Ashcroft Commends Olympic Security


Salt Lake City, UT, Jan. 22, 2002 (AP by Rich Vosepka)–Attorney General John Ashcroft believes Salt Lake City’s Olympic security preparations are so solid that the Winter Games could be held in Utah regularly.

Ashcroft finished a five-day tour of Olympic venues Tuesday and said he is impressed with the cooperative model created by the 60 agencies involved in security.

That security effort should be replicated elsewhere for high-profile events, he said.

“I have never witnessed a superior set of officials working together at a higher level of cooperation,” Ashcroft said. “If it were up to me, I’d think seriously about having (the Olympics) here on a regular basis.”

The key is the ability of local, state and federal agencies to communicate and share information, he said.

In many places, local police might not be able to communicate with state and federal agents on their radios, he said. That’s not the case in Utah, where a centralized monitoring station will allow every agency to see what everyone else is up to.

On his tour of Olympic venues, Ashcroft said he was looking for several things: perimeter security in Alpine venues, where officers must patrol vast distances; the strength of contingency plans should something go wrong; and the ability to deploy resources quickly.

In each case, Ashcroft said he was satisfied with what he saw.

Ashcroft expects security officials elsewhere will study Utah’s efforts.

“We’ll have to mirror what happened here,” he said.

Officials from the FBI, Secret Service, Army and other agencies have all checked up on security preparations. All spoke in terms similar to Ashcroft, saying everything conceivable has been done.

Ashcroft took a closer look than most, skiing down a mountain with a cadre of FBI agents on one tour.

“The magnitude of the conduct of this enterprise is almost impossible to understand without being here,” Ashcroft said.

There have been some changes to the security plan since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. During the summer, military officials said their role would be played backstage, supplying communication gear and transportation.

But this past weekend, Army troops held training exercises downtown and mingled with lunchtime customers at a deli.