Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Why Did the US Provide More Than 1,000 Spies to Rio Olympics?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Why Did the US Provide More Than 1,000 Spies to Rio Olympics?

Article excerpt

The United States sent more than 1,000 analysts, law enforcement and special operations personnel from all 17 American intelligence agencies to provide additional security for the 2016 Olympics in the form of human intelligence, spy satellites, electronic eavesdropping, and social media monitoring.

Although security is most prominently a combined effort between the US and Brazil, there are 51 other countries supplying intelligence to the counter-terrorism effort. The majority of American intelligence agents are working remotely, while about 350 are actually on the ground in Rio.

"U.S. intelligence cooperation with Brazil has been excellent since 9/11," a senior intelligence official told NBC News. "We consider the Brazilians to be well-prepared and highly professional."

These measures follow the detainment of a dozen Rio residents for alleged ties to the so called Islamic State two weeks ago. Their terrorist activity was described by Brazil's justice minister, Alexandre de Moraes, as amateur, but they had discussed attacking the Olympics.

"In their communications they always said that Brazil was not part of the coalition opposing Islamic State, so no action here could be justified," de Moraes told the Los Angeles Times. "At a certain point they decided that the arrival of foreigners could make Brazil a legitimate target."

On Saturday, security forces blew up an unattended bag in a controlled explosion, the Associated Press reported. There have been several bomb scares in the city the last couple weeks. A few blocks of the high end neighborhood of Leblon were shut down two weeks ago when a doorman reported a suspicious package in front of a building. A bomb squad came out and found that the sports bag only contained clothes.

Some spectators complained of long lines outside of venues Saturday due to airport-style security measures.

But Olympics organizers apologized later in the day, blaming miscommunication.

The attention to terrorism as a potential threat in Brazil is new. Brazil has significant problems with crime, but despite being the fifth most populous country in the world, its foreign policy has been historically neutral, making it an unlikely target for terrorists. …

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