Romney defended the controversial USA Patriot Act, which he called "perhaps our most effective new tool" for fighting terrorism, and emphasized the use of intelligence in a speech at the National Press Club in Washington.
Romney was in charge of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic organizing committee and spoke about the differences in defending Salt Lake City and the entire country. While about $300 million was spent for security in Salt Lake, it was only for one city for a very limited time span, he said.
Speaking about the need for an efficient plan for homeland security, Romney said the cost of nationwide protection at the level seen in Salt Lake City during the Olympics is too much to bear. The cost of providing that level of security for the entire country would cost trillions and trillions of dollars, he said.
"There is simply no way to protect all of the attractive targets of terrorism all the time. The key to effective homeland security in my view is intelligence. Find the attackers before they attack," he said.
"Of the $8 billion appropriated to go out to cities, towns and states to provide for homeland security, the amount that was spent for intelligence is zero," Romney said, noting that all of the money went for response and prevention.
Romney expressed concern over American intelligence capabilities not because they are faulty but because they were developed in a different era. There has been a fundamental change in the course of history since Sept. 11, 2001, Romney said, and life in America is different now.
And the way intelligence must be gathered is changing also, he said.
The CIA's method of gathering intelligence is different from that of the FBI, which was developed as part of the criminal justice system, according to Romney, who said it is difficult for those two agencies to share information without jeopardizing the prosecution of crimes.
As the relationship between intelligence gathering and law enforcement changes, the responsibility may fall on not just national, but local authorities as well, he said.
"What is the responsibility of a state government?" Romney asked. "I have a state police I am responsible for. Should my state police be doing intelligence work?"
It is these questions that we have never before faced as a nation, he said.
But the focus shouldn't be on mistakes but rather on how to fix the situation and how to become more effective at intelligence gathering.
"It is extraordinarily easy to point fingers and say our government didn't do this. The reason those barriers exist is for a legitimate purpose, in a world that was pre-Sept. 11," he said.
Barriers to effective homeland security also come from wrangling for federal funds, Romney said.
"Homeland-security money needs to go where it is essential," he said. We should stop worrying about everyone getting their fare share, Romney said, and give money to cities based on whether they have vulnerable infrastructure, such as nuclear power plants and chemical plants, not based arbitrarily on population.
In order to more intelligently distribute homeland-security funds, Romney mapped out his state to find what areas would most affect the national economy if they were attacked.
One are that may be vulnerable to terrorist attack is the city of Boston during the upcoming Democratic national convention. Romney drew significant differences between the Salt Lake City games security and the security for the upcoming convention in Boston.
In Salt Lake City there was no busy air corridor to worry about, and all air traffic within 50 miles could be closely monitored, he said. That is not possible in places like Boston, which have busy air traffic.
Keeping track of people as they move in and out of the area is also more challenging in a place like Boston, he said.
Romney attributed the primary reason for the success of security at the Salt Lake games to the intense intelligence effort behind the scenes.
"Intelligence work in the nation as a whole is the key to protecting the homeland," he said. "It is an effort which is essential to our winning the war on terror."
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