construction delays at some of the hotels being built for the Games that could affect literally tens of thousands of visitors. What's going on?

WALSH: Well, certainly behind me, I mean, I walked around the coastline.

And just between the recently constructed walkway and the Olympic venue, there's a huge wasteland of mud that simply hasn't had grass put up on it at all. As you drive around this city, there are moments where things clearly are not ready, where it's not particularly sightly. You mentioned the reports that three out of nine of the major hotels up in the mountain area simply aren't ready.

We went there a week ago and actually were very rudely escorted off parts of that area because they simply didn't want us seeing it seems how unready they were. Many of the places were said to be ready by tomorrow lunchtime. That's clearly the message they're still giving today, a real rush ahead, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, very disturbing stuff. Nick, thank you very much.

We're also digging deeper on Olympic security and crucial lessons that officials in Russia are studying right now.

<18:05:02>

Brian Todd is here with this part of the story -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's not just those recent attacks in Volgograd and the black widow threat that Nick just reported on that are sparking concerns about security in Sochi. There's a specter hanging over these Games from the attack on the Israeli athletes at the Munich Summer Olympics in 1972. Those are images Russian officials are determined not to have repeated on their soil.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): This image of a recent attack in Volgograd is seared into the minds of Russian security officials, but it's likely this image is as well. For nearly 42 years, every Olympic host city has resolved no pictures like this can be associated with their Games.

DAVID WALLECHINSKY, OLYMPIC HISTORIAN: The Munich attack in 1972 changed everything as far as the Olympics was concerned. It wasn't that the Olympics were being attacked. It was that the whole world was watching the Olympics, thus it was a stage.

TODD: September 5, 1972 at the Munich summer Games. Eight Palestinian terrorists in a group called Black September sneak into the Olympic village into the Israeli athletes' quarters. They kill two Israelis immediately, hold nine others hostage for about 18 hours.

(on camera): This is a contemporary image in our virtual studio of the Israeli team headquarters at 31 Connollystrasse in Munich. It was wide open. The Black September terrorists wore track suits, carried assault weapons in duffel bags, they got past a simple chain-link fence. Others who saw them thought they were real athletes who were sneaking back into the village after a night out.

(voice-over): Part of the lax security was intentional. Those Olympics had been dubbed the happy Games.

WALLECHINSKY: The Germans were very sensitive to the image that they were going to give forward because the only other time the Olympics had been in Germany was 1936, which were the Nazi Olympics. And so the new Germany, West Germany, wanted to portray that they were a nation of piece.

TODD: During a botched rescue attempt the remaining nine Israeli athletes were killed. Since Munich, security at just about every Olympics has steadily expanded in size, sophistication and cost. And all that accelerated after September 11.

DREW MCKAY, SECURITY EXPERT: We use the best of our human and machine intelligence. We monitor activities of persons that we know have stated or have raised issues against the host country at the Olympics. We use on the ground physical security to an extent that's in Sochi beyond any prior Olympics. (END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Drew McKay, who has consulted on security at six Olympics, says as a result of Munich and 9/11, we now can't go to the Olympics without having a security blanket placed over us, without multiple layers of security screening.

Security at each Olympics costs hundreds of millions of dollars and security resources are diverted from other areas that then become vulnerable. For those reasons, he says, the terrorists have in some measure won -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Security will be intense. Brian Todd, thanks very much for that report.

There's a lot going on and a lot of new information coming in about the potential security threat in Sochi right now. And it's a subject that's clearly on the minds of a lot of U.S. and Russian officials.

Let's bring in our senior law enforcement analyst, the former FBI Assistant Director Tom Fuentes.

I know, Tom, you are concerned, and you're not an alarmist by any means because we have spoken many times over the years, but speaking to your sources, what are you hearing? How realistic is this potential threat?

TOM FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think it's very realistic, Wolf.

One of the differences here is unlike Munich in 1972, you have terrorists that already live within Russia, that are already within a few hundred miles of the venues of the Olympic Games and a group that has been waging terrorist attacks since the 1990s against the Russian federation and have promised to attack the Olympics. You have all of that.

In '72, you had a group of terrorists specifically target the Israeli athletes that they wanted to take hostage and take back to the Middle East where they could bargain to have some of their comrades released from Israeli prisons. So you have here terrorists that basically would commit an act that's addressed to whom it may concern because they merely want to conduct an attack and embarrass Putin.

BLITZER: You got to assume that the Russian security forces or that the military, the police, whatever, they're all over -- they blanketed this whole area.

FUENTES: Well, they are. And not just that area, but back in Chechnya and Dagestan, as Nick Paton Walsh mentioned, they're using very aggressive tactics, in fact, even more aggressive I have heard from non-government sources that they're basically threatening the families of known terror members to say, if we learn that a member of your family is involved in a terror attack in Sochi, you will pay. There will be repercussions against you, your family, your home, everything.

So the Russian authorities are being very heavy-handed with potential threats within that country, hoping that's enough to suppress it.

BLITZER: Let's hope that it's quiet, these Games, and all the attention is on the athletes and not some sort of terrorist.

Tom, thanks very much.

FUENTES: Thank you.

<18:10:01>

BLITZER: Still ahead, a nasty winter keeps getting worse. We will have the latest on the new travel nightmare and tell you if more snow is on the way.

What if your car could talk to other cars and to you? We are going to show you the remarkable new safety technology that could eventually be required on the road.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: New winter storm gridlock, heavy snow, dangerous travel conditions affecting millions in the Northeast, including some fans trying to get home after the Super Bowl.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has declared a state of emergency in his state the day after his state hosted America's biggest football game.

Our national correspondent, Deborah Feyerick, is following the weather problems across the region and she is in New York right now.

What's going on, Deb?

<18:15:00>

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a lot of people thought this was the weather they were going to get hit with yesterday during the Super Bowl, so you have to be thankful for certain small gifts.

We can tell you it was snowing for most of the day. As a matter of fact, at the height of it you couldn't even see from one side of Central Park, which is just behind me, to the other side. And that's just a couple of blocks' walk. There are about 450 salt spreaders, about 1,500 plow trucks that are out preparing the roads here.

And you have to think of the scope of this city. You have got five borough, you have got 6,300 miles of road. That distance, just to put it in perspective, it's the distance between New York, Los Angeles and then back again to New York. So it's messy, it is sticky, it is wet, it is cold. More snow is expected tomorrow.

And for those fans that you mentioned who are trying to get home, well, a lot of them had to hunker down for one extra night because some 2,000 flights were actually canceled throughout the day. So good for the hotels, bad for the airlines, but, hey, it's February. What do you expect, Wolf? BLITZER: All right, Deborah Feyerick in New York City for us, thank you.

(WEATHER UPDATE)

BLITZER: Coming up, the secretary of state, John Kerry, he has a blunt assessment to the Israelis. They aren't happy about what he has to say. Stand by. And we will also tell you how the actress Scarlett Johansson figures into some of this tension. That's coming up.

And the new safety technology that's being studied right now that would allow cars to communicate, yes, communicate with one another.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

<18:22:19>

BLITZER: A new flap between the United States and Israel seems to be unfolds right now. It stems from the push for Mideast peace and a threatened boycott of Israeli products.

Let's bring in our foreign affairs reporter Elise Labott.

Elise Labott, Secretary of State John Kerry said something this week in Germany that apparently angered the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Walk us through what was said and the reaction.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Secretary Kerry was speaking at the Munich security conference. He was referring to what the international response might be if the peace process he's trying to negotiate were to fail, but for many Israelis Kerry himself sounded like a bully.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LABOTT (voice-over): It came off as a blunt warning to Israel from the U.S. secretary of state: Make a peace deal with the Palestinians or become an international pariah.

JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: For Israel, there's an increasing delegitimization campaign that has been building up. People are very sensitive to it. There are talk of boycotts and other kinds of things.

LABOTT: John Kerry touched a nerve. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired back that no amount of pressure will make him cave.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): Attempts to impose a boycott on the state of Israel are immoral and unjust. Moreover, they will not achieve their goal.

LABOTT: In a Facebook post, Economic Minister Naftali Bennett said, "We expect our friends around the world to stand beside us against anti-Semitic boycott efforts targeting Israel and not for them be their amplifier." It's a nod to a growing international campaign to boycott Israeli products made in occupied territories. The issue took center stage with this Super Bowl ad.

SCARLETT JOHANSSON, ACTRESS: If only I could make this message go viral.

LABOTT: Actress Scarlett Johansson forced to quit her job as spokesman for the anti-poverty group Oxfam, which slammed her for appearing in the ad when the Israeli company Sodastream runs a factory in the West Bank.

The State Department tried to soften the blow.

JEN PSAKI, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: His only reference to a boycott in his remarks was a description of actions undertaken by others that he has been a vocal opponent of, he has taken actions to oppose.

LABOTT: Kerry is often finding himself under fire for his Mideast diplomacy. Last month, the Israeli defense minister called him messianic in his relentless quest for a peace deal, and now Israel's strategic affairs minister warns Israel won't negotiate with a gun to its head.

Aaron David Miller was a Mideast negotiator for six U.S. secretaries of state.

AARON DAVID MILLER, PUBLIC POLICY SCHOLAR, WOODROW WILSON INTERNATIONAL CENTER FOR SCHOLARS: The reality is you cannot scare or intimidate either the Israelis or the Palestinians into an agreement in which they believe that their political identity, their security, and at the end of the day, their very existence is at stake.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LABOTT: Wolf, the Anti-Defamation League, a leading American organization fighting prejudice against Israel, issued an open letter today.

<18:25:05>

The group praised Secretary Kerry's commitment to brokering peace between Israelis and Palestinians, but asked him to remember that as the key player in the peace process, what he says has a huge impact, that comments like these actually embolden efforts to boycott Israel, making it less likely the peace process will succeed -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much, Elise Labott with that report.

Now to the future of car safety technology that's in development right now. It involves vehicles that can supposedly talk.

CNN's Rene Marsh is working the story for us.

What are the details, Rene? Rene Marsh, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's not just about helping people survive car crashes anymore. It's about preventing the crash in the first place. The federal government wants to mandate manufacturers make our cars smart enough to do just that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COMPUTER: Warning, vehicle braking ahead.

MARSH (voice-over): It's the vehicle of the future, cars that talk to the driver and each other. The federal government wants it on the road soon, pushing for technology that would warn drivers of danger coming from any direction.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Coming along, the line is green. Everything looks good. All of a sudden, we get that warning that says, look out.

MARSH: It's called vehicle-to-vehicle technology. Cars would send wireless messages to each other within about a 300-yard radius, communicating information like speed, direction and GPS position 10 times per second.

ANTHONY FOXX, U.S. SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION: When cars share this information, they can account for all the vehicles around them, which means they're able to identify possible crashes.

MARSH (on camera): The technology sees around corners, over hills and through other vehicles, so let's just say five cars ahead of me the driver slams on the brakes. Well, that car sends my car a message, giving me enough time to react.

(voice-over): Thirty-three thousand Americans are killed and 2.3 million injured in car crashes every year. The Department of Transportation predicts talking cars could prevent up to 80 percent of crashes involving sober drivers.

Five major car companies have been working with DOT on developing and testing the technology; 3,000 cars in Ann Arbor, Michigan, are already using it as part of a government pilot test. Some time after 2016, the federal government hopes your car will be able to communicate with you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARSH: All right. Well, before you get too excited, the DOT hopes to propose the rule by 2016, but it would still need the public to weigh in. So, before anything is finalized, the bottom line is, it's a pretty lengthy process to get something like this mandated.

Now, as for privacy, the government says the data that is sent between the cars doesn't record personal information, so they say your privacy shouldn't be compromised -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Rene Marsh, fascinating material. Thanks very much. We end on some sad news just coming in to THE SITUATION ROOM. CNN has learned that Joan Mondale, the wife of the former Vice President Walter Mondale, has died, this according to a statement released by the family's church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Walter Mondale was vice president under President Jimmy Carter. He won the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984. Joan Mondale was 83 years old.

Our deepest condolences to Walter Mondale and the entire Mondale family.

Remember, you can always follow us here on Twitter. Tweet me @WolfBlitzer. Tweet the show @CNNSITROOM.