McCaul: 'I've never seen a greater threat'

The head of the House Homeland Security Committee warned Sunday that the threat of a terrorist attack surrounding this year's Winter Olympic Games is at the highest level in his lifetime.

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Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said, while "any Olympics is going to have a certain risk to it," the combination of Sochi's location and specific threats from leaders of both al Qaeda and the Chechen rebels have made this year's games "a whole new ball game."

"I've never seen a greater threat, certainly in my lifetime," McCaul said in an interview on "Fox News Sunday."

"I think there is a higher degree [of] probability that something is going to — something will detonate, something will go off."

McCaul, who visited Sochi last month, said such an attack would be more likely to happen at "soft targets" surrounding the events and not in the heavily fortified Olympic village in Sochi. But even a perimeter attack, he warned, would be considered a victory for extremists, and therefore highly possible.

"I hope I'm wrong in this assessment, but you're talking about an area of the world where suicide bombers go off all the time," McCaul said. "And the fact is right now … the eyes of the world are upon these Olympics. And the Chechen extremists know this, and they want to make a global statement. They want to make a jihad statement. And what better time to do it than right now?

"That is, I think, the biggest threat to these Olympics," he added. "They don't have to hit in the 'ring of steel' at the Olympic village as long as they hit somewhere in Russia. To them, that's a victory."

Appearing on the same program, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, sounded a slightly milder tone of caution.

While acknowledging "risks" at the Games, Schiff said they were "manageable," adding that he would attend "if I had tickets."

Schiff suggested visitors minimize their time on public transit and warned Americans not to flaunt their nationality.

"It wouldn't be wise, I think, to be broadcasting that you're from the United States," he said. "[But] I think the risks can be contained."

Both McCaul and Schiff said the Russia government has been helpful in coordinating security related to external threats. But the lawmakers also criticized the Russians for what they characterized as a failure to cooperate with the United States on security measures inside the country.

"We aren't getting the kind of cooperation that we'd like from the Russians in terms of their internal threats," Schiff said. "I think, as a matter of Russian pride, they don't want to share that. As a matter of not disclosing their sources and methods to us, they don't want to share that. But it means we're less effective in protecting our people, and that's a frustration."

Michael McFaul, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, said Sunday those dynamics are improving.

"We're quite satisfied with the level of cooperation we have now," McFaul said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."