UH Experts Available to Address Security at 2014 Winter Olympics

Experts in Political Terrorism, Security and Explosives Available to Media

In just a few days, the world’s attention will be on the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Competition begins on Feb. 6, but the plans and preparations to keep the games safe and secure has been in ongoing for years.

Christopher A. Chung, a professor in the University of Houston Department of Industrial Engineering, is available to talk about Olympic security, with special expertise related to explosives. Chung’s research interests include discrete event simulation, and management, operations and equipment training simulators.  This includes interactive simulators for responding to bomb threats and implementing advanced manufacturing and technology projects.  He also has conducted research on the operation of airport security checkpoints under increased threat conditions and simultaneous service approaches to reduce airport check-in times. Chung is a former U.S. Army bomb disposal officer and Nuclear Emergency Support Team (NEST) member.  His research has received funding from the U.S. Department of Justice and Continental Airlines. His current research projects include work on a National Institute of Justice bomb threat training simulator. Chung can be reached at 713-743-4195 or cchung@uh.edu.

W. Clay McFaden, an adjunct lecturer in the UH Department of Political Science, is optimistic Russian security will thwart any potential terror attack on the 2014 Winter Olympics.  McFaden, a political terrorism expert, points to Vladimir Putin’s own interests, power and control as the head of a police state, as well as Russia’s history with terrorism. He is available to media to discuss the motivation of political terrorists, Russian vulnerabilities and how Vladimir Putin is addressing security at the games. McFaden can be reached at 713-743-3899 or clay@uh.edu.

Just days prior to opening ceremonies and the start of competition in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, McFaden talked about political terrorism in Russia.

With the threat of terrorism, some have suggested that friends or family members not attend the 2014 Winter Olympics.  What is your take?
WCM: Vladimir Putin has it in his interest to secure these games, and I think that he probably has done an adequate job of security. If I were an Olympic athlete advising my parents, I’d probably tell them to come. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in most cases. It’s a hotbed of terrorism in that part of the world, but you have to consider Vladimir Putin’s interests. He wants to be a world player, and part of that is putting on a great Olympics and keeping the world safe during those Olympics. They have 80,000 security personnel on the ground. They’ve got bomb-sniffing dogs everywhere. They have metal detectors everywhere.
His country has been attacked by terrorists much more than ours has.  They’ve had schools taken over by terrorists where 300 people were killed and airlines blown out of the skies, so he is aware of the threat and on this particular issue. We have a common interest: stop terrorism.  Putin has a police state.  That can come in handy when it comes to securing these games.

Where is Russia most vulnerable in terms of a potential terror attack?
WCM: I would say that the terrorists would most likely be successful hitting something outside of the Olympic venues— probably elsewhere in Russia would be more vulnerable right now. They want to take territory. They want to establish a theocracy— a religious government. The terrorist organizations in Chechnya, Dagestan and throughout the North Caucuses want an independent Northern Caucus region to establish a religious government.

What do you make of reports that at least one female would-be suicide bomber may have already infiltrated Sochi?
WCM:  If there is a “black widow” that has gotten into Sochi— and there’s some rumor that that may be the case—she will be disguising herself. She’ll look very different— probably very western, wearing a lot of makeup. That would be a concern. We know they want to hit these games, and that’s why the Russians put out this alert that one of these black widows may already be in Sochi.
It’s possible these terrorist organizations in the North Caucuses have somebody prepositioned there already. I just don’t think it’s going to happen. I think the Russians have done what they need to do to secure these games. Putin knows that this is a vulnerable area, and I think he would have probably had maximum security either way.

What is the goal or motivation for terrorists potentially threatening these Olympics?
WCM:  They want to discredit Putin; an attack would create some instability in the country and in Moscow. The idea is that if Putin has to worry about something else going on in the country, he wouldn’t be able to fully concentrate on the Northern Caucuses— and then maybe they’ll be able to split off and become independent at that point. If our relations go badly because Americans were killed at the Olympic games, then Putin is going to be putting a lot of his concentration into either repairing those relations or dealing with America in some way. Again, they believe he wouldn’t be able to concentrate so much on the Northern Caucus region.

Talk about Americans, specifically, potentially being targeted?
WCM:  Their fight, at this time, is not really against us— except to pit us against Russia. To be able to pit America against Russia and to have one of our people, or a number of our people, killed in a terrorist attack would be a victory for the terrorists. ‘The Russians didn’t secure us, the Russians did not fully cooperate with us’ … it would create some terrible tensions between the U.S. and Russia. That would be a victory for the terrorists. So, yes, our people are a target because of that.

For more information or assistance in arranging an interview with these experts, please contact media relations representative Michael Garrity at msgarrit@uh.edu or call 713-743-8888.