Mass. governor praises data sharing, says more is needed

The United States needs to bolster its intelligence gathering, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said Wednesday.

As the chairman of the Salt Lake City Olympic organizing committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics, Romney saw roughly $330 million spent on 10 venues for 17 days. "To provide an equal level of security for the entire nation would be trillions upon trillions [of dollars] -- obviously impossible," he said in an interview with National Journal Group reporters. "The only way to protect the homeland is with highly effective intelligence work."

The Republican governor acknowledged "a lot more information sharing between federal and state and local [governments] than there used to be. We get regular briefings. Anything we ask, we get responses to," he said. "But the information is limited."

He attributed that limitation to the "nature of intelligence work." The United States is doing the best it can at present, Romney said, "but there is a lot more to be done."

Romney's office gets "very full information" from the Homeland Security Department. "I don't feel like anything is being held back," he said. "I feel that if they know of a specific threat, they tell it to us. I just don't believe we know as much as the public at large would hope we know."

He refuted the idea that Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge is withholding information with his often-vague warnings about possible terrorist threats. "I don't think for a minute he's saying that we really know it's going to be Cincinnati at 5 p.m., Tuesday," Romney said. "I think he's telling the public at large what is appropriate for them to be aware of."

Homeland Security offers states information on the types of targets its thinks are more likely, Romney said, pointing to transit systems. As a result, Boston will be going to "some pretty extensive lengths" with security for the upcoming Democratic National Convention.

"We're going to be searching bags of people going on transit systems in Boston [and] taking out trash containers and newspaper stands," he said.

Ridge said Wednesday at a news conference that the department would have "mobile command vehicles" stationed around Boston to coordinate communications across multiple law enforcement agencies. The department also will use 24-hour surveillance of convention facilities and use portable X-ray equipment to examine packages, commercial vehicles and delivery trucks.

Massachusetts is getting the best information Homeland Security has available, Romney contended. "I think our state police and our FBI and our local police can be much more effective in our domestic intelligence gathering and analysis work."

As chairman of Homeland Security task force on state and local aid, Romney found that of the $8 billion allocated by Congress to "first responders" to emergencies over the past few cycles, none of that money has been spent on intelligence gathering. To that end, Romney is committed to using his position on the task force to "look at how we can organize our intelligence efforts at a state and local effort to better coordinate with the federal level."

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